The prime minister’s parliamentary secretary accused an NDP rival of behaving like a “schoolyard bully” in question period Monday by insulting… his hair.
The unusual moment allowed Conservative MP Paul Calandra to avoid answering a question from NDP MP Mathieu Ravignat on how the federal government has increased taxpayer-funded polling in the lead-up to the next election.
Ravignat charged that Tories are using public money to survey voters’ concerns before October.
“When will the Conservatives stop using taxpayer money as their own campaign war chest?” he asked.
Calandra seemed poised to provide some kind of answer, but suddenly stopped short to accuse Hamilton Centre NDP MP David Christopherson of mocking the way he looks.
“Mr. Speaker, there are so many things that are confronting this country and are confronting the international community and the member for Hamilton Centre thinks that this is the right time to hurl a comment about my hair,” Calandra said.
The remark seemed to surprise some members of the Tory bench.
“Of all the members to be critical like a schoolyard bully, the member for Hamilton Centre thinks that’s funny,” he continued.
Calandra then compared New Democrats to “little boys and girls” playing in a sandbox. And though the second half of his remark was drowned out by applause from the Tory bench, it seems as though Calandra said the “big boys are working on the economy.”
“Boy, do Conservatives not want to talk about these most recent scandals,” NDP House leader Peter Julian said moments later.
Calandra is perhaps best known for his tearful apology in the House of Commons last year after he deflected a question from NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair about the Iraq mission with a bizarre non-sequitur about Israel.
After widespread criticism, Calandra later rose in the House to “unconditionally and unreservedly apologize.” Yet, he also hinted there would be other times he would answer questions in a manner that colleagues wouldn’t appreciate.
“I don’t think this will be the last time that I’ll get up and answer a question that doesn’t effectively respond,” he said at the time, fighting back tears.
The MP also apologized to Liberal MP Marc Garneau in 2013 after he insulted him while responding to a question from an NDP MP.
Calandra — who earns an additional $16,600 on top of his $167,400 MP salary by serving as a parliamentary secretary — has been very busy in question period in recent months. On any given day, Calandra will field a number of questions from NDP and Liberal MPs on behalf of the government.
However, nearly every response to New Democrats these days includes a reference to the $2.7 million the Board of Internal Economy says the party owes for inappropriate satellite offices. And to Liberals, Calandra often responds with a dig at Justin Trudeau or a reference to the sponsorship scandal.
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