NEWS

Paul Calandra makes tearful apology to Tom Mulcair, House for non-answers

09/26/2014 12:58 EDT | Updated 11/26/2014 05:59 EST
The prime minister's parliamentary secretary has apologized for responding to NDP Leader Tom Mulcair's questions on Canada's mission in Iraq this week with an attack on the NDP position on Israel.

A teary Paul Calandra rose after question period Friday to "unconditionally, unreservedly apologize to the House" for his glib non-answers earlier this week.

"Clearly, I allowed the passion and anger at something I read to get in the way of appropriately answering the question to Leader of the Opposition," Calandra told the mostly empty Commons chamber.

"For that, I apologize to you and to this entire House, and to my constituents," he said.

He also went out of his way to exonerate the so-called "kids in short pants" — the catch-all derogatory term opposition members use to refer to senior political staff, particularly within the Prime Minister's Office — for his actions.

"I take full responsibility, and I apologize to the leader of the opposition, and to all of my colleagues."

He did not, however, promise that it won't happen again.

"I'm fairly certain there will be other opportunities in this House where I will be answering questions that you don't appreciate," he said.

"I don't think this will be the last time that I get up and answer a question that doesn't effectively respond."

Calandra's non-sequitur reply sparked sharp criticism from across the media and political spectrum. His conduct was roundly rebuked by CBC's At Issue panel on Thursday night.

On Friday, the Globe and Mail published an editorial lamenting the lack of respect for Parliament both Calandra's comments, and the approving response from his Conservative colleagues, had revealed.

"To call Mr. Calandra a clown is to do a disservice to the ancient profession of painted-face buffoonery," the Globe editorial writer wrote.

NDP wants debate on Speaker's powers

Meanwhile, Calandra's unapologetic appearance on CBC News Network's Power & Politics on the day he made his initial remarks became an international viral sensation due to the remarkable response it elicited from NDP MP Paul Dewar, whose "face palm" was quickly immortalized in clip and animated gif format.

Shortly after Calandra expressed his regrets in the House, Dewar made a point of acknowledging the apology before returning to regular parliamentary business.

A spokesman for Mulcair said the NDP leader accepted the apology.

"We are moving forward with a debate next week on relevancy in question period, and we hope to get the support of Mr. Calandra and his colleagues," George Smith told CBC News. 

On Monday, the NDP will put forward an opposition day motion that would change House rules to explicitly authorize the Speaker to crack down on irrelevant or repetitive answers.

If passed, it would take effect immediately.

MORE:cbcNews