The Progressive Conservative government refused to respond to the official opposition during question period Tuesday morning after an NDP member was accused of mocking the accent of PC MPP Kaleed Rasheed.
The PC member for Mississauga East—Cooksville, who was born in Pakistan, was asking a question in the house on the cost of a referendum for eliminating Toronto city council seats when the alleged remarks took place.
During the fiery exchange between both parties, Premier Doug Ford could be heard through the recorded Queen’s Park audiovisual saying “disgusting.” The session was placed in a five-minute recess by the speaker of the house following the alleged incident.
Global News reviewed the audio multiple times but could not discern if the remarks occurred.
When question period resumed, Tory house leader Todd Smith said his government would not respond to NDP questions until the member apologized.
“What we’re choosing not to do is respond to questions from the official opposition because they are mocking a member of our government caucus, a very proud Pakistani-Canadian who represents his community extremely well,” Smith said.
“Any member of our Ontario population, no matter where they came to Ontario from, has the opportunity to represent their community in this legislature.”
Speaker of the House Ted Arnott at one moment also chimed in and said he could not hear the mocking of the accent even with his earpiece “volume cranked full blast.”
“I can’t hear everything that’s said in the house,” Arnott said. “Government house leader says there was an audible comment. I did not hear it.”
WATCH: Debate over downsizing Toronto city council spirals into war of words between PCs, NDP. Shallima Maharaj reports.
NDP MPP Gilles Bisson, who was accused of making the comments, said they did not come from his mouth.
“I’m being accused of something and people know me and heard me in this house for 28 years, and my constituents, that is not who I am and it’s not what I say, I don’t use that language,” Bisson, who is a Franco-Ontarian, said.
“This is just to me a very offensive thing for the government to try to change channels on question period to answering questions about something I never did.”
Rasheed told reporters he, too, did not hear the remarks.
“I didn’t hear it, as I said, I was asking a question,” Rasheed said.
“I was asking the question and suddenly everything stopped. Right away my respected colleagues heard some comments which is absolutely, really disappointing to hear comments from the member opposite. I am a proud Pakistani-Canadian of Pakistani origin and I’m really proud of the party that I am in today.”
Smith admitted there is a toxic atmosphere festering at the Ontario legislature just weeks into the summer session following the provincial election.
“It’s a very toxic environment in there. There is no question about that. I understand some things are contentious that we’re debating,” Smith said.
“However, there has to be that respect for the members of the legislature and mocking somebody for their accent or where they came from is completely unacceptable for any member of the legislature.”
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