MP who refused jubilee medal says he's not worthy
Published Tuesday, February 7, 2012 11:29PM EST
A New Democrat MP from Quebec says he will return his Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal -- not because he is against the monarchy, but because there are residents of his riding more deserving of the honour.
Pierre Nantel, who represents Quebec's Longueuil-Pierre-Boucher riding, is one of at least six Quebec MPs who will be giving back their medals, which were awarded to all 308 Members of Parliament.
A total of 60,000 jubilee medals will be handed out to Canadians who have made significant contributions to their communities. Heritage Minister James Moore said Monday that MPs also each receive medals to award to constituents deemed deserving of the honour.
Nantel said Tuesday that after hearing about the community service work some residents of his riding have done throughout their lives, his seven months as an MP don't qualify him for a medal.
"The real reason is that we have a description of who is to be receiving such a medal. And it describes a community involved person, it describes Armed Forces people, it does not describe a seven-month MP," Nantel told CTV's Power Play.
"That's why I keep saying this is an individual response to such a thing. My impression is, my medal, I'll have it in four years if I'm re-elected. But for the moment, I think it's quite premature to put me on the same level as the people who come to me and say, ‘I would like to get this medal.'"
Nantel said that some of his colleagues in the House of Commons have been engaged in public service for long enough "that they do deserve this medal."
But he said it's been "a privilege" to meet the local residents who have put forth their applications at his office for a medal.
When asked if he should accept the medal on behalf of his constituents as their representative in Parliament, Nantel said that is exactly what he's doing in giving it back.
"It's a privilege for me to receive such people in my office," he said. "And I think it's quite representative of my riding and I think it's acknowledging all this work that's being done in my riding."
The Conservatives have set aside $7.5 million for various events and festivities surrounding Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee and the cost of the medals alone is $3.5 million.
Bloc MP Louis Plamondon called it a waste of money at a time when the federal government is talking about cuts to public pensions and department budgets.
The anti-monarchist sentiment is strong in Quebec amid the jubilee hoopla, with one nationalist group, Montreal's Societe Saint-Jean-Baptiste, announcing plans for anti-Queen celebrations.
Nantel acknowledged that while many of his constituents are not pro-monarchy, there are those who do respect the Queen, including himself.
"We have this opportunity when we arrive (in Parliametn) to pledge allegiance (to the Queen), and I think it's important for all Canadians and I'm doing all this with the utmost respect I can for everyone in Canada," he said.