Question Period in the Manitoba Legislative Assembly has escalated into accusations of improper conduct in recent days after one MLA showed his middle finger and another hit a colleague’s chair with the back of his hand.
Such behavior is at odds with the emotional speech delivered by Conservative MP Bob Lagasse at the start of Question Period on Thursday, who after documenting his recent battles with depression, urged his colleagues in the legislature to be kind to each other.
“In this political theater environment, we tend to be harmful to the detriment of our own mental health and that of others,” he said.
His speech had MPs from all parties on their feet, but the civility was short-lived.
The heckling continued as usual, and an hour later Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont raised his middle finger after expressing frustration at the lack of response from Progressive Conservative leader Kelvin Goertzen.
Questioning personal safety
Just a day earlier on Wednesday, emotional NDP MP Bernadette Smith said she had questioned her safety in the Legislative Assembly, particularly as an Indigenous person, after PC MP Blaine Pedersen hit his chair. He was trying to get Smith’s attention, Pedersen’s colleague had said at home.
Deputy Speaker Andrew Micklefield urged Members of the Legislative Assembly after Question Period on Thursday to keep their emotions in check.
“We can have all the benefits of this place, including a lively debate, I don’t want to crush that at all, but clearly things can get out of control and have gone beyond certain limits,” he said.
“Let’s make sure that none of us contribute to this, either by ourselves or perhaps by stoking the unfortunate behavior of others.”
It started on Tuesday, during Question Period, when Pedersen apparently tried to get Smith’s attention by hitting the back of his chair. Smith, who was seated, immediately turned around and the two MPs appeared to have a brief discussion, according to the video of the legislature, which the NDP provided to the media.
WATCH | Pedersen slams NDP MP chair:
Smith alleged that Pedersen was trying to stop him from speaking.
“The MPP for Midland may not like what I have to say, but the people of Manitoba sent me here and I have every right to say what I have to say without being hit while I’m sitting in my chair. It’s wrong.
“We don’t hit people in their chairs when people are sitting in them and try to change the opinion of the person sitting there or stop them from saying what they think,” Smith said in tears.
His NDP colleagues, Nahanni Fontaine, Malaya Marcelino and Lisa Naylor, showed solidarity with Smith and put their arms up.
In response, Pedersen said he sincerely apologized for any grief and harm he caused.
PC House Leader Kelvin Goertzen said MPs could watch the video and make up their own minds, but described the action as a “tapping”.
“I’m convinced … that whatever was done was just trying to get the member’s attention,” Goertzen said.
He added that he had known Pedersen, whom he called an honorable person, for a long time.
“When he says he didn’t intend to cause any harm or upset the member, I support him and understand him and believe him 100 percent.”
On Thursday, it was Goertzen who expressed concern about the conduct of a fellow MP. He said that Lamont would “give me a wave that didn’t indicate I was #1 in his heart.”
Goertzen said he wouldn’t consider himself offended, but said the hand signal was “just inappropriate in a democratic house.”
Lamont said he welcomed the opportunity to speak in response. He apologized for his actions, but wanted to offer the context in which he thought Goertzen, in response to questions from Lamont earlier in the day, dismissed the threats that politicians opposed to this year’s convoy protests had faced. .
He said some Manitoba lawmakers have been threatened, received death threats and were approached by protesters in their offices.
Recalling this, Lamont said, “I got frustrated, I won’t do this again and I sincerely apologize.”
NDP Leader Wab Kinew condemned the use of the middle finger, then urged all House MPs to ‘reflect on other behavior that has taken place in this chamber this week’, apparently a reference to what Smith said. lived.
“I would ask that there be no double standards when we judge these issues, especially not on a partisan basis. Everyone deserves to be able to express themselves here freely. Everyone deserves to be able to participate.” Kinew said.
Before returning to legislative business, Micklefield reminded all lawmakers of the value of decorum.