Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau has led a charmed life since he was elected last October. It just came to an abrupt end on Wednesday, thanks to the elbow heard round the world. Here’s what happened.
The federal Liberals were trying to get a vote organized for a government bill on assisted suicide. There was a small holdup on the House of Commons floor around the benches of New Democratic party – and the Conservative-party whip, Gord Brown, was having trouble getting to his seat. That caused, at most, a 30-second delay in proceedings. Mr. Brown would have eventually taken his seat. All the opposition MPs would have been in place, and the majority-Liberal government would have ultimately won the vote.
Whatever the reason, Mr. Trudeau then acted in a reprehensible fashion more befitting a petulant child than of a national leader. His short fuse, which many of us have heard about over the years in private (and thought was gone), was suddenly on public display.
First, he jumped out of his seat and marched toward the opposition benches. Second, he grabbed Mr. Brown by the arm to get him past the mini-mob. Third, he reportedly told some New Democrats to “get the f*** out of the way.” Fourth, as he was dragging the Conservative whip against his will, he elbowed a NDP MP, Ruth Ellen Brosseau, and went back to the government side amid wild cheering from Liberal MPs.
Naturally, I’m not going to suggest that Mr. Trudeau’s elbowing of Ms. Brosseau was similar to something you would see in the National Hockey League. But she was understandably shaken up by this incident, and briefly left the Commons floor.
Mr. Trudeau headed back to the opposition benches, presumably to catch up and speak with Ms. Brosseau. He was then confronted by NDP leader Tom Mulcair, who was heard saying, “What kind of man elbows a woman? It’s pathetic! You’re pathetic!” This led to a bench-clearing brawl in the Commons (if I can use another hockey analogy), and threw the country – and social media – into a tizzy for the rest of the day. It’s been covered by the BBC, Associated Press, and New York Times, among others.
Oh, really? The video evidence, and there is plenty, appears to show otherwise.
The press secretary of Conservative leader Rona Ambrose sent an e-mail, obtained by the Brockville Recorder and Times, quoting Mr. Brown as saying, “What happened is, that as I was trying to start the vote, the prime minister grabbed my arm. I immediately told the prime minister to let go of me — now.” Ms. Brosseau, for her part, told the House, “I was elbowed in the chest by the prime minister, and then I had to leave. It was very overwhelming. I missed the vote because of this.”
Sorry, Mr. Trudeau, but your flowery version of this incident — now known as Elbowgate — is highly suspect.
Yes, this controversy will die down. Politics is evergreen, and there will surely be another issue that captures the public’s attention and imagination. At the same time, several developments will likely continue well past the day when Canada’s House of Commons took this uncommon turn.
First, Mr. Trudeau’s political honeymoon is finally over. Most world leaders have a few months of pure bliss after an election, where everything seems to go right. The prime minister’s honeymoon lasted longer than most, truth be told, and it’s interesting that he was the one who put the dagger in his own back. Brutus would have been amused.
Second, most Liberal pundits, party supporters, and staffers were wise enough to keep quiet during this controversy. I’m sure there were many things they would have loved to have said. At the same time, when your leader screws up, and does so royally, it’s always best to keep silent for a day or two.
Third, the Conservatives and NDP have something to hang their hat on against this prime minister. Sure, they’re playing politics and using bombastic buzz words like “manhandled” and “threatened.” Then again, if former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper had done something like this, the Liberals (and NDP) would have called for his head on a silver platter. That’s the way the game is played.
Fourth, the Liberal leader’s days as a self-described “feminist” PM are toast. Even if the incident with Ms. Brosseau was an accident, it’s pretty hard to claim you’re a great defender of women’s rights when video evidence shows that your elbow hit a woman right in the chest.
Justin Trudeau’s “sunny ways” finally hit a patch of stormy weather. What happens next? Stay tuned.
— Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and a Washington Times contributor, was a speechwriter for former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper.