At an ideal level, the House of Commons is a place where all sorts of ideas – and all sorts of people – can come together in open, honest debate. It’s the fire in which many of our most cherished laws and traditions have been forged, the venue by which we question our leaders, and the beating heart of our democracy.
Which is great – but there’s no denying it can also be one strange, strange place sometimes.
This past year was no exception, as our elected officials took part in behaviour running the gamut from “unparliamentary” to “childish” to straight up “physical molestation” – their words, not ours.
These are the top five weird and wacky moments from inside the House of Commons in 2016.
Where else could we begin our list but the biggest Canadian political scandal of 2016 – an altercation involving the prime minister himself that was once described as a “physical molestation” in the House of Commons.
OK, so the “Elbowgate” scandal (and resulting hysteria) may have caused more than a few Canadians to roll their eyes. But there’s no denying it also made headlines around the world and proved to be a big headache to Canada’s newly elected PM.
WATCH BELOW: Justin Trudeau apologizes for “elbowgate” incident
The kerfuffle occurred on May 18, just as MPs were getting set to vote on how much more time the House would set aside for debate on the government’s assisted-dying bill. As Speaker Geoff Regan was trying to set the vote in motion, several NDP members, including leader Tom Mulcair, blocked the right-hand aisle.
A frustrated Prime Minister Trudeau attempted to free Conservative whip Gordon Brown from the tangle, accidentally elbowing NDP MP Ruth-Ellen Brosseau in the process – and the rest is history, as captured in the above video.
Scott Brison caught red-handed (so to speak) eating during Question Period
For many of us, eating while we work – whether it’s at our desk, in our trucks, or on the job site – is just part of our day-to-day.
For our elected officials, however, it’s apparently a bigger deal.
Treasury Board President Scott Brison appeared to bite off more than he could chew on November 24 after he attempted to answer an opposition MP’s question – while chowing down on his lunch.
Brison earned himself a gentle reprimand from the Speaker of the House of Commons in November, since eating in the House is against the rules.
‘Fart’ comment by Conservative MP doesn’t blow over well with Elizabeth May
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May refused to let a comment from Conservative MP Michelle Rempel blow over, so to speak, on November 16.
While speaking about the plight of unemployed Albertans, Rempel (ironically the MP for Calgary Nose Hill) accused the Liberal government of treating the province “like a fart in the room that nobody wants to talk about or acknowledge.”
This prompted May to chide her colleague over what she characterized as “distinctly unparliamentary” language, even spelling out f-a-r-t rather than say the word.
“Is my colleague actually serious?” Rempel replied, during what has to stand as one of the more remarkable points of order in the history of the House of Commons.
At least there wasn’t a debate about the veracity of “whoever smelt it dealt it” versus “whoever made the rhyme committed the crime.”
Chrystia Freeland confirms to Gerry Ritz that she is, in fact, an adult
If nothing else, the House of Commons is a place for debate and disagreement.
But one debate reached new levels of personal acrimony (as well as statement of the obvious) in October when Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland was accused of needing “adult supervision” by Conservative MP Gerry Ritz on September 24.
Ritz accused Freeland of having a “meltdown” and “throwing in the towel” when she walked out on CETA trade talks in Brussels.
The remark touched off a minor flurry of reaction on Twitter and elsewhere on the social media plane, with some observers suggesting there was a sexist subtext to Ritz’s attack.
Freeland replied by stating that everyone in the House of Commons is an adult (that’s a relief), and that it undermines the integrity of the institution to suggest otherwise.
Maryam Monsef seen laughing at Michael Cooper’s rage
No one can accuse St. Albert—Edmonton MP Michael Cooper of lacking passion. But occasionally, the Conservative MP’s angry outbursts in the House of Commons can cause a few chuckles – even amongst his fellow MPs.
Such was the case on May 10, when Cooper was attacking Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould regarding judicial appointments. After an impassioned attack by Cooper, cameras in the House of Commons cut across the aisle to Wilson-Raybould – and captured Minister of Democratic Institutions Maryam Monsef laughing at Cooper’s exuberance.
-With files from Andrew Russell, Tania Kohut, Rahul Kalvapelle, and Phil Heidenreich