By Nikki Jamieson
In light of the recent political upheaval south of the border, it’s nice to know every once in a while just how Canadian our politics can be. Instead of mass protests, threats of constitutional rights violations and rivals promising war, our politicians are arguing over what are the right words to use in parliament.
In recent years, we in Canada have been fortunate enough to not to have suffered any major political scandal in the federal government — Elbowgate not included of course, if it can even be considered a scandal. Much like the stereotypical, always sorry, Canadian, when our politicians make the news about a disagreement in the House of Commons, it tends to be found slightly humorous.
Case in point, the latest row over an MP daring to utter the word ‘fart’ during debate.
On Tuesday, Nov. 15, Calgary Nose Hill MP Michelle Rempel gave a passionate speech to in the House of Commons about the federal government’s treatment of Alberta amidst the current oil recession, high unemployment rate and a rising Canada Pension Plan Premium. She said that through the years, Alberta has always been happy to contribute to the rest of Canada, even as places like Ontario spend billions on “wasteful projects” and the rest of Canada considers the province as “dirty”. She questioned why the government wasn’t doing more to invest in Alberta infrastructure now that they do need help, saying that they treat Alberta like a ‘fart in the room nobody wants to talk about or acknowledge”.
I’ve watched the speech, and thought she did a pretty good job in delivering it. However, one MP took offence to it, but not for the reasons you think.
Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party and MP for Saanich—Gulf Islands, is, obviously, a widely known environmentalist. Considering that Alberta is home to Big Oil in Canada, one might assume that she would, in response, give an equally passionate speech about how Alberta should take this chance to diversify its economy and throw off the shackles of the cynical-nature of Big Oil, calling for a greener future for all.
But no, May requested that Rempel withdraw the use of the word ‘fart’ in her speech. She even spelt it out so she didn’t have to say it herself.
I’m not kidding; “The word was f-a-r-t”. Word for word, that’s what May said. Look it up yourself in the Hansard record.
Rempel pretty much responded that way every one of us was thinking; “Is my colleague actually serious”.
I know there are bigger things going on in politics — the mess to the south of us for instance — but it’s good to know our politicians can always be good for a laugh.
Don’t get me wrong, I respect both women. May was the first member of the federal Green Party to get a private bill passed — Bill C-442, on creating a national framework for the prevention of Lyme Disease — was the first member of the Green Party to have amendments added to a government bill — Bill C-46, the Pipeline Safety Act — and is the only member of the Green Party in the House. While newer to politics, Rempel was named a Top 40 under 40 by Avenue Magazine in Calgary in 2014, for her activity during question period since she first became MP for Calgary Centre-North in the 2011 election and for leading the multi-partisan effort to create the Sable Island National Park. Both these women have admirable traits and have shown passion and drive in their jobs.
So when they start squabbling over terms, it’s both hilarious and humanizing.
Every Canadian has the right to free speech, so long as it doesn’t infringe on the rights of others (think death threats). That being said, there can be a time and place for certain words and phrases — given the passion some people show for their sports teams, I do not recommend walking into a bar of fans and start talking trash about their team.
In the case of the parliament fart, however, according to a Saskatoon Star Phoenix article, it isn’t the first time it has been uttered. From former NDP Pat Martin saying last year that it was a “brain fart” to eliminate the Canadian Wheat Board’s sale monopoly, to 1995, when a then-Bloc Quebecois MP Jean-Paul Marchand said, in french, the word ‘fart’, or ‘un pet’ in this case, when describing a bill he believed was designed to try to appease Quebec.
It is notable to say that in neither instances, the Speaker of the House didn’t try to force them to rescind the word. He didn’t last week earlier, so it must be an approved word in Parliament. Sorry May, but it looks like ‘fart’ is here to stay.
Still, Canadians have taken the opportunity to mock and laugh about the exchange on social media. After all, if the worst we need to worry about in the house is MP’s bickering over whether or not the word ‘fart’ is an okay adjective to use, then we must be doing alright.