Conservative Peter Van Loan crosses House to spar with NDP counterparts

Matt Coutts
Daily BrewDecember 6, 2012

Canadian politics apparently still has a long way to go on the decorum front, what with the hurdling of threats, exchange of profanity and very real risk of violence that happened in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

Well, OK, not so real risk of violence. It is still Canadian politics, after all.

The Canadian Press reports the verbal fight that nearly resulted in a bench-clearing brawl, which began when House leader Peter Van Loan crossed the floor to challenge his NDP counterpart, Nathan Cullen.

From the Press:

Microphones were shut off but video tape shows Van Loan waving his finger at Cullen and speaking in a heated manner.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, Cullen's seat mate, stands up, whereupon a number of New Democrats surround Van Loan and appear to urge him to leave.

Finally, Defence Minister Peter MacKay rushes over, puts his hand on Van Loan's shoulder and ushers him back across the centre aisle of the Commons to the government benches.

The shoving match reportedly surrounded a piece of legislative paperwork: A request to invalidate a budget vote that the NDP believed had been handled in error — one of those "point of order" moments when politics often turns into game playing.

[ Related: Justin Trudeau is quickly running out of feet to put in his mouth ]

The moment irked Van Loan, who took matters into his own hands.

Oh I'm scared here comes Peter Van Loan - said nobody ever. #cdnpoli

— Rick Mercer (@rickmercer) December 6, 2012

The big winner in the whole affair may be Mulcair, who scored some serious "Bro points" by backing Cullen up in the face of clear and present danger. Or perhaps it is MacKay, who looked very prime ministerial as he led a red-faced Van Loan back to his seat after the scuffle. Or just maybe there are no winners.

Van Loan, meantime, comes off foolish in the matter, quickly reverting to political spin and blaming Mulcair for the whole affair. He told CTV News that Mulcair lunged at him in an "absolute explosion" of anger. This sounds completely foolish, considering he himself had crossed the aisle to poke his aggressive finger in the face of Cullen.

Peter Van Loan doesn't appear to be on Twitter, where the battle continued to rage following the dust-up, but MacKay picked up the partisan slack.

Whoa - Angry Tom at it again! NDP snaps at Van Loan for standing up for Canada's economic recovery #cdnpoli — Peter MacKay (@MinPeterMacKay) December 6, 2012

Check the video @minpetermackay to see who came after whom. But we all need to work on raising decorum, I hope you agree with that, at least

— Nathan Cullen (@nathancullen) December 6, 2012

If it matters who is in the wrong, and the answer can't be everybody, it is Van Loan for crossing the House's centre aisle to launch the conflict. Consider this piece of fodder from the Toronto Sun's Alan Parker:

The central aisle is not just a passageway and work area for pages, stenographers and parliamentary clerks: It's a moat dividing two (or more) warring parties so that the daily confrontations (hopefully) remain verbal and spiritual, not physical.

It is no coincidence that the central aisle is exactly twelve feet wide: By tradition, that distance is two sword lengths.

Just a quick heads up, gentlemen. This whole affair isn't doing much to convince Canadians you are focused on representing them rather than waving your party colours.

[ Related: Parties should unite against Conservatives to bring electoral reform ]

Keep it up, all of you. You are cruising for an electoral bruising.