OTTAWA – Former MP Keith Martin says there is no way Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should face any more punishment for the ruckus that erupted when he tried to hurry a Conservative to his seat, knocking a New Democrat with his elbow in the process.
“He’s apologized profusely and I think the House (of Commons) needs to move on and get on with the big issues affecting the country,” said Martin, now executive director at the Consortium of Universities for Global Health in Washington, D.C.
Martin knows a thing or two about being punished for unparliamentary behaviour – a fate that could await Trudeau as MPs on the all-party Commons procedure and House affairs committee deal with the issue, possibly as early as Tuesday.
Martin was a Canadian Alliance MP in April 2002 when he became increasingly frustrated with the Liberal government of then-prime minister Jean Chretien over his private member’s bill calling for the decriminalization of marijuana.
After calling news conferences that went unattended and writing opinion pieces that went unpublished, Martin said he decided on a bolder move – grabbing the ceremonial mace, which is the symbol of order in the House of Commons and represents the authority of the Speaker.
VIDEO: “I apologize unreservedly:” Justin Trudeau delivers apology to House of Commons for physical altercation
That is considered a major no-no, so the move resulted in a suspension that remained in effect until Martin apologized as he was called to the bar to be admonished by the Speaker.
Martin said he does not regret his decision.
“I apologized to my peers, but I didn’t regret doing it,” Martin said, adding that it led the government to back off – an even better outcome than the initial awareness he was trying to raise.
That, he said, is the difference between his breach of privilege and the one facing Trudeau, who apologized for the incident three times in the House of Commons.
The Conservatives and New Democrats, however, are seeing things differently ahead of this morning’s committee meeting.
Conservative House leader Andrew Scheer thinks touching another MP – as Trudeau did when he grabbed Tory whip Gord Brown to try and pull him through a gaggle of New Democrats, knocking into NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau – is at least as bad as touching the ceremonial mace.
VIDEO: Trudeau under fire for scuffle in House of Commons
“It is a very serious breach to physically interact with another member like that,” Scheer said Tuesday as he suggested the committee go as far as recommend to the House that Trudeau be called to the bar to apologize.
NDP MP David Christopherson agreed.
“It’s arguably worse,” Christopherson said, but added the committee will have to debate and decide whether that is enough.
The Liberals have a majority on the committee, which is scheduled to deal with a separate question of privilege today.
“We’re here to hear what our colleagues have to say,” said Liberal MP Arnold Chan.
The committee does not have the power to punish Trudeau directly, only refer a course of action to the House of Commons, which can then accept, reject or ignore its report.
The committee could ask Trudeau to testify about his version of events, but has no power to compel him to do so.
Trudeau has said he is prepared to accept the decision of the committee and respect the will of the Commons.