Thursday, December 15, 2011

. . . and now for the rest of the story

It was coarse language vs slimy, slippery language. Coarse got slimed.

The front page story consumed just about all available space above the fold of The London Free Press, yet the story was sadly incomplete. The paper failed to tell the whole story, and it's a good story to tell.

Megan Leslie, MP Halifax (NDP), was critical of the Conservatives "for pulling out of Kyoto." Peter Kent, Minister of the Environment, defended his party by chiding Leslie: "If my hon. colleague had been in Durban . . . "

The problem with Kent's response was, as the Cape Breton Post pointed out, "The government blocked the opposition from attending the UN conference in Durban, South Africa . . . "

The National Post reported: "Trudeau became incensed after Kent suggested that Leslie should have been in Durban for the UN meeting, despite the minister banning all non-government MPs from Canada’s official delegation." As one source put it, "the minister (refused) them seats on the empty government Airbus!"

I think we can all agree Trudeau's angry reaction defending the NDP member was not a parliament-ready response but it does appear on close inspection that he was stating the truth.

Read this from Hansard

Mr. Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, during question period the Minister of the Environment chided the member of Parliament for Halifax for not having attended the conference in Durban after he prevented any members of the opposition from attending in Durban. Therefore, I lost my temper and used language that was most decidedly unparliamentary. For that I unreservedly apologize and I withdraw my remarks.

Hon. Peter Kent (Minister of the Environment, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I too rise on a point of order. I understand that the third party, the Liberal rump, is somewhat out of sorts as this government corrects one of the biggest blunders the previous Liberal government ever made.

    I am not particularly troubled by the unparliamentary language hurled at me by the member of Parliament for Papineau, but I believe he owes this House an abject apology-- 
The Speaker: I believe the hon. member for Papineau just did that.

Read Kent's words carefully. You may come away feeling the Kent uses the approach of a manipulative child feigning to take the high road while carefully hurling insults. In the end, many folk would give Trudeau the nod as the better mannered MP. Trudeau's language was coarse but Kent's words were slimy.

And The Free Press/Sun Media team knows a thing or two about feigning a reaction. In keeping with the we-are-not-amused tone of their story, Trudeau's words were printed by the paper with red-faced, embarrassment. The paper reported than Trudeau called Ken "a piece of s---".

The use of a row of hyphens is out of character for both The London Free Press and the Sun Media chain. A bit of googling shows Sun Media owned papers use the full word, shit, in print and online with regularity. The (Welland) Tribune reported the words of rocker Kim Mitchell without feeling the need to resort to hyphens. They quoted Mitchell: " I don't really give a shit about sales and I don't really give a shit about money . . ."

I even quickly uncovered the offending word in an online post by Free Press columnist James Reaney. Granted Reaney, a class act, ran "language alert" at the top of his post: Raw Power Thought for the Month. He quotes Iggy Pop: "This shit really sizzles . . . "

But I thought that the really interesting story coming out of the house Wednesday was the following.

New Westminster MP Fin Donnelly fed the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans a baited hook and the hon. Keith Ashfield bit. Donnelly asked Ashfield, "Why is the minister bullying DFO employees?"

Ashfield replied, asking rhetorically, "Do I look like a bully?"

Newfoundland MP Ryan Cleary stepped up, set the hook and landed the fish. Mr. Speaker, the answer to the minister's question is, "Yes sir, your department and you, sir, are a bully".

Cleary was smooth, but not smooth enough for the Speaker of the House. He had to apologize. On the other hand, Donnelly had carefully skirted calling Ashfield a bully directly. I do not believe he was required by the Speaker to apologize.

Mr. Ryan Cleary (St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I wish to apologize for using a word that I have been told is unparliamentary. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans asked a question. He asked this House whether he looked like a bully. I merely answered his question. I would answer the question the same way if he asked it again.
The Speaker: I am afraid that is not an acceptable retraction, so the hon. member may have some difficulty getting recognized until he decides that he may want to respect the House.

The question that started this brouhaha was attempting to examine reckless cuts being made by the minister's department. It was claimed that these cuts were putting fish stocks in jeopardy. Ministry scientists, their jobs on the chopping block, were being bullied in to silence.

These two stories demanded better treatment by The London Free Press and Sun Media. Oh, fuddle-duddle.

If you've got the time, and you haven't already seen the clip, watch the old Peter Kent discussing global warming back in his CBC days. There are reasons the new Peter Kent is losing the respect that the old Peter Kent earned over his years in the public eye.

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