Opposition in Ottawa assails Trudeau for grabbing, jostling MPs
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faced a heap of criticism Thursday after he elbowed an opposition MP and manhandled another in parliament the previous day.
Trudeau apologized a third time in two days in the Commons for his actions, and said he would accept any sanctions imposed on him by a parliamentary committee tasked with reviewing the incident.
“I regret my behavior yesterday,” he said. “It should absolutely not have happened.”
“I am prepared to accept the decision of the committee and to respect the will of this house,” he added.
But his contrition failed to satisfy opposition MPs, who accused him of “arrogance and blatant disrespect.”
Trudeau had crossed the floor of the House late Wednesday, pushed through a crowd of Conservative and New Democratic Party (NDP) MPs and grabbed opposition Tory whip Gord Brown by the arm, dragging him toward his seat.
As Trudeau reached for the whip, parliamentary video showed he elbowed NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau in the chest.
Green Party leader Elizabeth May said that a subsequent heated exchange between Trudeau and NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, as the fracas was unfolding, had come close to fisticuffs.
“Things are very bad in the House. Nearly a physical altercation between Mulcair and Trudeau,” she said in a Twitter message.
Tensions had been rising in parliament over a deadline to pass legislation on assisted dying.
The Supreme Court struck down a prohibition against doctor-assisted suicide and gave Ottawa until June 6 to draft new legislation that would permit consenting adults with serious health problems to end their lives.
“Time is running out,” Elizabeth May noted.
Opposition parties sought to scuttle a key vote on the bill using delay tactics, including obstructing the whip, which led the government to threaten the use of its majority to push through the legislation.
Tory leader Rona Ambrose blamed the kerfuffle on the Liberal government’s attempts to cut off debate on the bill, effectively “putting a straitjacket on parliament.”
“The government doesn’t want an opposition anymore,” she said. “They just want an audience, which led to last night’s events.”
Ambrose accused Trudeau, a boxer in his spare time, and prime minister only since November, of gross misconduct.
“I watched him as he grabbed the official opposition whip by the arm,” she said in parliament.
“I also watched him as he yelled something so out of line that I will not repeat it in the House. I watched him as he collided with the member who was clearly shaken by his behavior and left this House,” she said.
“He was out of line. He had no business on this side of the House. He had no business anywhere but in his own seat. Everything he did from the moment he rose from his seat was unnecessary, and it was unsettling.”