Liberals drop controversial motion as Trudeau’s Commons contretemps reverberates

By , on May 19, 2016


The prime minister showed up Thursday to apologize, but his political rivals wanted more—demanding, and getting, the withdrawal of a “draconian” motion that would have denied opponents some of their procedural tools and power. (Photo: Justin Trudeau/Twitter)
The prime minister showed up Thursday to apologize, but his political rivals wanted more—demanding, and getting, the withdrawal of a “draconian” motion that would have denied opponents some of their procedural tools and power. (Photo: Justin Trudeau/Twitter)

OTTAWA—The Bible passage Prime Minister Justin Trudeau chose to read Thursday at the annual national prayer breakfast in Ottawa was chosen long before his physical confrontation in the House of Commons, and its resultant apologies.

But the irony of the scriptural message was not lost on those in the room, including members of his staff still reeling from the fallout of Trudeau’s dramatic physical scuffle with a pair of opposition MPs in Parliament the night before.

“Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone,” Trudeau said as he wrapped up the reading from Romans, chapter 12, which offers lessons on how to be a good person.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

The prime minister asked to read that particular passage because it has long been close to his heart, said Trudeau spokeswoman Kate Purchase.

Conservative MP Bob Zimmer, who chairs the national prayer breakfast, described the mood in the room as one of forgiveness.

“I think as one human being to another, that’s all I can expect from somebody,” Zimmer said of Trudeau’s apology, which he believes was sincere.

Less so the Commons crowd, however, which spent most of the day debating a question of privilege related to Trudeau’s “physical molestation” of NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau and the subsequent pandemonium on the floor of the House.

The prime minister showed up Thursday to apologize, but his political rivals wanted more—demanding, and getting, the withdrawal of a “draconian” motion that would have denied opponents some of their procedural tools and power.

“We’ve listened to the comments made by all of our colleagues, (and) a short while ago we withdrew Motion 6 from the order paper,” government House leader Dominic LeBlanc said as cheers rained down from the opposition benches.

“Our objective remains to work with everyone to find the proper mechanism to extend the sitting hours and allow for a more respectful debate on government legislation, and I look forward to working with all members of this House to achieve that objective.”

The motion was the result of a vote Monday in the Commons that the Liberals nearly lost, thanks in part to a procedural trick by the NDP—a trick the motion would have prevented from being repeated in future.

Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose claimed it as a victory—and not just for her caucus.

“I don’t know the last time the government withdrew a motion, but it’s a victory for every member of Parliament, including their own backbench.”

The motion, if passed, would have taken away the right of all but Liberal cabinet ministers and parliamentary secretaries to decide when the House of Commons could wrap up for the day—or for the summer.

“I’m not going to forget it because it makes me uneasy to think they were willing to go that far, so quickly, merely because they came up against some opposition,” Ambrose said. “That’s not in the spirit of collaboration.”

Earlier in the day came the spectacle of a contrite Trudeau apologizing, yet again, for grabbing Conservative whip Gord Brown and colliding with NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau in an unprecedented fracas on the floor of the House of Commons.

Trudeau rose in the House to apologize to all MPs, the Speaker and also Brosseau, with whom he collided on Wednesday while trying to hurry Brown to his seat for a vote related to the bill on doctor-assisted dying, C-14.

“I sincerely apologize to my colleagues, to the House as a whole and to you, Mr. Speaker, for failing to live up to a higher standard of behaviour,” Trudeau told a rapt Commons.

“Members, rightfully, expect better behaviour from anyone in this House. I expect better behaviour of myself.”

Footage from the Commons television feed showed Trudeau trying to pull Brown through the crowd. In so doing, he appeared to collide with Brosseau, who reacted with visible discomfort as Trudeau pushed past her, forcing her against an adjacent desk.

As it happened, NDP MPs reported hearing the prime minister mutter, “’Get the f— out of the way.”’

“That intervention was not appropriate, it was not my role and it should not have happened,” Trudeau said.

“It is important because we are here to serve Canadians, and Canadians deserve to have their concerns expressed fully and fairly in a direct and dignified manner. I know, and I regret that my behaviour yesterday failed to meet this standard.”

Speaker Geoff Regan concluded Wednesday there was a prima facie case that Brosseau’s privileges as an MP had been breached, which means the encounter will be examined by an all-party committee.

Conservative House Leader Andrew Scheer said the committee’s options include everything from suspension from the House of Commons for a period of time to having Trudeau called to the bar to apologize.