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Question Period

Senator's profanity reveals Tory <br/>'culture of intimidation,' critics say Add to ...

Stephen Harper's Conservatives distanced themselves from one of their own today, arguing a Tory senator was not asserting government policy with her advice to " shut the fuck up" about the contentious maternal health initiative.

"Obviously, that type of language is completely unacceptable," Transport Minister John Baird told the Commons in Question Period. "It is self-evident that view does not represent the view of government."

Mr. Baird was filling in for the Prime Minister, who is on his way to Europe for the 65th anniversary of V-E Day.

The Liberals and the Bloc dismissed the Tory explanation, however. Both opposition parties hammered away at the Conservatives accusing them of bullying tactics, encouraging a culture of intimidation and stifling democracy.

This was all spurred by the controversial and profane remarks uttered by Conservative Senator Nancy Ruth yesterday.

"Senator Ruth gave perhaps the pithiest, sharpest description one can imagine of Conservative political policy that we've all heard for a long time," Toronto Liberal MP Bob Rae said. "... If you have a disagreement with the government, just shut the F up."

Mr. Rae, who was filling in for Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, said the issue wasn't so much the language as "what she is describing."

"She is describing a culture of intimidation, of bullying. This is the Conservative culture. … Why does she want to put an end to dialogue among groups throughout this country. Why the hostility towards democracy in Canada?"

The Prime Minister has declared maternal health as his signature initiative for the upcoming G8 summit in Muskoka next month. However, he has managed to turn what is essentially a motherhood-and-apple-pie issue into a controversial one, saying his government will not include access to safe and legal abortions in developing countries as part of the plan.

The Prime Minister has declared maternal health as his signature initiative for the upcoming G8 summit in Muskoka next month. However, he has managed to turn what is essentially a motherhood-and-apple-pie issue into a controversial one, saying his government will not include access to safe and legal abortions in developing countries as part of the plan.

Opposition parties are outraged and the government is trying to deflect criticism as much as possible. In Question Period, Mr. Baird tried to assign blame to the Liberals, accusing them of wanting to mount a culture war against his party.

As well, Mr. Baird noted that the government does not want to reopen the fight over abortion. Rather, it wants to launch initiatives - such as the maternal health one - that will unite Canadians.

Winnipeg Liberal MP Anita Neville accused Mr. Baird of "trying to change the channel."

"The Conservative culture of intimidation and deceit starts with the example set by the Prime Minister," Ms. Neville said. "It is not that the Prime Minister does not work well with others, he just does not want to work with anyone at all. Any voice other than his is one too many."

And Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe alleged that Ms. Ruth has revealed the "true face" of the government. He believes the Prime Minister wants to reopen the abortion debate by putting an end to foreign funding of the procedure.

"The Senator doesn't speak on behalf of the government, they say," Mr. Duceppe charged. "But she hears what goes on behind closed doors in the Conservative caucus. … She said drop [the effort to have funding of safe abortions included in the G8 plan] if you push it there will be more backlash."

It should be noted that no profanities were uttered by either the opposition or the government during this exchange - at least no profanities that were picked up by Hansard reporters.

 

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