POLITICS
01/31/2018 18:28 EST | Updated 01/31/2018 18:28 EST

Bardish Chagger Fires Back After Peter Kent Says Trudeau Is 'Forcing Her To Recite His Empty Lines'

"No individual will tell me to do something."

Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press
Government House Leader Bardish Chagger speaks in the House of Commons on Jan. 31, 2018.

The Liberal government's House leader told a veteran Conservative MP that she isn't "forced" to do anything after he charged Wednesday that she is being demeaned by the prime minister.

Bardish Chagger also suggested such a remark plays into a broader conversation taking place around the world on issues of sexism and equality.

The moment played out in question period when Tory MP Peter Kent rose to call on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — who was not in question period — to repay the costs of a 2016 Christmas trip to the Aga Khan's private island in the Bahamas. The previous ethics commissioner ruled that vacation and others broke four provisions of the Conflict of Interest Act.

Since Parliament resumed Monday from a six-week break, Tory MPs have repeatedly called on Trudeau to repay taxpayers the estimated $200,000 cost for his transportation and security on the island.

Tories have noted that Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott repaid taxpayers more than $3,000 for inappropriate limo trips and have suggested it would be a sexist double-standard for Trudeau not to do the same.

Pinch hitting for her boss in the House of Commons Wednesday, Chagger told the Tories, over and over, that the government respects the work of the ethics commissioner and that Trudeau will clear future vacations with the watchdog.

Chagger also said Trudeau has already answered questions from Canadians on the controversy, a quip that irks opposition MPs who believe he should face a grilling before committee.

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While Chagger is certainly not the first minister to show message discipline or lean on talking points, Kent — who himself read from prepared notes — suggested she was being pressured to repeat Trudeau's words for him.

"He not only refuses to do the right thing but he demeans his House leader by forcing her to recite his empty lines," he said.

Chagger shot back there is a "really tough conversation" underway in Canada and around the world, likely referring to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements that have rocked corridors of power.

"This person, the member of Parliament for the riding of Waterloo, the minister of small business and tourism, and the government House leader, is not forced to do anything," she said, pointing at herself.

"I am proud of the work of this prime minister. I am proud of the work of this government. No individual will tell me to do something," she added, gesturing at Tories.

Not the first time Tories have gotten personal with Chagger

While the response yielded an ovation from the Liberal benches, it was not the first time Tories have inferred that Trudeau is taking political advantage of his House leader.

In 2016, Tory House leader Candice Bergen rose in question period to accuse Chagger of embarrassing herself and doing the prime minister's "dirty work" by fielding questions about controversial Trudeau fundraisers.

Bergen alleged that Chagger gets up "day after day after day, and repeats the same lines, over and over" that the prime minister told her to say.

Last June, Bergen again singled out Chagger in the House during a lengthy speech in which she alleged that Trudeau turns promising rookie female ministers into "political roadkill."

Chagger, Bergen said at the time, has been "set up by her prime minister for failure."

Chagger is the first woman to hold the position of government House leader in Canadian history.