How to lose control of the House of Commons

Justin Trudeau barged across the floor of the House and, seconds later, the chamber revolted


The House of Commons will remember May 18, 2016, for two prime ministerial apologies: Justin Trudeau’s formal apology to hundreds of Indian immigrants, turned away in 1914 when Canada wouldn’t allow the steamship Komagata Maru to dock in British Columbia; and Trudeau’s hasty apology to NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau, whom he elbowed as he barged across the aisle to grab the Tory whip, Gord Brown. The first will make history books, mostly in the endnotes, as the final, hopeful act in a century-long fight for justice. The second will be lucky to earn a footnote, but anyone who remembers it will, with a wince and a cringe, recall how it fleetingly brought anarchy to an august chamber.

For posterity, let’s sketch a sequence of events: MPs were preparing to vote on a time-allocation motion related to Bill C-14, the government’s doctor-assisted death legislation. The chief Opposition whip, Gord Brown, appeared to have had his progress across the aisle impeded to some extent by NDP MPs. Trudeau, interpreting a physical barrier to a colleague, rose from his seat and determinedly crossed the floor. The PM dug through a gaggle of New Democrats to grab Brown. In the process, Trudeau came into contact with the nearby Brosseau, who was visibly startled.

Soon after, Trudeau again crossed the floor and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, not known for employing a cooler head, lashed out at the PM. He shouted loudly and repeatedly, restrained by his colleagues. Eventually, everyone sat down, but no one on the opposition benches was ready to move on. Trudeau’s allegedly wild elbow had derailed House business. He eventually sort of apologized for his actions, then left the Commons. Speaker Geoff Regan intervened to remind everyone that manhandling isn’t allowed on his watch. MPs offered their opinions. Some (Liberals) said he clearly had no intent to injure anybody. Others (on the opposition benches) said his actions were heinous, and possibly unprecedented. After much debate about the incident, they all tried to agree, in perfect parliamentary fashion, to refer it to a committee for further study. But time ran out before they reached that particular resolution.

All the while, the internet documented the chaos. You’ve seen Twitter reaction before, so let’s be fairly brief.

1. Green Leader Elizabeth May attempted to restore some semblance of reason. Nice try!

2. A Conservative MP alleged that Canada had dropped in global rankings to Third World status. Helpful!

3. Another MP compared the Tory whip’s silence on the matter to a locker-room code. Mature!

4. The traditional Twitter jokes were made and retweeted. And liked!

5. At least part of Trudeau’s honeymoon was declared dead. [Insert “Because it’s 2016” joke!]

6. A former parliamentarian, infamous for his own lack of decorum, tut-tutted. Eek!

7. A former prime minister observed. Spot him!

8. A former Speaker of the House snuck in a jab. Ouch!

Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose released a statement at 8:50 p.m. She rejected any suggestion that Trudeau meant no harm. “In my nearly 12 years as a member of Parliament, I have never seen a fellow member—let alone a Prime Minister—act as disrespectfully and recklessly toward his colleagues, or toward Parliament, as I did this evening,” she said. “His clear intent was to intimidate members physically and his actions resulted in my NDP colleague Ruth Ellen Brosseau being shoved into a desk. She was clearly shaken up.”

From all of this, any reasonable observer can draw exactly one conclusion. Trudeau offered a heck of a master class on how to completely lose control of the House of Commons in dramatic fashion. And in a matter of seconds, at that. All of this on a day when opposition politicians and the journalists who keep an eye on government were railing against the Liberals for attempting to exert too much control on the House.

Ambrose alluded to that irony at the end of her statement. “Today’s actions by the Prime Minister are also a culmination of Liberal attempts to curtail debate on key issues,” she wrote, “and remove the tools the Opposition has to hold the government to account.”

The Tory leader was referring to Government Business No. 6 (a motion hidden deep within the parliamentary orders of the day), which Ottawa Citizen reporter Kady O’Malley called a “procedural hammer to smack down opposition dissent.” O’Malley reported that the motion would, among other things, “impose stringent limits on opposition-initiated motions, which would effectively close off most of the procedural loopholes traditionally invoked by opposition parties to demonstrate their dissatisfaction by delaying regular House proceedings.”

In other words, the new rules enshrined by GB No. 6 would make it a lot easier for the government to control the affairs of the House. The aforementioned Scheer, himself intimately acquainted with the finer points of parliamentary procedure, spoke against that motion in the House.

