Trudeau accused of pushing, elbowing opposition MPs in House
Graham Slaughter, CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, May 18, 2016 6:27PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, May 18, 2016 9:17PM EDT
Tensions were high in the House of Commons Wednesday as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pushed through a group of MPs, leading to a shouting match with NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair and accusations that the prime minister elbowed an NDP MP in the chest.
Trudeau said he came in contact with “a number of members” as he crossed the floor and extended his arm to guide Conservative Whip Gord Brown through “a gaggle of MPs standing there impeding his progress down the aisle.”
Trudeau said his intention was to help move the House forward on an impending vote on a motion to limit debate on the government’s controversial assisted-dying legislation, Bill C-14.
“In doing so I admit I came in physical contact with a number of members as I extended my arm, including someone behind me who I did not see,” Trudeau said after the incident.
“If anyone feels that they were impacted by my actions, I completely apologize. It was not my intention to hurt anyone.”
Video then shows Mulcair shout at Trudeau and accuse him of elbowing “a woman,” referring to NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau.
“You’re pathetic! You’re pathetic!” Mulcair shouts, pointing at Trudeau as the prime minister steps toward him.
NDP MP Nathan Cullen appeared to step between the pair and break up the heated exchange.
The cameras, which are controlled by the House of Commons, then cut away.
Brosseau later said she was elbowed by the prime minister and had to step outside the House chambers and sit in the lobby for a moment.
“I was elbowed in the chest by the prime minister, and then I had to leave. It was very overwhelming,” Brosseau said. “I missed the vote because of this.”
Trudeau later directly apologized to Brosseau.
"I want to take the opportunity, now that the member is OK to return to the House right now, to be able to express directly to her my apologies for my behaviour and my actions, unreservedly," he said.
But the prime minister refused to speak with reporters as he left Parliament and simply said he would “talk about it later.”
Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose called the incident “shocking” and said Trudeau’s “clear intent was to intimidate Members physically.”
“No one should ever have to deal with this kind of behaviour in any workplace. The fact that it's the Prime Minister of Canada is embarrassing. He should be ashamed of his actions,” Ambrose said in a statement Wednesday evening.
NDP House Leader Peter Julian said the incident is unprecedented in his 12 years in federal politics.
“I have never seen any member of the House act towards another member or members as he just did,” Julian said. “Physical force in this House is never permitted, it is never welcome, and it is entirely inappropriate.”
Conservative House Leader Andrew Scheer said it appeared the prime minister “lost his temper” and called for him to “apologize unreservedly.”
“It looked like he lost his cool, and he just marched right over. It’s just terrible that this happened,” Scheer told reporters after the incident.
He added that the Tory whip didn’t need the prime minister’s help.
“Gord’s a hockey player. He doesn’t need help to move his way down the aisle.”
Liberal MP Deb Schulte had a different version of the events.
"As (Trudeau) strode across, the group moved apart and he reached through and moved the House leader through. At the point that he did, he did bump into another member. I believe there was no intent to harm anyone or to actually bump into any one," Schulte said.
NDP MP Niki Ashton said she was “ashamed, as somebody who sits in this House, to have been witness to the person who holds the highest position in our country, the highest elected position, to have done such an act in this House."
Green Party Leader and MP Elizabeth May tweeted after the incident: “Things are very very bad in the House. Nearly a physical altercation between Mulcair and Trudeau.”
Things are very very bad in the House. Nearly a physical altercation between Mulcair and Trudeau. #cdnpoli— Elizabeth May (@ElizabethMay) May 18, 2016
Speaker of the House Geoff Regan said it is inappropriate to “manhandle” other members, which led to rousing applause in the House.
With files from The Canadian Press