Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said on Wednesday that he stayed seated while members of Parliament sang O Canada after voting to change the lyrics three years ago because the Liberal government was using Canada’s national anthem for “a political statement.”
Scheer’s comments came a few hours after Marc Garneau — a longtime MP and minister of transport in Justin Trudeau’s cabinet — tweeted video of MPs singing O Canada in the House of Commons during the third reading of C-210, a bill that sought to amend the lyrics of the national anthem to make them gender-neutral.
Scheer remained seated and appears, in the footage, to be looking at his phone.
Scheer — who became Conservative leader in 2017 — was asked later on Wednesday at a press conference in Essex why he stayed seated during the national anthem back in 2016.
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“At the time, the Liberals were using our national anthem for a political statement,” he said in response to a reporter’s questions.
Garneau tweeted out the attack on Scheer the same morning Trudeau accused the Conservatives during a campaign event in Quebec of running “one of the dirtiest, nastiest campaigns” in Canadian history.
“I think Conservatives need to continue to be called out on the nasty, negative campaign that they are running, because Canadians deserve better,” the Liberal leader told reporters and supporters.
Global News asked the Liberal Party why it released the video of Scheer on Wednesday and while simultaneously accusing the Tories of divisive campaign tactics.
A Liberal Party spokesperson provided a brief statement in response but did not directly answer the questions.
“The tweet speaks for itself. It’s surprising Mr. Scheer chose not to stand for O Canada,” the statement said.
The bill to make O Canada gender neutral was introduced by former Liberal MP Mauril Bélanger, who died in 2016. The changes to the anthem became law in 2018.
Global News asked the Conservative Party separately why Scheer was sitting down during the anthem in June 2016. A spokesperson for the party directed Global News to Scheer’s answer at the press conference in Essex.
Asked about Trudeau’s comments on the Conservatives’ behaviour during the election campaign, the spokesperson alleged in return that the Liberal leader has been “dividing Canadians” and “pitting regions of our great country against each other.”
In Essex, Scheer also said he would “take no lessons from Marc Garneau on standing up for our veterans or for our men and women in uniform.”
“This is a guy who sat around the cabinet table knowing what Justin Trudeau was doing to Mark Norman, knowing that Justin Trudeau was telling veterans that they were asking for more than he could give,” Scheer said. “So I will take no lessons from Marc Garneau about respect for our armed forces.”
Garneau is seeking re-election in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount in Montreal. He was first elected to Parliament in 2008.
Election day is October 21.
With files from the Canadian Press