Justin Trudeau apologizes for swearing at environment minister

OTTAWA – Liberal MP Justin Trudeau caused a ruckus in question period on Wednesday when he called a federal cabinet minister “a piece of s—.”

The comments came after NDP MP Megan Leslie posed a question about the government’s failure to act on environmental protection under the Kyoto Protocol.

Environment Minister Peter Kent, who announced on Monday that Canada is withdrawing from the international agreement on climate control, got up to answer the question. He started saying, “…if she had been in Durban she would have seen in fact Canada was one of the leaders in creating…,” before being forced to sit by the roar of opposition MPs. Amidst the ruckus, Trudeau can be heard yelling: “Oh you piece of s—.”

The House of Commons erupted again. Trudeau immediately got to his feet, but Speaker Andrew Scheer said, “We can deal with this after question period.”

Story continues below advertisement

The political potty-mouth seems to be a family trait.

Trudeau’s father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, caused a stir in 1971 when opposition MPs accused him, then prime minister, of mouthing “f— off.” He denied it, but told reporters he had said “fuddle-duddle,” a euphemism for the swear word.

Justin Trudeau stood after question period and apologized. “I lost my temper and used language that was most decidedly unparliamentary and for that I unreservedly apologize…and withdraw my remarks,” he said.

Trudeau said he lost his temper because Kent stopped opposition members from attending the meeting in Durban. Kent responded to the apology by calling Trudeau part of the “Liberal rump.”

Outside the House of Commons, Trudeau told reporters he was raised better than to swear in public.

“(My father) would say he was disappointed that I had to stoop to language that is unparliamentary, but I know he would have probably been pleased that I was sticking up for someone else,” Trudeau said.

Ryan Cleary, an NDP MP from Newfoundland, also rose to apologize after question period for calling Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield a “bully.” The apology took two attempts.

“I wish to apologize for using a word that I’ve been told is unparliamentary,” he said. “The minister of fisheries and oceans said he asked this house if he looked like a bully. I merely answered his question. I would answer the question the same way if he asked it again.”

Story continues below advertisement

The Speaker said the retraction was not acceptable and threatened not to recognize Cleary in the future. The warning prompted Cleary to get up and say: “I apologize and withdraw my remarks.”

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, himself a notorious verbal pitbull, ended the stream of outbursts, standing to say: “I would just like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Peace on Earth.”

The war of words is just the latest in a string of questionable outbursts from MPs. Last month Leslie inferred Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver was a “grumpy old man.” The week before, Leslie’s colleague Pat Martin caused a debate after he dropped the f-bomb on Twitter, while sitting in the House.

“I think it was an honest reaction from him in some ways,” said Leslie on Wednesday of Trudeau’s insult. “I certainly have bit my tongue so hard sometimes it bleeds in that House.”

Leslie said it is hard not to react with negativity to the “games” of the Conservatives.

Trudeau’s Liberal colleague Marc Garneau said Trudeau’s reaction is an example of the frustration many people feel.

“I think there is a certain amount of pent up feeling in here. We have felt the democratic process has been shutdown,” he said.