10/31/2018 18:16 EDT | Updated 10/31/2018 22:36 EDT

Tory MP Garnett Genuis Defends Drinking With Staffers At Parliamentary Meeting

An exchange with a reporter took a turn after #MeToo was brought up.

Conservative MP Garnett Genuis speaks in the House of Commons on Oct. 29, 2018.

OTTAWA — Conservative MP Garnett Genuis got in a testy exchange Wednesday with a reporter who asked him about the optics of indulging in some after-hours drinking with staffers on Parliament Hill.

A video taken by a Liberal MP shows Genuis leading a chorus of Conservative staffers through a Stan Rogers song Tuesday evening, while holding a white folder with song lyrics in one hand and a red plastic cup in the other. Another video shows Tories singing a John Denver classic.

The disruption was triggered by a contentious vote to replace Tory MP Leona Alleslev as chair of the NATO parliamentary association. She crossed the floor from the Liberals last month.

Hundreds of senators and MPs, including cabinet ministers, showed up for Tuesday's vote.

Questions about drinking

On Wednesday, a reporter questioned Genuis about the propriety of drinking at the meeting.

"Sometimes after-hours drinking happens on Parliament Hill," the MP acknowledged. "Is that a surprise?"

The reporter then asked about the optics of such drinking in light of the #MeToo movement, and concerns from former female staffers about the amount of alcohol consumed on the Hill.

"Is your objection that you think when MPs are at social events with staff they should drink out of glass cups instead of red Solo cups?" Genuis responded.

It tasted like gasoline, it wasn't very expensive.Tory MP Garnett Genuis

Wine and alcohol is commonly served at receptions hosted on Parliament Hill, but Tuesday's singing and drinking happened at a parliamentary association meeting. Genuis said the meeting had been adjourned, despite other Tory MPs lingering in the room.

At one point, there appears to have been confusion among Parliamentarians if the meeting was officially over.

When asked what the clear liquid was in cup that he drank from in the video, the Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan MP said he wasn't sure.

"It was purchased by one of my staffers and they were serving drinks of some kind," he said "It tasted like gasoline, it wasn't very expensive."

'Farcical meeting'

The Tories maintain the Liberals violated the NATO parliamentary association's constitution in how it replaced Alleslev with Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj as chair.

"We were standing up for the right of an eminently qualified woman to, who's a veteran, to continue to be a chair of that association," Genuis said.

Veteran Tory MP Peter Kent left the meeting before the singing and drinking started. "A lot of things happen on the Hill that shouldn't happen on the Hill," he said. He downplayed the focus on alcohol, saying drinks shared after a parliamentary meeting isn't conduct that merits swift action.

"Of all of the concerns that we have on the Hill, I don't think that the pouring alcohol in a room after a committee has adjourned is the top of the priority list of concerns."

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