A Conservative critic took Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to task Thursday for blaming opposition parties for delays in the creation of an all-party committee on electoral reform.
In perhaps an unexpected twist, Trudeau responded by apologizing to veteran Tory MP Scott Reid.
Reid, the Conservative critic for democratic institutions, rose in question period to criticize remarks Trudeau made the day before while discussing his government's first six months in power. Trudeau was asked if he was ragging the puck by not moving on the promised committee to study the future of Canada's electoral system.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau answers during question period in the House of Commons on May 5, 2016. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)
"(Trudeau) explained that the reason why it has not yet been struck is entirely the fault of the Conservatives and the NDP since both parties won't give consent without unreasonable preconditions," Reid said. "This whole process, Mr. Speaker, is imaginary."
Reid said he's only met with Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef twice — once in December at his request, and again at a breakfast for less than 10 minutes. The Tory critic said it has been the same for his NDP counterpart.
"Why did the prime minister just invent this patently false story about opposition delay?" he asked.
Trudeau responded by offering a mea culpa to Reid, and said electoral reform is something about which all members feel passionately.
"I look forward to ensuring that we get moving on this committee in short order," the prime minister said.
Conservative MP Scott Reid speaks during question period in the House of Commons on May 5, 2016. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)
Reid then suggested opposition parties were entitled to three apologies from the PM for three separate false statements. The Tory MP said Trudeau claimed at a press conference Wednesday that there were ongoing discussions with parties, talks about the "mandate and engagement" of the committee, and deliberations about how best to set up the group.
"This is where I tell the MP that even in the world of quantum computing the non-binary repetition of an untrue statement does not make it true," he said, drawing from Trudeau's much-publicized remarks a few weeks ago.
The quip sparked applause and laughter from Tories — and from the prime minister.
Monsef then rose to say her door is "always open" to colleagues. Liberals, she said, will deliver on modernizing Canada's electoral system, just as they have on bringing back the long-form census and changing the way senators are named to the upper chamber.
"This is where I tell the MP that even in the world of quantum computing the non-binary repetition of an untrue statement does not make it true."
— Scott Reid
But the clock is ticking.
Trudeau promised that the fall election will be the last under the first-past-the-post-system that resulted in a majority government despite Liberals winning less than 40 per cent of the popular vote.
Experts have come forward to say that there just might not be enough time to ensure a new system is in place in time for the 2019 vote.
Meanwhile, Tories maintain that whatever system the Liberals propose should be put before Canadians in a referendum. The fact that Trudeau has ruled out such a step has led Reid to charge that he's trying to change the rules in a way that will only benefit his party.
"A government which says that first-past-the-post produces artificial mandates can hardly argue that 39 per cent in an election is a mandate for electoral reform," Reid told The Huffington Post Canada last month.