Whatever the consequences of the Trudeau-prompted fracas in the House, it proved that no majority government can rein in a House full of MPs determined to voice their displeasure. It also proved that on any given day, the apology a prime minister hopes will make the most headlines may be mostly forgotten by dusk.


How to lose control of the House of Commons

  1. If you believe Trudeau was merely helping a colleague out than you’re a fool and deserve this Government and this PM. He was annoyed by the fact that the Conservative whip MP Gord Brown was not proceeding to his seat fast enough to commence voting. The problem is what this PM has done is commit assault on two MPs.

    • I think he was annoyed with more than that I think he was annoyed with the consistent game playing by the opposition, which was readily apparent. Neither incident was an assault, however, and you should be careful about throwing allegations like that around.

      I also think the government was wrong to introduce this motion. I get that the opposition has been playing games all week, but if you promise to be better, then be better.

      • OK nobody’s looking you can pull your head out of Justin ass now.

        • Hmmm. Such an excellent commentary. Way to get right to the issue!

          Ha ha ha ha ha

      • According to the Globe and Mail, the delay in the voting process that was frustrating JT was 30 seconds. He swore when he grabbed the Conservative whip…saying f*ck this or something approximating that. The whip requested he let go of his arm. JT is according to the opposition trying to limit debate on bills. Hmmm….something the cons tried and was fought by the opposition when JT was in opposition. Now you say “JT is frustrated by the opposition.” Well, the job of the opposition is to hold the government accountable and given that 44 members of the government didn’t show up for work on Monday and almost lost a vote. Instead of taking responsibility for their own poor showing, JT is feeling frustrated but he is a big boy and big boys don’t lay hands on the people sitting in the opposition because they have been taught restraint and he better find his because that behavior has no excuse.

        • How is impeding the progress of the opposition whip holding the government accountable?

          As for Monday, you do know that MP’s sometimes have to work outside the House, right? When the opposition parties tell the government they are going to do one thing, and then do another, it is, at best, playing games.

        • Is no one aware that the Conservatives created this tempest in a teapot by not addressing this issue when in office. The Supreme Court gave them a timeline which is rapidly coming to a close. JT was frustrated, partly because of the silly games being played in the house, and also the fact that this issue is long overdue, but his conduct was far from reprehensible. This was incidental contact that wouldn’t garner a penalty even in women’s hockey. I am/was a member of the NDP, but this nonsense gives me cause to reconsider this position. I thought the NDP were going to be responsible MPs, not game players cooperating with their enemies, the Conservatives.

    • If anyone thinks this “incident” wasn’t just a hastily planned photo-op you are deluded. I’m sure he didn’t mean to hit the NDP MP, but he was clearly playing for the camera’s.

      He wanted to look strong and “leader-like” but all he managed to do was make himself look like an impulsive angry child. Saying, “Get the fuc.K out of my way” as he was grabbing other MP’s didn’t help him much.

      Remember, this guy is an actor before he is a PM. And don’t forget what he admires most, is “people who do what he wants them to do”.

      That is why he likes the Chinese model. Their basic dictatorship allows them to do whatever the want. Trudeau is just trying to emulate the Chinese.

      How’d that work out for you Justin (e)

  2. Cons are very upset that they aren’t getting their way anymore, and have reverted to street theatre along with the Dips

    As always with that crowd it comes from religion

    Time to recess for summer.

    • I didn’t see any cons or dips grabbing people, elbowing people or swearing. Rather it was your boy JT doing all of the above and all over a 30 second delay in starting the vote. According to the CBC, the Libs are working hard to delay debates on votes. The opposition are doing their job in holding them accountable. Do yo

      • Do you have a problem with a Lib government being held accountable? Do you believe only Con and Dipper governments should be held accountable? If Harper had grabbed a Lib whip or elbowed an NDP, your head would have exploded.

          • There is very little point in replying to emilyone as she cannot get over her obsession with the pretty boy toy. The PM acted like a spoilt brat.No other person has mentioned religion but you.You must have the same maturity level as the PM.

          • demers10…..you and your ilk are attempting numerous diversions from the ‘moral values’ bills passing in the HOC

            It’s the same kind of obstructionism Congress is using against Obama…..at the moment both are caught up in washrooms.. Sad.

  3. Leisure suit Larry strikes again. Mr. Entitlement, again, makes a complete ass of himself and in the process physically assaults two MPs. Listen Justy if you’re gonna attack someone just throw them down and get it on. There’s nothing I’d enjoy more that seeing a woman beat the sh#t out of you.

