Second cabinet minister loses cool in airport
Published Thursday, March 18, 2010 10:31PM EDT
Veterans Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn caused a fuss when airport security stopped him from carrying a bottle of tequila onto a plane in Ottawa, just four days after Helena Guergis berated airport employees in P.E.I., CTV News has learned.
Blackburn wanted to bypass a rule that all Canadians must follow: You cannot pack containers filled with more than 100 millilitres of liquid.
When security at the Ottawa airport told Blackburn he would have to give up his bottle of tequila, sources say he asked that the bottle be kept for him. When security refused, he demanded that they empty the bottle in his presence.
Sources told CTV News the argument became so heated, security almost called the police.
"This shouldn't happen," said Liberal MP Wayne Easter. "A cabinet minister should be removed when they themselves don't want to abide by the security regulations in place for travel by airplane."
The incident happened on Feb. 23. That's four days after Guergis, a junior cabinet minister, called Charlottetown a "hellhole" during an angry outburst at the city's airport. She later issued an apology.
Blackburn refused to talk to CTV News, but his office issued a statement: "Security confiscated a bottle of alcohol. He could not get the bottle back ... He respected that rule."
The minister did not inform the Prime Minister's Office and never apologized.
One senior government official insisted that Blackburn did not lose his temper.
"The minister wasn't pleased by the fact he had to leave the bottle of alcohol behind. He was upset that they wouldn't destroy it in front of him," the official said, on condition of anonymity. "He remained polite. He didn't pull a Helena apparently."
The PMO says Prime Minister Stephen Harper will issue an edict to his ministers, reminding them that they're not above the law.
One airline passenger told CTV News that cabinet ministers should expect to follow airport rules like every other Canadian.
"There's no reason why he should get preferential treatment over anybody else," said Paddy Bachinskie.
New Democrat MP Jack Harris echoed that sentiment.
"We're servants of the public," he said. "We don't order people around. We don't have the right to get angry because someone asked us to obey the rules."
At the House of Commons Transport committee on Thursday, Liberal MP Joe Volpe couldn't resist a jab at Blackburn and Guergis.
"I wonder how much of this money is for body scanners, and how much of it is to provide security for airport officials against ministers behaving badly," he said.
With a report by CTV Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife