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Reaction to laughter from opposition MPs, apparently at Minister’s previous job
Published Thursday, February 16, 2017 4:39PM MST
Last Updated Thursday, February 16, 2017 7:07PM MST
Days after an Edmonton MP and Cabinet Minister was laughed at during question period after referring to his previous job, local politicians have weighed in.
On Tuesday, Edmonton Mill Woods MP and Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Amarjeet Sohi rose in Parliament to express condolences for a Winnipeg bus driver who was stabbed on the job early Tuesday morning. The bus driver later died.
“Mr. Speaker, as a former bus driver, I want to convey our thoughts and prayers for the Winnipeg Transit bus operator who was stabbed last night while serving his community and on duty,” Sohi said.
Video of question period shows Sohi delivering his statement, and laughter from the other side of the house after he mentions his previous job.
On Wednesday, Spadina-Fort York MP Adam Vaughan raised a point of order in the House, referring to the events from Tuesday. Vaughan accused some members from the opposition of laughing when Sohi referenced his past as a bus driver.
“I would like to bring attention to events which took place yesterday during question period,” Vaughan said. “When the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities stated that he was a former bus driver, members of the opposition began to laugh.
“I think I speak for many members of this House when I say that laughing at the previous employment status of a member of this House is offensive, especially when that service was a public service to the people of this country.
“Every member of this House deserves to represent their constituents. Every member’s diversity of employment adds to the richness of this House. I would ask that the laughter be withdrawn and the record be corrected. This is offensive to the values of this House, to the values of Canadians and to the diversity of all of us.”
Speaker Geoff Regan thanked Vaughan, and said: “I, of course, would wish that all members would be careful in their words and actions in this place.”
PC MP Candice Bergen, from Portage-Lisgar rose and responded.
“Mr. Speaker, I would agree,” Bergen said. “We all come from various backgrounds, and that is why we are called the House of Commons. We represent the people: farmers, bus drivers, receptionists. We represent everybody.
“I’m not sure what laughter; there is all kind of laughter that occurs here. We absolutely respect and honour all of the jobs that we have done and the experience that we bring to this house.”
In Edmonton, Alberta’s Infrastructure and Transportation Minister, who is also a former Edmonton City Councillor and a former bus driver responded to the incident with a message of his own on Twitter, saying: “Hang in there [Amarjeet]. You’re twice the politician and twice the man that any of them are.”
Mason spoke to CTV News on Thursday, and said he had faced similar incidents himself, although not often.
“Generally, my background has been respected…but it does come up every once in a while,” Mason said.
Mason said he sent the message in an effort to push back against discrimination.
“It’s important to speak up when that kind of stuff happens,” Mason said. “There’s discrimination against all kinds of different people based on gender, or sexual orientation, or disability, or age, none of it is acceptable. Certainly, occupational discrimination isn’t acceptable either.”
Also Thursday, current Edmonton City Councillor Andrew Knack reacted to the incident with a series of posts on Twitter.
2) all parties to rethink their behaviour during question period. I know people call it the "theatre" portion of politics but not#cdnpoli— Andrew Knack (@AndrewKnack) February 16, 2017
3) all orders of government behave this way. Why can't question period be focused on asking tough questions & receiving real#cdnpoli— Andrew Knack (@AndrewKnack) February 16, 2017
4) answers instead of the current situation of people trying to score points? Everyone wins when we focus on good governance. #cdnpoli— Andrew Knack (@AndrewKnack) February 16, 2017
5) Heckling does nothing except create further division in an already divisive political environment. It's time for it to stop. #cdnpoli— Andrew Knack (@AndrewKnack) February 16, 2017
Sohi himself responded Thursday morning.
Thanks for all the kind msgs. Proud to have been a #yeg bus driver and proud to be part of a gov that welcomes people from all walks of life— Amarjeet Sohi (@SohiAmarjeet) February 16, 2017
With files from Angela Jung