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Poilievre returns to House unrepentant for calling Trudeau 'wacko,' Speaker not resigning

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An unrepentant Pierre Poilievre returned to the House of Commons on Wednesday to pepper the prime minister about his drug decriminalization policies after being booted the day prior for refusing to take back calling Justin Trudeau "wacko" over his approach to the issue.

"The decision is on his desk to reverse the legalization of hard drugs in British Columbia. The B.C. government has admitted that it was wrong... Will he do as the B.C. government has done, admit he was wrong today so we can start saving lives?" asked Poilievre, back in his place for question period.

Poilievre made no reference to Tuesday's display, leaving that for the prime minister to do.

"Now that they are asking to adjust this pilot program, we will work with them to adjust it in ways that makes sense for them. But given the new, more reasonable tone of the leader of the Opposition, I wonder if he might take this opportunity to reassure Canadians that he does not support extremist, white nationalist organizations?" Trudeau said in response.

On Tuesday, Speaker Greg Fergus kicked Poilievre out of the House after the Conservative leader repeatedly refused to withdraw his remark, amid a series of heated exchanges between him and the prime minister that saw Trudeau accuse his opponent of being "spineless."

After being called out by the Speaker for his language, Poilievre offered to replace the word "wacko" with "extremist" or "radical," and that didn't fly, resulting in him being named and told to leave.

In an interview on CP24's morning program on Wednesday, Poilievre was asked if he regrets saying what he did, and he said: "no."

"Because I can't think of any other word to describe what he's doing in our communities… His policies are wacko. Hiking the carbon tax to 61 cents a litre, wacko. Doubling housing costs, wacko. Doubling the national debt and causing the worst inflation in 40 years, is wacko. And I'm just calling it as it is," Poilievre said.

Chiming in on the ordeal, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh – who in 2020 was kicked out for calling a Bloc Quebecois MP a racist – focused on the difference in how the two federal party leaders handled being ejected.

"I accepted responsibility for my actions. I didn't sulk… It shows the character of the Conservative leader," Singh said.

Speaker says he won't resign

While cooler heads prevailed in question period, Conservative MPs outside of the chamber renewed calls for the House of Commons Speaker to resign, over ordering the Official Opposition leader to leave the chamber.

Speaking to reporters on their way in to Wednesday's caucus meeting, some Conservative MPs said Fergus should step down – a call they also made in December, unsuccessfully – this time, for what they considered an unfair ruling. 

"He should resign, he's a disgrace," Conservative MP Michael Cooper said.

Arguing the contrary, NDP and Liberal MPs balked at what they said was a disrespectful display done deliberately for fundraising fodder, and defended Fergus for doing his job.

Government House Leader Steven MacKinnon accused Poilievre's party of bringing "extreme right-wing" language and tactics into the House of Commons, and then when called on it claiming victimhood.

"Mr. Fergus is the Speaker and we respect all of his rulings," he said.

"They come into our democratic institutions, they break all the rules, and when they are called on breaking all of the rules, they leave and say they've been gagged. Well, Mr. Poilievre has that in common with another person yesterday who walked out of a courtroom in New York," MacKinnon said, referencing former U.S. president Donald Trump.

Both the Conservatives and the Liberals blasted emails to their supporters about the ordeal in the hours afterwards.

NDP MP Don Davies said Wednesday that the lives taken by Canada's overdose crisis and British Columbia's request to amend Health Canada's provision decriminalizing public possession of hard drugs should be taken seriously by federal politicians.

"Reducing it to schoolyard language is not helpful," Davies said.

He said it's the Speaker's job to uphold decorum by enforcing standards of conduct in the House of Commons. "It's one of the most basic rules of Parliament, that you can attack the idea and the concept, but you don't attack each other."

Stopped by CTV News on his way up to Parliament Hill, Fergus was asked for his response to some MPs saying they've lost confidence in him as Speaker because, in their view, Trudeau did not face repercussions for his remarks.

"I can't respond. It would be unfair for the Speaker to comment on things that happened in the House," he said, walking away while being asked if he regrets how things played out, or whether he's concerned about the dynamic in the House.

In a follow-up statement, the Speaker's spokesperson Mathieu Gravel said, "Speaker Fergus has no intention of resigning."

'Wacko' used in House before

As the Conservatives have been quick to point out, the word "wacko" has been used in Parliament previously, without consequence. Though, a search of references to the word in the House of Commons over the last decade indicates that other times the word has been said in the chamber were in other contexts.

For example, in June 2023 when discussing Bill C-11, the Online Streaming Act, NDP House Leader Peter Julian said "we have had absolutely wacko claims by Conservatives," and that it was "a wacko comment to say that somehow Bill C-11 is connected to governments following people on cellphones. It is just an unbelievable piece of disinformation."

Commenting on the different context, Julian said that he had "never called a person wacko."

"That would be unparliamentary. That is what Poilievre did," Julian said in a social media post on Tuesday.

Back in 2012, then-Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro said: "Last week, the Liberal leader indicated that suggestions being brought forward by myself and this party were, indeed, wacko. Unfortunately, they have proven to be absolutely true," when talking about robocall allegations.

What the 'unparliamentary' rules are

According to the House of Commons rules around unparliamentary language, "the use of offensive, provocative or threatening language in the House is strictly forbidden," and "personal attacks, insults and obscenities are not in order."

The rules note that the Speaker can first ask the MP who used improper language to withdraw it, and if they refuse, they can be named directly – something that seldom happens in the House – and asked to leave for the remainder of the sitting day.

Further, when dealing with this language, "the Speaker takes into account the tone, manner and intention of the member speaking, the person to whom the words at issue were directed, the degree of provocation, and most important, whether or not the remarks created disorder in the Chamber."

The rules also note that with this in mind, language deemed unparliamentary one day may not necessarily be deemed unparliamentary another day.

"Expressions which are considered unparliamentary when applied to an individual Member have not always been considered so when applied 'in a generic sense' or to a party."

Recapping heated MP reaction

To get a slice of the ranging reactions in the immediate aftermath of Tuesday's high-drama breakdown of decorum, here's what some MPs had to say.

Minister Marc Miller, while noting he in the past has been guilty of and has apologized for using unparliamentary language, said that Poilievre "has never shut his mouth in his life."

"Who silences him? … The stuff that he does in the House of Commons is disgraceful. And he plays on that. He's a guy that likes to play outside the lines. When someone steps out the lines to confront him, he freezes," Miller said.

Liberal MP Judy Sgro said that after the Conservatives left, "we had a great question period."

"Everybody was respectful of each other, as it should be… I think Mr. Poilievre should come into question period tomorrow and sit down and behave himself... He's touting himself as the next leader. Well, he needs to show it. And he certainly wasn't showing it today," she said.

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner called the situation "unbelievable."

"The fact that the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada was thrown out of there for doing his exact job is shameful," she said.

Making the case that Poilievre did withdraw his comment by offering to replace it with others, Conservative MP Michael Barrett said the Speaker ejected his leader for calling Trudeau's drug policy "exactly what it is."

"The problem is that there's two sets of rules. There was a set of rules that was being applied to the leader of the Official Opposition and there was a different set of rules being applied to the prime minister."

NDP MP Alexander Boulerice said he was "a bit afraid" of what Wednesday's question period would look like, while others questioned how the remainder of the spring sitting would play out with this level of rancour. 

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