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Jane Taber

No fat jokes, please Add to ...

As a boy growing up, Dean Del Mastro was teased for being the "fat Italian kid." Blessed with supportive parents, he survived the taunts. Not today, however.

This afternoon, Mr. Del Mastro, 39, and the Conservative MP for Peterborough, stood up in the House of Commons demanding that Scarborough Liberal MP Michelle Simson apologize for suggesting in a Tweet that he is fat.

"M.P. Del Mastro should grow up (not out)," she wrote during a meeting of the all-party ethics committee earlier today. She added later: "Gosh, I hate to see a grown M.P. pout. Smile, Dean!"

Mr. Del Mastro, who has never met Ms. Simson before and says he wouldn't know who she was if she hadn't been at the committee, believes her insult was provoked by an exchange he had with the Liberal chair of the committee, Paul Szabo.

During questioning, Mr Del Mastro said he referred to the Liberal sponsorship scandal as a "crime." Mr. Szabo asked him to retract the word "crime." Mr. Del Mastro refused, saying that he believes it was a "crime."

"I guess she took some offence," Mr. Del Mastro told The Globe in an interview later.

His staff uses Google to alert them to any mention of their boss. They discovered the offensive Tweet. At first, he said he was going to let it go.

"When I was a kid I used to put up with this stuff," he said. "I was a fat Italian kid from Peterborough but I was very fortunate to have extremely supportive parents."

He said his parents told him he could achieve anything. And so it was his staff and other MPs who encouraged him to seek the apology, which was given after Question Period.

Mr. Del Mastro said he accepts Ms. Simson's apology but added that, "It's pretty low in any event. To me it speaks to arrogance and elitism."

Meanwhile, the Conservative MP has lost 80 pounds over the past two years by cutting back on food and watching what he eats. He says he has tried crash diets in the past but has been unsuccessful in keeping the weight off. His new strategy - slow and steady - is working.

(Photo: Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

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Update Here's how it all unfolded in the chamber after Question Period:

Mr. Del Mastro: Mr. Speaker, I am in fact saddened to rise on this point of order because I had hoped members in the House would not sink to this level. However, this morning the member for Scarborough Southwest made an entry on Twitter that I find particularly demeaning, discriminatory and unbecoming of a member of Parliament. This morning in the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, I had to put up with the abhorrent behaviour of a partisan chair who pays no attention to the rules governing parliamentary committees whatsoever. However, during that meeting I provided the respect that each member is in fact due. The member for Scarborough Southwest wrote on her Twitter, and I apologize as I will have to use my name, "In committee this morning, MP Del Mastro should grow up not out."

I hear some people in the House laughing and that is unfortunate. I apologize for not being perfect and perhaps my stature does not meet the criteria that some members in the House set, but I have actually battled that problem since birth. I apologize for not actually fitting into the requirements. I am still hearing the chastising going on. It is this kind of arrogance and elitism that will be the downfall of the Liberal Party if this continues. I am giving the member the opportunity to apologize. The actions of the members in committee this morning do nothing to discourage me. They only encourage me. I would ask the member to take the opportunity to apologize for what she wrote. She may wish to consider that a number of her own constituents are less than perfect and she represents them as well.

Liberal MP Rodger Cuzner: On the same point of order, Mr. Speaker, for the benefit of the member, the lion's share of the quips and giggles were coming from his side of the House.

Ms. Simson: Mr. Speaker, I, too, sat through the committee meeting today and listened to a great deal of disparaging remarks about myself and my party. That said, if there is anything I said that offended the member, I am sorry. To say one should grow up and not out was out of line and I do apologize. Growing up and growing out is not something I should have said to the hon. member.

Speaker Peter Milliken: Order, please. Is the honorable member for Timmins-James Bay rising on a point of order, also?

NDP MP Charlie Angus: Yes, Mr. Speaker. I am very glad that the hon. colleague has apologized. However, I think it speaks to a bigger issue.

Some honourable members: Oh, oh!

Mr. Angus: Mr. Speaker, I am sorry. This is not a clown show. We are elected to represent our people. We go to committee to do serious business and I believe the issue of members sitting on committee with their inane Twitters about what is happening at committee demeans the work of all parliamentarians. I am not going to speak on this party or that party. We have an obligation to represent the best of this country and I would like members of Parliament to put the inane little games away and get down to business of serving their constituent. When I saw that Twitter, I was appalled, because I thought it could happen at any of our committees. I am asking all parlimen-

The Speaker: Order, please. I think the point of order has been dealt with.

As for the offending incident itself, the CBC's Kady O'Malley was live-blogging the committee hearing in question and later had this to say about the whole sordid affair.

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Another update There's video of the exchange:



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