Liberal house leader apologizes for heckling Tory talking about opioid deaths in his riding
Published Thursday, December 13, 2018 2:11PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, December 13, 2018 2:56PM EST
OTTAWA -- Government House Leader Bardish Chagger is apologizing after House of Commons audio picked up her heckling a Tory MP who had earlier spoken about the number of opioid-related deaths in his Ontario riding.
During a special House of Commons debate on the opioid crisis in Canada on Monday night, Chagger can be heard off-camera remarking “Oh that’s it?” as a fellow Liberal MP Ken Hardie begins speaking about the number of opioid-related deaths in Barrie, Ont.
Hardie— who represents the riding of Fleetwood-Port Kells, B.C.—was speaking in reference to comments made earlier in the debate by Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte Conservative MP Alex Nuttall.
Nuttall had just finished speaking about funding for harm reduction when Chagger begins to heckle.
The official parliamentary transcript did not pick up Chagger’s remarks, though they can be heard on ParlVu, the video recording of the House of Commons.
“Mr. Chair, I heard the honourable member mention they had two murders in Barrie and 36 deaths through fentanyl and opioids,” started Liberal MP Ken Hardie.
Then, off camera Chagger can be heard saying “Oh that’s it?” and something else that is not entirely clear.
“I would submit that he has had 38 murders,” Hardie continues, before he appears alerted to an issue with the audio.
Earlier in the debate, Nuttall had said Barrie, Ont. had seen 36 deaths in 2017 related to the opioid crisis. He was the MP to first call for a special debate on the issue. He had requested it be classified as an “emergency debate,” but the Speaker ruled that it did not meet the criteria but it seems all sides came together in giving the unanimous consent for the issue to still be debated in a similar format.
“Minister Chagger apologizes if her comments caused any offence. With hindsight, she wishes she had expanded on her thoughts at that time during the debate. She did speak at length later in the evening,” said Chagger’s press secretary Daniele Medlej in an email to CTVNews.ca
The minister’s spokesperson said that during her speech in the House, Chagger, who represents Waterloo, Ont., noted that 85 lives were lost to overdose in the Waterloo region in 2017. “The Minister assumed there was a greater number in similar communities,” Medlej said.
“This is a crisis and she agrees that one life lost is one too many. That is why she was pleased to see all parties work together to have a take note debate.”
In a statement to CTV News, Nuttall said he was thankful for the Government House Leader’s assistance in seeing the debate take place at all, but that “any comment that downplays this emergency or trivializes these deaths should not be welcomed.”
Raising the issue in question period, Conservative House Leader Candice Bergen asked Chagger to apologize to the House of Commons for her comments, which she did.
“These heartless and cruel comments are incredibly hurtful to the thousands who have suffered because of this crisis. Why in the world would the Liberal House Leader say this?” Bergen said.
“My comments were not intended to diminish the seriousness of this,” Chagger said. “On this issue if I have offended anyone I can promise you I have no problem apologizing, I apologize.”
Chagger said that she was sorry to anyone who took her comments “to be intended for something they weren’t.”
With files from CTV News’ Senior Political Correspondent Glen McGregor