'It was my mistake': Trudeau wants to make amends
Published Thursday, May 19, 2016 7:35AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, May 19, 2016 5:04PM EDT
OTTAWA - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized again Thursday following a spat on the floor of the House Wednesday night that saw him grab the Conservative whip and accidentally elbow a New Democrat MP.
- Scroll down or click here for our reporters' live updates from the House as they happened
Trudeau apologized to Conservative whip Gord Brown, calling his intervention "not appropriate. It was not my role. And it should not have happened."
He also apologized to New Democrat Ruth-Ellen Brosseau for accidentally elbowing her, which propelled her into a desk.
Trudeau said he wanted MPs "to understand how contrite and how regretful" he is over his behaviour and said he wants to make amends.
He also referred to comments by MPs that the House has been tense this week as the government tries to pass C-14, the assisted dying bill, by the end of the week.
"I refuse to allow anyone to think there was any justification for my behaviour yesterday evening. It was on me, it was my mistake, it was unbecoming of anyone in this House. I know my colleagues expect better of me," Trudeau said. "I ask for Canadians' understanding and forgiveness."
"Members rightfully expect better behaviour from anyone in this House; I expect better behaviour of myself," he said.
Trudeau said on Twitter that he is fully prepared to accept the review and decision by the procedure and House affairs committee, to which the matter has been referred.
The Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs will review the incident, and I am fully prepared to accept its decision.— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) May 19, 2016
Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose kicked off the morning in a privilege debate following the spat. "The House belongs to the people, Mr. Speaker, not us," she said. "It's unbecoming. It's unbecoming of all members, but certainly of a prime minister."
The House sent the dispute to the procedure and House affairs committee to examine further. The Liberals hold a majority of the seats on the committee, as they do on all committees.
“I would anticipate that the Liberals will use their majority to see that the committee decides that, given that an apology was made unreservedly, that there’s no further action required on this matter, and report that to the House and nothing more will come of it,” said Rob Walsh, a former clerk of the House of Commons.
The altercation took place just before the Liberals voted to limit debate on the assisted dying bill. It now appears the House won’t have time to pass the bill before next week’s break.
The delay is a major ramification for the governing party over a momentary lapse in judgment by the prime minister. The debate on Trudeau’s actions pushed aside discussion on the bill for an additional day. The government is trying to meet a Supreme Court-imposed June 6 deadline and was already cutting it close before losing most of Thursday to the fallout from the day before. Parliament isn’t sitting next week, giving the House and Senate only one more week of sittings to put the legislation in place.
The opposition argued Brosseau’s privilege as an MP was breached when she missed the vote after the elbowing. That drove the House off of its regular debate schedule until mid-afternoon because questions of privilege take priority over most other agenda items.
Opposition MPs said Trudeau could make amends by withdrawing the government’s motion M-6, which would give them enormous power to control the House agenda and limit the opposition’s ability to slow down debate. The motion would have let a Liberal cabinet minister or parliamentary secretary adjourn the House for the summer with no debate and no advance notice.
In the end, Government House Leader Dominic LeBlanc withdrew the contentious motion. Just hours before he did so, opposition MPs joined together in a rare shared press conference to discuss the motion, which had amped up an already charged behind-the-scenes discussion among the parties over how to use the remaining days before the House breaks for the summer. Conservative House Leader Andrew Scheer said it was retribution for the opposition triggering a vote on Monday that the Liberals nearly lost. The loss would have scuttled a piece of government legislation, which would be unusual given the party’s 30-member majority.
LeBlanc also refused to give the opposition parties the calendar for the coming days of debate, a move the opposition agreed goes further than anything the last government attempted.
"The only MPs that will know in the House what bills will be debated and when will be Liberal MPs," Scheer said. "The opposition MPs will have no idea what will be called, when debate can be expected to collapse [leading to a vote] or to adjourn... to have this kind of relationship so early on in the prime minister's mandate, I think shows that all his promises to do politics differently were a sham."
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said the escalation of procedural ploys has to stop.
"If we take Liberals at their word... they need to make a very quick mid-course correction," she said.
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