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politics briefing

Conservative House Leader Andrew Scheer, left, and Peter Julian NDP House Leader talk to reporters after an incident in the House of Commons in Ottawa Wednesday May 18, 2016.FRED CHARTRAND/The Canadian Press

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POLITICS BRIEFING

By Chris Hannay (@channay)

It's been more than 36 hours since #Elbowgate, and with the May long weekend ahead of us, it's worth wondering whether we'll be talking about it 36 hours from now. For the last day and a half, the incident was all-consuming for those in the "Ottawa bubble." But Kevin O'Leary, for one, says the whole thing is "irrelevant."

Is it? Whatever the incident says about the Prime Minister's character or victim blaming (and it does say something), it's evidence of some dysfunction in how Parliament has been operating lately. As Bill Curry writes, votes called at odd hours have thrown routine committee meetings in disarray and almost led to the Liberals – who have a majority government – losing a vote on one of their own bills. (The resulting tie on Monday was broken by House Speaker Geoff Regan, only the 11th time a Speaker has ever cast a tie-breaking vote in the House's history.) The incident meant that the assisted-dying legislation, which already faced a tough road to become law before the Supreme Court's June 6 deadline, will almost certainly not make it. After that deadline, physician-assisted dying will become a matter between doctors and their patients, in much the same way that abortion did after Parliament failed to pass legislation governing the procedure. And there were smaller consequences in ways you wouldn't expect: for instance, a nanny who had come to tell her story to a committee studying temporary foreign workers missed her chance, and she says it's unlikely she'll get the time off again to make the trip to Ottawa.

All parties can wear some blame for the frayed nerves that culminated in the scuffle on the floor of the House of Commons, though the Liberals have made moves in recent weeks that certainly raised the temperature. The government has so far handled the electoral reform file – one of the most sensitive issues for MPs, considering it's how they got their jobs – in a way that Martin Patriquin described as a "legislative car crash," and House Leader Dominic LeBlanc's bid to grab the reins of Parliament was described as "undemocratic" by the opposition. The Liberals have since dropped Motion No. 6, and hopefully heads will be cooler for the final few weeks of the sitting when MPs return to Ottawa on May 30.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW IN OTTAWA

> Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he would prefer if Britain stayed in the European Union. Brian Mulroney agrees.

> When the Liberals announced new mortgage rules in December, they made the changes modest so as not to unnecessarily slow down the housing market, an internal memo reveals. (for subscribers)

> The RCMP will not press charges against Senator Pamela Wallin.

> The Mounties are also facing new allegations of workplace harassment, this time in the federal witness protection unit.

> And female Syrian refugees are becoming more empowered to leave abusive partners once they move to Canada, a settlement agency says.

WHAT EVERYONE'S TALKING ABOUT

Campbell Clark (Globe and Mail): "Mr. Trudeau's acts of contrition should put most of this in the past, except the memory. The Liberals were caught slipping into arrogance. In the comic books, kryptonite is a weakness built into Superman's fibre. Now, Canadians will watch to see if Mr. Trudeau and his Liberals made a momentary mistake, or if it is in their DNA." (for subscribers)

Margaret Wente (Globe and Mail): "Mr. Trudeau's real offence was not to manhandle parliamentarians. It was to disrespect the institution. Parliament is a strange beast. It's an unruly kindergarten of squabbling brats. Yet the institution rightly commands deference and respect. Perhaps because he's young and modern, Mr. Trudeau doesn't care much about all that. Perhaps because he regards himself as transformational, he has no taste for process and incremental change. Perhaps because he has styled himself as the People's Prime Minister – a casual guy who's available for every selfie – he forgot about the dignity with which he must conduct himself."

Nik Nanos (Globe and Mail): "Polling on the current federal political environment can create a false sense of strength for the ruling Liberals. Are the Liberals more popular than the Conservatives, New Democrats, Greens or Bloc Québécois today? For sure. Are they a political bulldozer with the massive advantage? Not necessarily. For this reason, the Liberals should be cautious and remain grounded in the reality of the situation as opposed to just the numbers." (for subscribers)

Ashley Csanady (National Post): "Justin Trudeau is not Jian Ghomeshi. To make that comparison, however tangentially, as Conservative MP Lisa Raitt appeared to Thursday morning, of the prime minister's – immature – display in the House of Commons Wednesday is insulting to the women allegedly hurt by Ghomeshi and anyone who has experienced gendered violence."

Gabrielle Gallant (Globe and Mail): "Perhaps the most appalling element of the events? New Democrat MPs have characterized so-called elbowgate as gender-based violence. … To manipulate the cause of violence against women for partisan purposes is the antithesis of NDP values of equality."

Don Braid (Calgary Herald): "Justin Trudeau is his father's son, a forceful man with a temper who's trying to craft an entirely different style in order to create national understanding and amity that his father never achieved. But it's an act, to some degree, because there's another side in there. He cracked, and out came dad."

Chris Hall (CBC): "The whole sorry episode boils down to something like this: The prime minister lost control of himself because his government was losing control of its agenda, and by extension, the business of the House of Commons."

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