When news first broke about Prime Minister Trudeau leaving his seat to interfere with a scrum on the floor of the House of Commons recently, I thought that his actions sounded like they were out of character. Then, when I watched the video, repeatedly, and in super slow motion, I thought that both the national media (CBC leading the way) and the opposition parties had lost their collective minds.
First, it is entirely possible that Trudeau inadvertently brushed against a female NDP Member of Parliament. But, make no mistake, there was no flying elbow, nothing reminiscent of a World Wrestling Entertainment cage match, which is what media reports implied. And when members of the NDP caucus arrived in Parliament the following day in wheelchairs and wearing neck collars, it wasn’t a sense of humour they displayed, but an astonishingly lack of credibility and a lack of appreciation for people who have suffered actual injuries.
The entire furor really was the result of the NDP playing silly bugger with a parliamentary requirement that the opposition Conservative Party has to be seated before voting on any issue can begin. Video replays of the incident showed three NDP MPs moving in unison to prevent the Conservative whip from getting to his seat. As he moved one way, the group shifted to block him, the female member of the trio hamming it up for her cohorts who were watching and laughing from their seats.
In an interview on CBC’s The House on the Saturday after the incident, an NDP spokesman refused to acknowledge that his party had anything to do with blocking the Conservative MP, sticking with his script and insisting that the Liberals, and Trudeau in particular, were solely to blame.
The reason for the chill between the Liberals and opposition parties in recent weeks is generally agreed to have been the Liberals’ insistence (since abandoned) at pushing through a vote on right to die legislation. The governing party says it has an obligation to meet a timeline set by the Supreme Court of Canada and opponents argue, not without substance, that the issue is too important to rush through without giving everyone who wants a say time to say it.
I am entirely sympathetic to the opposition members with that argument. I don’t like the idea of the state controlling whether or not, or how, I end my life. But I also don’t want any laws on the subject to be ambiguous and certainly I don’t want people who can’t make informed decisions being manipulated to take a decision from which there is no return.
From a more detached point of view, I would say I am happy to see another side of Justin Trudeau, who has worked with diligence to put forth an image of gentle, thoughtful reasoning. At least there is no doubt about who his father is, I thought in the aftermath. Face it, who didn’t admire Jean Chretien’s response to waking up as prime minister and confronting a nighttime intruder in his residence? Scrappy, take-charge people who wear their hearts on their sleeves are easy to like. What you see is what you get is much preferable to the laundered, nice-to-a-fault image that we have seen of Trudeau in his first half-year in office. We now know there is a fire in his belly and that he is as human as the rest of us.
I understand why Trudeau was embarrassed — he isn’t the first prime minister or premier to set out with a mission to civilize political activity in parliament or legislatures, and he won’t be the last. But it takes effort on both sides to change a culture, and with the NDP’s actions on that single evening, we can assume that as long as Tom Mulcair is leading the way, civilization in Parliament is a distant dream.
Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.