If you’ve been following Canadian politics, no doubt you’ve heard about #elbowgate, an incident or series of incidents that happened on Wednesday when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lost his temper. As a vote was called, a group of New Democratic Party MPs were apparently blocking Conservative whip Gordon Brown from returning to his seat*
* Nancy McKnight, who works for the Parliament of Canada, says in a comment on a National Post story that Brown was “was not trying to get to his seat. He was trying to get into position in front of the Speaker where he and the government bow to the Speaker and then towards each other signalling the Speaker he can now proceed to the taking of votes. The NDP ganged up and closed off his path. A childish delay tactic.” In the interest of getting the facts right, I’ve corrected my wording below.
Trudeau strode across the House of Commons, walked through the group of MPs, apparently shouting “get the fuck out of my way” before he grabbed Brown by the arm, supposedly to lead him to the front (I guess the Conservative whip couldn’t head to the open space to the left of the NDP ; imagine the symbolism!). In the process Trudeau’s elbow struck NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau hard in the chest.
Though he’s apologized at least three times, it looks like Trudeau’s honeymoon is over. He’s ruined his image as a feminist. You don’t expect a feminist man to use force to get his way and while I think striking Brosseau in the chest with his elbow was an accident, it’s still shocking that the reasonable, “sunny ways” prime minister would do anything like this.
I’ve had my own weird experiences of people thinking it’s okay to forcibly put their hands on me. I’m of average height but have a small/medium frame so I look approachable and easy to push around. A few weeks ago an older man doing the greeting at Vaudreuil’s Costco store grabbed me by the arm and led me to the other side of the store after I asked about where I needed to go to return an item. I told him my partner was in the store and I wanted to go back inside to let him know I was heading to the customer service counter on the other side but Monsieur decided to physically stop me. I complained to management right away. I have no idea if the man is still handing out coupons and greeting people at the front of the store.
Once I was shopping in a grocery store and carefully reading prices I think in the butter section. Or maybe I was looking at yogourt. Whatever I was doing an older man decided to move me out of his way, as though I were a piece of furniture. He lifted me and then put me down somewhere behind the section because he wanted to get something and I was in his way. The incident happened very quickly. I was shocked and had no idea what to do. The man didn’t appear to speak English or French and he disappeared out of sight.
I have no idea where these men learned it’s okay to grab people or move them and I wonder why Justin Trudeau would even consider a physical approach. Not only is he prime minister and supposed to be setting an example and exhibiting a certain decorum and restraint, he says he’s a feminist so that would suggest he would know how to use his words and not force, and he would take a collaborative approach to solving problems, even when he’s dealing with a frustrating situation.
I’ve been on the fence about Trudeau so I suppose I can’t say my honeymoon with him is over since it never existed to begin with.
Update, May 23, 2016. I don’t think what happened should be seen as a big scandal but Trudeau apologists are certainly chiming in with the attitude that since Trudeau has apologized, anyone upset by Trudeau’s behaviour is making too much of a fuss (f.y.i. Canada has had its share of unusual prime ministers but we’ve never had a prime minister before this who got physical inside the House of Commons).
Comedian John Oliver’s piece about #elbowgate is an example of what I mean.