One journalist's attempt to cut through partisan prejudices.

Penalizing Parliamentary hypocrisy

Hockey penaltiesA lot has been said about the recent House of Commons altercation, during which Prime Minister Trudeau physically pushed his way through a group of NDP MPPs to grab the Opposition whip (shoving aside an NDP member, allegedly accidentally) in order to speed up a vote on a bill.

It’s an incident rife with hypocrisy. From just about everybody.

Let’s start with us, the public. We’re lining up on both sides of the fence to attack or defend the incident, based primarily on which party we voted for in the past election. The Liberal supporters are urging everybody to get over it and/or get a life. Some of my Facebook friends consider it proof of the further “wail of the butt-hurt,” in reference to being sore over losing the last election.

On the other side, those supporting the parties on the other side of the House are calling for punishment based on the values the government has repeatedly put forth to the media. Critics claim there should be no excuse for physicality, especially in the House of Commons (which is supposed to set an example for the masses it represents).

And with all due respect to all of you, Parliament’s hypocrisy has indeed set an example for your own personal hypocrisy.

Conservative Rona Ambrose, the leader of the Opposition, called for the highest condemnation from Parliament. This from a member of the party that was deemed in contempt of Parliament when it was governing.

Some people have called her stance on the physical altercation hypocritical, given the past Conservative government’s record of Parliamentary abuses, but that in itself is like saying “you’re a fine one to talk about physical abuse when you constantly get speeding tickets.” Breaking the law does not, nor should it, prevent you from taking a stand against other, often more harmful, issues.

The hypocrisy comes, rather, from Ambrose demanding Trudeau back up his apology by withdrawing Motion 6 (which he has) that would remove the procedural tools the Opposition use to fight the Government in the House. The Conservative government, in which Ambrose was a Minister, was famous for restricting the workings of Parliament. In fact, it was one of those restrictions — limiting the time of discussion on bills — that led to this incident in the first place.

Several NDP members seem to intentionally block Conservative whip Gord Brown from taking his seat, reportedly having figured out that if they could delay the proceedings by just 2 minutes (hold on to this thought; it’s going to be important later), it would throw off the government agenda and prevent reading of tabled bills.

In frustration, Trudeau jumped out of his seat and grabbed the Whip to hurry him through the NDP blockade and, presumably, get the agenda back on track. In the ensuing “manhandling” and elbowing of NDP MPP Ruth Ellen Brosseau (an event quickly dubbed Elbowgate, because media apparently doesn’t like a scandal without a kitschy name), NDP leader Thomas Mulcair vehemently condemned the physical altercation.

But wasn’t the clutch of NDPers (of which he himself was a member) to physically block Gordon’s path itself a physical altercation? Granted no elbows were thrown, but bumping is physical and so is progress impediment.

Elbowing is a no-no in hockey, but so is interference. Perhaps ironically, they’re punishable in the same manner: two minutes in the box. For that matter, so are roughing and holding. And also delay of game and unsportsmanlike conduct. Maybe we really should be proud of Parliamentarians for passionately representing our interests.

But I digress … if Trudeau apologized for his handling of the situation, shouldn’t Mulcair also apologize for his actions in the situation? Offsetting penalties …

Now in the aftermath, Mulcair called the incident an affront to women’s safety and equated it with physical abuse. That drew some criticism from columnists claiming it insults women who are real victims of physical abuse. But isn’t shoving a woman around (whether intentional or not) often quoted as indicative of broader problematic attitudes (along with joking about it)?

But on a wider scale, you could argue the entire incident was triggered by the Liberals trying to manipulate Parliament in order to get the vote on the assisted-dying bill through, actions they often accused the previous Conservative government of doing to further its own agenda.

With the NDP manipulating the incident in order to prevent the Liberals from manipulating Parliament, according to rules the Conservatives put in place to manipulate Parliament, tell me again about how your party is the only honourable one that has respect for Parliament, whereas the other’s don’t.


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