NEWS
02/15/2017 18:39 EST | Updated 02/16/2018 00:12 EST

Conservative MPs laugh at Amarjeet Sohi's past as ETS bus driver

A federal cabinet minister who learned to deal with the public while driving an Edmonton transit bus was laughed at this week in the House of Commons, apparently for that very reason. 

Amarjeet Sohi, the minister of infrastructure and Liberal MP for Edmonton Mill Woods, rose in the house Tuesday to speak about transportation.

He began his remarks by acknowledging that as a former transit driver he was especially shocked to learn that a bus driver in Winnipeg had been stabbed to death earlier in the day.

"Mr. Speaker, as a former bus driver, I want to convey our thoughts and prayers," Sohi said.

On the video recording of the proceedings of the House of Commons, loud laughter could be heard coming from the opposition benches.

Sohi's colleagues on the Liberal side could be seen shaking their heads in disbelief.

"What I heard was laughter," Sohi said Wednesday during an interview from Ottawa.

The former transit bus driver went on to serve two terms on Edmonton city council, before winning a seat as a Liberal member of Parliament in the 2015 federal election.

"I take pride in my background," Sohi said.

"I think it does demonstrate a streak of elitist attitude in the Conservative party, where maybe they don't appreciate we have working-class people in Parliament in the Liberal government who are making a difference in the lives of Canadians."

Adam Vaughan, a Liberal MP from Toronto, raised a point of order in the House on Wednesday and asked that the laughter be "withdrawn," which would strike it from the record.

"This is offensive to the values of this House, to the values of Canadians and the diversity of all of us," Vaughan said.

But Conservative House leader Candice Bergen refused.

"There's all kinds of laughter that occurs here," Bergen said. "So we absolutely respect and honor all of the jobs that we've done, and the experience we bring to this house."

Sohi said he wasn't personally upset by the laughter, but he thought Bergen's statement fell short of what was required.