Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s “manhandling” of one opposition MP and allegedly elbowing another woman MP was the most widely discussed event on the main TV news bulletins of last week.
Exasperated by the delaying tactics of the opposition MPs trying to prevent the voting on Bill 14, otherwise known as the Assisted Dying Bill, Trudeau tried to pull the opposition whip from among the NDP MPs standing on his way and in the process apparently pushed a woman MP at her chest with his elbow. His motive was to have the opposition whip seated so that the voting could begin.
And as it has now become almost a tradition to tag a suffix “gate” to each and every government mishap in the US, the incident was quickly dubbed ‘The Elbowgate’.
This happened because the Liberal government is in a rush to beat the deadline set by the Supreme Court last year for the adoption of a law on assisted dying. The deadline is June 6 and the government bloc in the House of Commons had already made a motion to restrict discussion on the legislation to have it voted on without delay so that it could clear the Senate hurdle quickly to gain Royal Assent.
Trudeau apologized several times for his behaviour during the question time at the House of Commons with some political pundits describing the incident as “one of the strangest” in the history of the House of Commons.
As a result of the incident, Liberals had to withdraw the restrictions they put on the debating period, which means they will now definitely miss the deadline for the legislation to be passed.
One commentator labeled the prime minister’s behaviour as “arrogant”. Others said it was reflective of the increasingly common bullying tactics employed by the Liberal caucus in the House using their majority power.
While creating a stir at the legislature and in Ottawa circles for a few days, the incident seems to have been shrugged off by the general public.
A spontaneous poll conducted through online voting by the national broadcaster CBC showed more than two thirds of those who responded said his repeated apologies had actually improved the prime minister’s image in their eyes. Two days later, an independent polling organization said their survey had showed that the incident had not dented Justin Trudeau’s reputation at all and his positive ratings remained well above 60 per cent.
Here the real question may be better asked about the mentality behind the prime minister’s behaviour rather than action itself. Are we seeing the real life depiction of the premise “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”?
In all fairness, while Trudeau’s behaviour was inappropriate by his own admission, the tactics used by the Liberal bloc in the House of Commons to usher through some legislation without delay are nothing new. All of these tactics and more were used by various previous governments and let’s not forget that the last Conservative government under Stephen Harper went as far as proroguing the parliament in order not to lose a key confidence vote.
So employing procedural tactics relying on the number of MPs to have one’s way trough the parliament and the opposition’s creation of a storm in a cup out of these tactics are nothing new. What is different in this case, however, is that Liberals had promised not to resort to such tactics when they were in opposition and that they broke their promise with the added embarrassment of inappropriate behaviour by the prime minister in person.
One good thing in all of this may be the timing of this unfortunate incident: Liberals have been in power for a little over six months and that their first moment of embarrassment has come so early may be a good red flag for them to step back and assess how they have done so far, how they can improve and what they should change for the better.