When keeping it partisan goes wrong (II) - Macleans.ca

When keeping it partisan goes wrong (II)

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“I don’t think I should have used that word and I was wrong to do it.”
—John McCain, March 16, 2007

“Mr. Speaker, that honourable colleague is a man with whom I have had disagreements but for whom I have respect. On this occasion though, I cannot believe that he would attempt to inject that meaning into that expression. He clearly understands that my reference had absolutely nothing to do with the one that he implied. I have worked hard to represent people of all backgrounds and I have always done so in a spirit of tolerance. My reference to the term ‘tar baby’ was a common reference that refers to issues that stick to one. The leader of the Liberal Party has taken this position. It has stuck to him, and now he is having difficulty explaining himself on that issue. For him or for his House leader to inject racial politics in order to distract from that is the worst kind of base politics. I would encourage them to apologize for it.”
—Pierre Poilievre, responding to Ralph Goodale’s point of order after QP today.

The entirety of today’s discussion after the jump.

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Wascana, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order arising from question period. On at least two occasions in question period, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister used the expression “tar baby”. In addition to being a pejorative term, which might well prove to be unparliamentary, the parliamentary secretary might consider that there are many authorities both in this country and many others that consider the term racist. While he may want to make his views known in strong and extreme terms, he also might want to take this occasion to withdraw that expression to make it absolutely clear that he was not implying any racist connections.

Mr. Pierre Poilievre (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, CPC): Mr. Speaker, that hon. colleague is a man with whom I have had disagreements but for whom I have respect. On this occasion though, I cannot believe that he would attempt to inject that meaning into that expression. He clearly understands that my reference had absolutely nothing to do with the one that he implied. I have worked hard to represent people of all backgrounds and I have always done so in a spirit of tolerance. My reference to the term “tar baby” was a common reference that refers to issues that stick to one. The leader of the Liberal Party has taken this position. It has stuck to him, and now he is having difficulty explaining himself on that issue. For him or for his House leader to inject racial politics in order to distract from that is the worst kind of base politics. I would encourage them to apologize for it.

The Speaker: I am going to proceed with the hon. member for Ottawa Centre.

Mr. Paul Dewar (Ottawa Centre, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I too want to rise on the same point of order coming out of question period. I just want to tell the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister to at least understand how this term can be interpreted and why it should not be used. As recently as this past week, Mitt Romney, a governor in the United States, used the term. He was admonished and apologized. This is an example of perhaps the use of a term that the parliamentary secretary might not have intended to be used in a certain way. However, that can be interpreted, and has been interpreted, by many African Americans. It is a term that should not be used. To benefit us all, I ask the parliamentary secretary to apologize and not use the term in the future.

Mr. Pierre Poilievre: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the hon. member’s point. I am perfectly prepared to assure him that is absolutely not what I was referring. In fact, I have never even heard that term used in the context that he is suggesting. If anybody is offended because of the way that someone else might have used the term, I can assure the member that was not my intention and never would be.

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Wascana, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, in the interest of laying this issue to rest, I wonder if the parliamentary secretary would not more unequivocally follow the example set not only by former governor Mitt Romney in the United States, but also by Senator John McCain, both of whom on various occasions used those expressions. When it came to their attention that they were inappropriate, they withdrew and they apologized. Will the parliamentary secretary do the same?

The Speaker: The matter has been dealt with and I do not believe it is necessary at this point for further interventions from the chair.