Thursday, May 19, 2016

Trudeau "manhandling" a storm in a very small teacup

Yet another storm in a teacup in the venerable Canadian parliament. This time, Justin Trudeau is accused of "manhandling" an opposition politician and, even worse apparently, accidentally elbowing a woman. A quick viewing of video of the incident is enough to reveal the diminutive size of the teacup in question.
Trudeau was visibly frustrated by (apparently deliberate) opposition dilly-dallying aimed at delaying a vote to allow the Liberals to expedite their assisted suicide bill, which has a court-dictated deadline on it. He hastened into a melee of opposition politicians standing around the floor of the House, and escorted Conservative whip Gord Brown by the elbow back to his seat so that the vote could take place, in the process bumping into NDP whip Ruth-Ellen Brosseau.
Yes, it was inadvisable, as Trudeau quickly admitted, and the Liberal Speaker of the House Geoff Regan castigated him with the unintentionally risqué, "It is not appropriate to manhandle other members". Trudeau has apologized for his actions humbly and unreservedly, several times.
But how the opposition parties have tried to make hay from it! Brosseau - who is 32 years old and in good health to the best of my knowledge, and apparently used to break up fights as a bartender before becoming a politician - maintains she was so "shocked" and "overwhelmed" at being "elbowed in the chest" that she had to leave the chamber and go and sit in the lobby, thus missing the vote. Some Tory politicians talked about "physical intimidation", one NDP member claimed to be "ashamed" to have witnessed such a thing, and another that the Liberals were trying to "stifle democracy". Claims that Mr. Trudeau muttered, "Get the fuck out of my way" seem suspiciously limited to a couple of NDP members. The best that Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose could manage was the frankly pathetic, "We knew that the prime minister admired basic Chinese dictatorship but we did not think he would actually emulate it". NDP leader Thomas Mulcair then blustered, "What kind of a man elbows a woman? You're pathetic." To which I might respond, were it relevant: the kind of man who treats women as equals, and does not assume they are fragile little flowers who will crumple at a touch. Come on, Mulcair, it's 2016.
Yes, Trudeau lost his cool under pressure, and yes, any physicality in the chamber is inappropriate and requires an apology. But some of the histrionics and unabashed hay-making on the opposition benches are equally inappropriate, and require their own apology, if you ask me. The fundamental point surely is that any contact with anyone other than Brown was purely, and self-evidently, accidental, as several Liberal and Green Party MPs pointed out in Mr. Trudeau's defence. Green leader Elizabeth May also mentioned the "innocent mischief" the opposition was engaging in. Certainly, video of the confrontation shows Thomas Mulcair and others smiling as he mills about on the Commons floor, and the "overwhelmed" Ms. Brosseau can also be seen briefly smiling before leaving the House for short while.
I am normally sensitive to, and supportive of, a feminist analysis of events, but I believe that articles like Jane Taber's are not helpful in this particular case, and not even appropriate (there's that word again). To argue that any viewpoint that contradicts those of the women involved (Ms. Brosseau and, less convincingly, any other female member who happened to be in the vicinity) is effectively blaming the victim is disingenuous at best. In this case, I truly believe that Ms. Brosseau is milking the situation for all it is worth, doing and saying anything she can for party political advantage. And interim Tory leader Rona Ambrose, with her complaints about "shock", "intimidation" and "victims", is likewise "playing the woman card" - a phrase I never thought I would ever use, but here I think is just such a situation. Any woman who gets to sit in parliament is, by definition, a strong, successful and powerful woman: to then claim weakness, fragility and victimhood flies in the face of that strength, and makes a mockery of the struggle and sacrifice of all those strong women who paved the way for them. Most of the complaints of Ms. Brosseau's antics that I have read havw come from embarrassed feminists.
Anyway, Trudeau will be charged with a breach of parliamentary privileges, and will probably be sanctioned in some way, despite his four apologies. The vote, for what it's worth, went ahead, and the Liberals won it handily (although they did later back off on forcing through the expediting legislation). Certainly, if no assisted suicide law is in place by the June 6th deadline, it will be as much due to the NDP's deliberate delaying tactics as Mr. Trudeau's ill-advised but unpremeditated antics.

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