By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Security video of a tense exchange between two Manitoba politicians inside the legislature was released by the Speaker’s office Wednesday, but the footage appeared unlikely to put to rest a dispute over exactly what happened.
The footage was recorded two weeks ago at a public event in the second-floor rotunda just outside the legislature chamber, and only made public Wednesday evening.
Obby Khan, the Progressive Conservative minister for sport, culture and heritage, complained to the Speaker that Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew held him in a long handshake at the event, swore at him and shoved his stomach.
Kinew denied the accusation, saying there was a “tense verbal exchange” and a handshake, but no swearing or shoving.
The footage, shot from a security camera far away, does not include audio. It shows Khan approaching a row of dignitaries after speaking at the event, which marked Turban Day, a commemoration of Sikh and Punjabi cultures.
Khan is seen giving a brief hug and handshake to one of Kinew’s colleagues in the NDP caucus, then approaching Kinew.
Kinew stands up and shakes Khan’s hand while also grabbing the bicep of Khan’s arm with his other hand.
The handshake appears to go on for 20 seconds. Khan takes a step away at one point and appears to try to leave, but Kinew continues to talk to him and the handshake does not break immediately.
At one point, Khan’s back is to the camera. There is no evidence of a shove.
The NDP rejected interview requests Wednesday night but claimed vindication in a brief written statement.
“Minister Khan lied to Manitobans when he told them ‘there was a shove in the stomach’ following his interaction with Mr. Kinew,” the statement from the NDP caucus read.
But Khan also claimed the video supported his side of events.
“You can see that there’s gripping of my hand and forcefully being kept in that conversation,” Khan said in an interview.
“You can see clearly from the video that I tried to walk away … and he pulls me back in.”
The shove occurred at the end of the handshake, Khan said, when his back was to the camera.
The one thing both men agree on is the subject of the conversation.
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.
Kinew said at the time he criticized Khan for making partisan comments, but did not swear at him or shove. Khan said Kinew swore repeatedly and was aggressive in a way that left him shaken.
The legislature’s Speaker, Myrna Driedger, said Wednesday she did not have jurisdiction to weigh in on Khan’s accusation because it did not happen inside the legislature chamber.
But she urged all politicians to behave.
“I am troubled that either version of the incident could have occurred at all,” Driedger said.
“I wish that you could all treat each other respectfully and honourably.”