    • Like I said, Cons are very biter. LOL

    • Except he did not physically attack anyone. I know you have been worshiping at the altar of Harper for a long time, but in truth, simply saying something does not magically make it true. Sorry to burst your little bubble.

      • You need to read the Globe and Mail or even watch CBC. He grabbed the whip’s arm, swore at people to get the fuck out of way and elbowed an NDP woman in the process. Even his own speaker commented that is was not acceptable. JT gets it. Why are you in denial? You can’t lay hands on people in the workplace, especially in anger or frustration, not when you are the PM. We teach toddlers to use their words instead of their hands when frustrated. I think JT could learn that as well.

        • Forget cbc they recieve additional funding when liberals voted in , CPAC is where its at usually live ( Canadian Public/Parliament Channel ) only television i watch

      • Well, the grabbing of the CPC whip was both intentional and apparently unwanted by said whip, as such it may technically be assault.

        • As much of an assault as someone wagging a finger in your face, which is also technically an assault.

          • There is a major difference between invading someone’s space and actually physically grabbing them.

          • Actually, I don’t think it is a major difference. In fact some people would feel more threatened by someone yelling and wagging a finger in their face than they would be someone grabbing their arm and pulling them through a crowd. My point is that a technical assault is almost always one where the police refuse to be involved. The CBC did an article on that today.

  4. Reminds me of a teacher in a classroom trying to get control of a bunch of kids fooling around. What I have heard of classrooms nowadays if a teacher as much as touches a “child” or bumps a child the school board has a lawsuit on it’s hands, to bad kids nowadays aren’t taught to behave and sit in there seats and behave.

    • That’s the Speakers job.

  5. It is a sad commentary that everyone appears to be missing the real issue, which is the draconian motion that the liberals put forward yesterday. I am not happy with Trudeau’s conduct, but I am far more concerned with the contents of the motion.

    • No argument on that from me.

      • At least they withdrew it today.

  6. It’s going to be a long 4 years in the House. Trudeau may slip over to Harper some day and say, Stephen you were right about one thing.

    Trudeau has done well in the country as a whole with Premiers and issues involving various groups. He has done well with Americans. He has been very successful in UN and Europe, and at climate and other meetings and G 20.
    He has raised Canada’s profile around the world.
    However with the Opposition and especially the Ottawa media and pundits he gets zero respect. Only ridicule including barbs directed at his mother and wife.
    No more sunny ways Opposition or Parliamentary Press Gallery.
    You can’t defend what he did, although Brosseau was quite the drama queen and very political in her response, but what he did was wrong.

  7. w.b. yeats – ” …. while the worst are full of passionate intensity”

  8. Really Nick?

    The only person’s maturity you question is a Conservative MP’s here.

    Hmmm, that’s an ‘interesting’ perspective.

  9. Where was the Sargent of Arms? Criminal charges should be forth coming. The Prime Minister allows repeat sex offenders to teach in his profession without saying a word. It is time we stood up against the Millionaires code of misconduct with the enforcement of Law! He should be charged for assault.

  10. Perhaps the PM should have addressed the floor saying “Mr Speaker, would you please ask the honourable members in the aisle to kindly return to their seats so we may continue with the business at hand.” Unfortunately Pierre’s Kid threw a temper tantrum instead and embarrassed the Canadian Parliament in the eyes of his country and the world. The point is not how seriously anyone was touched, the point is that they were touched at all.

    • I don’t want to quibble but the speaker should have cleared the aisle on the opposition side that was clearly being blocked by NDP members.

      • Correct! A bunch of bullies blocking progress, then crying foul when someone challenges that blocking attempt.

  11. 2 things

    1. Trudeau is all over the map. Needs to slow down and focus. He’s demonstrating symptoms of fatigue / burnout.

    2. The NDP is also guilty in this affair. An NDP member moves around to block the Conservative whip (passive aggressive). On purpose. That is also as intimidating as any physical intervention and should be considered as such.

    • Blaming the victims is so old but still you are doing it.When you kill the enemy they win. Now whose quote is that?

      • There were no victims here, aside from the electorate who deserve better from all the parties.

  12. Trudeau lost control of his emotions (got angry). Stormed over to the other side and put his hands on one mp (unwanted contact), which resulted in another member being hurt (unwanted contact). Parliament is a work situation and the expectation is that everyone keeps their hands to themselves (isn’t that what we teach our kids when they go to kindergarten. So unwanted touching at work is okay for the prime minister. THIS WAS AN ASSAULT. Let’s call it for what it is.

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