Canada: bitter clash in parliament over Trudeau ‘wacko’ jibe

Canada: bitter clash in parliament over Trudeau ‘wacko’ jibe

Canada’s Liberal and Conservative parties have redoubled their parliamentary clash a day after the Tory leader was ejected from the House of Commons for calling Justin Trudeau a “wacko”.

Under the guise of a debate over British Columbia’s decision to decriminalize some hard drugs, the parliamentary question period on Wednesday was dominated by deeply partisan attacks.

Conservative lawmakers also used the word “wacko” in their remarks, in a test of the speaker and the rules governing the House of Commons.

Longstanding tensions between the two parties, who are gearing up for a looming federal election, erupted on Tuesday following a bitter exchange between the Conservative leader, Pierre Poilievre, and Trudeau.

The prime minister accused Poilievre of “shameful, spineless leadership” and suggested he was sympathetic to white nationalist groups.

The Conservative leader countered by calling Trudeau a “wacko”, and when asked to withdraw the comment, offered the words “radical” and “extremist” – both of which the speaker rejected.

The House speaker, Greg Fergus, accused Poilievre of disregarding the speaker’s authority and said: “I order to you to withdraw from the House … for the remainder of this day’s sitting.”

The ejection was a rare show of force from the speaker and a move with little precedent in recent decades.

Conservatives, who left the chamber in protest, say Fergus acted in a partisan manner, siding with Trudeau, and called for him to step down.

“Speaker Fergus has no intention of resigning,” his spokesperson said on Wednesday.

Poilievre doubled down on Wednesday morning, saying he had no regrets over his choice of words.

“I can’t think of any other word to describe what he [Trudeau] is 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,” he told CP24.

At issue is the use of “unparliamentary language” which can take the form of “personal attacks, insults and obscenities”.

Under parliamentary rules, the speaker can ask the offending lawmaker to withdraw the comment. If they refuse, they can ask to leave for the remainder of the sitting day.

Conservatives argue the term “wacko” has been used before in the House of Commons with no consequence. But the rules also say the speaker “takes into account the tone, manner and intention of the member speaking” and “whether or not the remarks created disorder” in parliament.

Opinions over Fergus’s decision fell along partisan lines.

“The fact that the leader of the Conservative party of Canada was thrown out of there for doing his exact job is shameful,” said Michelle Rempel Garner, a Conservative MP. Her colleague, Michael Cooper, called Fergus “a disgrace”.

The immigration minister, Marc Miller, said Poilievre “has never shut his mouth in his life”.

“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.

Both the Conservative and the Liberal parties have seized on the ejection, sending emails to members and supporters in a bid to solicit donations.