By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG – The Speaker of the Manitoba legislature scolded members of the NDP Opposition on Monday for heckling female members of the Tory government during a vote on a bill.
Myrna Driedger said the heckling, which was targeted specifically at women in the Tory caucus, has no place in the legislature.
“I believe this could be considered a form of intimidation and it is certainly behaviour that has no place in this house or any respectful workplace,” Driedger said.
“During a recorded (vote) in this house, the only sounds that should be heard are the voices of the page and our clerk or deputy clerk.”
Driedger was ruling on an Oct. 6 incident, when legislature members voted on an opposition bill dealing with sexual harassment and violence at universities and colleges. The Tories voted against the bill because they had planned to bring in their own, which they said would be more thorough.
A small number of New Democrats said “shame” each time a female Tory voted against the bill, but made no noise when male Tories voted the same way.
Two New Democrats apologized for the heckling. Sarah Guillemard, a rookie Tory member, filed a complaint with Driedger.
Driedger ruled the incident did not qualify as a matter of privilege — something that interferes with a politician’s ability to work — but still ordered all members to avoid heckling when votes are being cast.
She based her ruling, in part, on the fact that Guillemard did not raise the issue at the earliest opportunity, as is required under parliamentary procedures.
Premier Brian Pallister and NDP house leader Jim Maloway both said Monday that they welcome the ruling and will abide by Driedger’s orders.
“Admonishing misbehaving members is a positive thing and I think we’re going to try to benefit and learn something from that, and act a little better than we have,” Maloway said.
There have been other heated exchanges in the legislature since the Tories won the April 19 provincial election and ended 17 years of NDP rule in Manitoba.
Last week, Sport Culture and Heritage Minister Rochelle Squires accused New Democrat Rob Altemeyer of telling her to take her pants off in the middle of question period. Altemeyer denied the accusation and said he uttered “take a pass on it” — a comment directed at Pallister for ducking a question.
Squires filed a complaint with Driedger, who has yet to rule on the matter.
Also last week, the Tories filed another complaint over an interview New Democrat Nahanni Fontaine gave The Canadian Press over possible security changes at the legislature.
The Tories accused Fontaine of questioning the impartiality of the Speaker. Driedger rejected the complaint Monday, saying she has no authority to rule on comments in the media.