11/24/2011 06:53 EST | Updated 01/24/2012 05:12 EST

'Grumpy Old Man' Sets Off House Manners Debate


A war of words over support for TransCanada's Keystone XL project set off an unexpected debate on decorum in the House of Commons Thursday.

Megan Leslie, the NDP's environment critic, was shouted down after starting a question to 70-year-old Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver by referring to cranky elderly citizens.

"If being a grumpy old man makes you an expert in world ...," she said, before getting cut off.

That kind of language may be surprising for people who haven't been watching question period over the past few weeks.

But those who have been paying attention may recall Oliver referring to Leslie and NDP MP Claude Gravelle, the party's natural resources critic, as "clowns" for travelling to Washington, D.C., to talk to lawmakers about their opposition to extending the Keystone XL pipeline.

And there was last week's jab, when Oliver suggested Leslie read Economics for Dummies.

NDP MP Charlie Angus has had almost a different nickname every question period for Treasury Board president Tony Clement over allegations Clement directed $50 million in infrastructure money to his riding before the G8 summit in 2010.

Last week, NDP MP Pat Martin tweeted some choice words for the government, causing a stir with his cussing.

On Thursday, after Leslie's attempted question, House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer called for order as MPs jeered across the aisle at each other.

"We're not even through our second week of a five-week stretch," Scheer said. "If we can't get through this week, I hate to think what next week will be like."

"This is the smiling face of cynicism, Mr. Speaker," Leslie said as she finished her question.

Oliver responded in kind.

"It's one thing to go to foreign countries and work against the interests of Canadian workers and those that are unemployed from coast to coast," he said. "It's another to insult senior citizens."

MPs picked up on the theme again following question period, with Conservative MP Garry Breitkreuz demanding Leslie apologize to senior citizens.

Interim NDP Leader Nycole Turmel said her party is frustrated with the lack of answers from Conservative cabinet ministers in question period, but that it doesn't excuse stooping to their level.

"Once in a while one MP — and I'm not saying I approve this — one MP [gets] upset about the fact that we never get any answers on anything. We are saying that this government doesn't listen," she said. "It is frustration, with rights."

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