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Alberta MP Flashes Middle Finger During Question Period, Plays Coy When Asked To Apologize

Elizabeth May said her colleague offered a “non-apology apology” after the gesture.
Conservative MP Blaine Calkins is shown during question period on Oct. 23, 2020.
Conservative MP Blaine Calkins is shown during question period on Oct. 23, 2020.

A Conservative MP was called out Friday for flashing the bird and then playing coy when asked to apologize.

Blaine Calkins, the longtime MP for the Alberta riding of Red Deer-Lacombe, offered up the one-finger salute — albeit with his middle digit pointed downward — while appearing virtually during question period.

Calkins claimed Liberal policies have been “an assault on Alberta and the West” for the last five years. He accused the government of making resource extraction more difficult and interfering in Alberta’s ambitions to become a “plastics recycling hub” with its proposed ban on six single-use plastics items.

“Mr. Speaker, why doesn’t the prime minister just show the West what he truly thinks of us, just like his father did?” he said, before making the gesture at the camera.

Watch the exchange:

Calkins appeared to be referencing an infamous moment in 1982 when then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau enthusiastically gave the middle finger to B.C. protesters while seated in a railcar.

Liberal MP Paul Lefebrvre, the parliamentary secretary to the natural resources minister, did not respond to the gesture. He touted the work being done on the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which the government purchased in 2018, and the recent federal approval of a major project from Nova Gas Transmission Ltd.

Lefebrvre said the government was focused on creating good jobs for Western Canadians while respecting its duties to consult Indigenous partners on resource projects.

After question period, Liberal MP Sherry Romanado, also appearing virtually, raised a point of order over Calkin’s “inappropriate, disrespectful hand gesture.” She called on the Tory MP to apologize for running afoul of standing orders prohibiting offensive language in the House.

“It is not uncommon for people to be able to wave or to use their hand gestures in the House of Commons,” Calkins said. “If there is a particular hand gesture that I have used that has been offensive to someone, then I unreservedly withdraw that gesture.”

Elizabeth May: ‘I took offense. I think a lot of us took offense’

Deputy Speaker Bruce Stanton then reminded MPs that decorum standards apply even when MPs are appearing virtually.

That wasn’t good enough for Green MP Elizabeth May, who has long been on a personal crusade for better decorum in the House. A “non-apology apology” wasn’t adequate, she said.

“I took offense. I think a lot of us took offense,” she said.

Stanton went back to Calkins to see if he had further comments, noting the parliamentary convention that MPs be categorical when expressing regret for something they did in the context of a debate.

“As I said, Mr. Speaker, I unreservedly withdraw the gesture,” Calkins said.

Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux, the parliamentary secretary to the Government House leader, likewise rose to note a “number of individuals” were offended by the gesture.

Stanton said he’d review the record of the debate and get back to the House with further comment, if need be.

In 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked about his dad flipping the bird from an unlikely source: an elementary school student in Winnipeg. The moment was caught on camera by Global News.

“Why did your dad give everyone in western Canada the middle finger?” the boy asked.

The prime minister told the youngster his father had an “approach to politics that not everyone agreed with,” but made a mark on Canada “that shapes us to this day.”

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