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Government House Leader Peter Van Loan reads from a procedural book as he responds to a point of order following question period in the House of Commons Dec. 5, 2012 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Government House Leader Peter Van Loan reads from a procedural book as he responds to a point of order following question period in the House of Commons Dec. 5, 2012 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Tory House Leader Van Loan apologizes for swearing during Commons skirmish Add to ...

Conservative House Leader Peter Van Loan has apologized for swearing during a heated argument with New Democrats and is calling on NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair to do the same.

Within minutes of the House of Commons resuming Thursday, MPs popped up to talk about the verbal dust up from the day before that saw Mr. Van Loan, the Government House Leader, cross the aisle while pointing his finger at NDP House Leader Nathan Cullen.

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Mr. Van Loan acknowledged swearing during the exchange, but Conservatives say Mr. Mulcair also intervened in the discussion with yelling and bad language. The NDP Leader has not commented on the incident.

“I do acknowledge that I did use an inappropriate word when I was discussing this matter with the opposition House leader. I should not have done that and I do apologize for that,” Mr. Van Loan told MPs, after explaining why he had a procedural disagreement with the NDP. “I would expect the leader of the opposition to do the same. And I do hope that at this point we can move forward and get on with the important business Canadians want us to do.”

Thursday’s discussion of the incident was triggered by Bob Rae, the interim leader of the Liberal Party.

“I wonder if those who were involved in it would care to perhaps indicate their regret at what took place and the fact that we need to continue, for the next several days in the House, on a basis of a greater degree perhaps of civility and willingness to engage in public discourse without insulting each other,” he said.

Mr. Cullen, the NDP House leader, said he planned on having a private discussion with Speaker Andrew Scheer Thursday morning and said his party would comment afterward.

“In terms of any other more official statement coming from the Official Opposition, I think it’s a bit premature until you and I have spoken in private and then we’ll be back to the House forthwith,” he said.

The issue that triggered Wednesday’s heated exchange was a point of order from Mr. Cullen that argued the final of 47 budget votes Tuesday night should not be allowed because the motion was recorded as having been moved by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, even though he was no longer physically in the House.

Mr. Van Loan said the NDP’s argument put him in a bind because it was a mistake by Deputy Speaker Joe Comartin, a New Democrat. Under Parliamentary rules and tradition, criticizing the speaker is highly frowned upon.

Mr. Scheer, the Speaker, had rejected Mr. Cullen’s complaint, dismissing the issue as a “clerical oversight.”

In an intervention that was greeted with groans from the Conservative bench, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May also added her comments in the House.

“I trespass on this very tentatively, but recall that the history of the length between these benches was to be two sword lengths. We want the notion to be figurative,” she said. “We don’t like the notion that someone from one side of the House will march across to the other side. I can only conclude the Honourable House Leader is a sore winner and I hope we’ll never see this sort of thing again.”

The House of Commons is scheduled to recess on Friday, Dec. 14, for a six-week break.

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