By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Manitoba cabinet minister Obby Khan accused Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew of swearing at him and shoving him at a public event inside the legislature Thursday, saying it left him shaken.
Kinew denied the accusation, saying there was only a “tense verbal exchange.” Speaker Myrna Driedger is looking into the matter.
Kinew and Khan agreed that words were exchanged at a ceremony marking Turban Day, a commemoration of Sikh and Punjabi cultures.
The NDP hosted the event and had a party banner as a backdrop. Khan told the ceremony there should have been Progressive Conservative and Liberal banners as well, because the issue was non-partisan.
The two men shook hands, then their recollections differ.
“The leader of the Opposition pulled me in and said, ‘You piece of s—. How dare you politicize this f—ing event. What you did is f—ing wrong,'” Khan, the minister for sport, culture and heritage, told the legislature chamber later in the afternoon.
“I’m emotionally shaken by this. I wasn’t expecting that — intimidation attempts, insulting language and … when we left the handshake, there was a shove in the stomach.”
Khan, a former Canadian Football League player who stands six feet four inches tall, said he expected physical conflict on the field but not at the legislature.
He raised the matter in the chamber as a matter of privilege — an issue where a politician’s ability to perform their job is interfered with. He asked that it be referred to a legislature committee. Driedger said she would make her decision at a later date.
Kinew said the NDP banner was in place because the party organized the event but welcomed people from other parties. He said there was no abusive behaviour during the exchange with Khan.
“I said, ‘You should not have said these partisan things.’ (Khan) comes back at me and he says, ‘You have no class,'” Kinew said.
“My colleague (NDP MLA Mintu Sandhu) was beginning to speak, and so I turned and said we should listen,” Kinew continued.
“At no time was there any swearing. At no time was there any name calling. And the interaction was of words exchanged, albeit tensely, over a handshake.”
A few accusations of aggressive behaviour have been made in the legislature in recent years.
Kinew apologized in 2018 after he confronted Steven Fletcher, who served one term in the legislature, for talking while another politician was speaking. Kinew was accused of telling Fletcher to keep his mouth shut but admitted only to using forceful language.
Last year, New Democrat Bernadette Smith said Tory Blaine Pedersen smacked the back of her chair and made her feel unsafe. Tory house leader Kelvin Goertzen said Pedersen simply tapped Smith’s chair in an attempt to get her attention. Pedersen apologized.