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Helena Guergis apologizes for PEI airport meltdown

With RCMP officers keeping a throng of reporters at bay, status of women Helena Guergis leaves Parliament Hill on Sept. 17, 2009.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadiand Press

A junior Harper cabinet minister has taken the unusual step of issuing a statement today to apologize for her behaviour at the Charlottetown airport last week.

Helena Guergis, the minister of state for the status of women, said that she was "rushing to catch a flight" and spoke "emotionally to some staff members."

"It was certainly not my intention to create any additional stress for airport or Air Canada employees who already have a very difficult job."

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Ms. Guergis's office said the statement spoke for itself and provided no other detail.

However, sources say the minister had arrived last Friday just 10 minutes before the departure time and got to the gate within five minutes of the flight being ready to take off. She was travelling to Montreal and then through to Toronto.

By then, according to the source, an Air Canada agent had gone to the plane to close off the flight.

The source said she tried to push through a secured door despite it being closed. A security guard stopped her, according to the airport source, and she swore at them.

One anonymous source says that she spoke disparagingly of the island, fearing that she was going to miss the flight.

Said Ms. Guergis: "My father was born in Summerside and many of my relatives still live on the Island, which I love and visit almost every year. To me, it is a very special place that demonstrates the best Canada has to offer."

One Liberal MP from PEI was unimpressed. "If the assessment is accurate - and people I have spoken to claim it is - it is unbelievable that a cabinet minister would act in such a fashion and belittle people who were just doing their job," Wayne Easter told The Globe.

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Ms. Guergis is no stranger to controversy of late. She is married to former Alberta Tory MP Rahim Jaffer, who is facing charges of cocaine possession and drunk driving. His situation is expected to be resolved through a plea bargain next month.

Ironically, her statement was released just as the Conservatives announced they are raising airport security fees to deal with new full-body scanners and other increased security measures.

(Photo: Ms. Guergis leaves Parliament Hill after her husband's arrest last year. Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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