POLITICS
03/26/2018 19:42 EDT | Updated 03/27/2018 17:25 EDT

Trudeau Accuses Scheer Of Playing 'Petty Politics' With Private Briefing Offer

Making every minute of question period count.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press
Conservative House Leader Candice Bergen and Prime Minsiter Justin Trudeau speak in the House of Commons during question period on March 26, 2018.

OTTAWA — Despite what the calendar says, it's seemingly Groundhog Day in the House of Commons after the government and Opposition repeated the same question and answer about the Jaspal Atwal affair in question period Monday.

Conservatives kept poking the government to answer if the prime minister had any knowledge that his national security advisor, Daniel Jean, was going to brief the media about Atwal.

"The prime minister is hiding something," said Opposition House Leader Candice Bergen. She referenced how Liberals spent over 20 continuous hours last week voting on budget measures to "protect the prime minister by preventing his national security advisor from providing information to Parliamentarians."

Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press
Conservative MP Erin O'Toole stands during question period in the House of Commons on March 26, 2018.

Conservative MPs including Pierre Paul-Hus, Erin O'Toole and Pierre Poilievre asked the same question, adamant that the government admit Jean gave media classified information.

Recent tensions between the government and Opposition over the issue stem from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's visit to India last month. Atwal, who was convicted in 1987 of the attempted murder of an Indian politician, appeared at Canadian High Commission events in India during the trip.

Jean briefed media about Atwal's presence, blaming factions of the Indian government for inviting the failed assassin. An irritated Indian government issued a statement, calling Jean's suggestion "baseless and unacceptable."

The leader of the Opposition does not want to know the truth.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Bergen squared blame on the Prime Minister's Office, saying Jean was instructed to "go out and float a theory that somehow India was involved in the Atwal affair."

THE CANADIAN PRESS
Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Ralph Goodale stands during question period in the House of Commons on March 26, 2018.

The prime minister responded by saying Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has "repeatedly" refused offers from the Privy Council Office (PCO) to provide a confidential briefing about the matter "for reasons known only to him."

He accused Scheer of playing "petty politics" with the issue.

"The leader of the Opposition does not want to know the truth," Trudeau said, adding how last week's Conservative-triggered marathon voting session delayed discussion in Parliament about the government's new gun bill.

Trudeau and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale stuck to their points, saying if Scheer wants to learn about classified details, he should accept the briefing offer.

Tories hinting at another marathon vote

Scheer hinted last week that he doesn't want a private briefing.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Scheer said the claim he was offered a classified briefing was "completely false."

Liberals were bound to the chamber for nearly 21 hours after the Conservatives sparked a vote on budgetary measures, after the government defeated its motion for Jean to appear before a committee.

Watch: Atwal says 'sorry' after uproar over Trudeau India invite

Despite it being a short week, the drama is expected to continue before Parliamentarians return to their home ridings for a two-week break.

CBC News reports Conservative MPs have been asked to adjust their travel plans this week. According to Global News, they're eyeing another voting marathon to pressure the government to allow Jean to testify at a Parliamentary committee about the Atwal affair.

As for members of the government, they may have to stock up again on snacks and reading materials.

With files from Althia Raj

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