Remember that time Mulcair questioned Scheer's neutrality as house speaker

The newly-elected leader of the Conservative Party Andrew Scheer and outgoing NDP leader Thomas Mulcair. Photo from CP Images
The newly-elected leader of the Conservative Party Andrew Scheer and outgoing NDP leader Thomas Mulcair. Photo from CP Images

Now that Andrew Scheer has been elected leader of the Conservative Party, much of the nation is pondering a simple question: what do we know about this guy?

Sifting through several years worth of news cycles, one bizarre and viral incident involving the 38-year-old Conservative floats to the top: Tom Mulcair’s attack on Scheer’s neutrality as Speaker of the House back in 2014.

It started innocently enough.

During question period on September 26, 2014, NDP leader Tom Mulcair posed a straightforward question to Conservative MP Paul Calandra about the length of Canada’s mission in Iraq. Calandra responded with an unrelated answer referencing a social media post about Israel by an alleged NDP staffer. Mulcair again attempted to bring the focus back to Iraq, but Calandra responded by again questioning the NDP’s stance on Israel. At this point, Mulcair pleaded with Scheer, who was Speaker at the time, to intervene and compel Calandra respond to the question being asked.

When Scheer did not, Mulcair called him out, saying, “That does not speak very favourably about your neutrality in this House.”

The controversial comment evoked a chorus of cheers and jeers in the house, and dominated the news and social media cycle for days to come.

In a subsequent discussion panel addressing the incident, NPD MP Paul Dewer became a #CanPoli internet sensation for face palming himself when fellow panelist Calandra denied changing the subject from Iraq to Israel.

Scheer was forced to defend his non-intervention, chastising the NDP for questioning his neutrality. He claimed that tradition dictated he not interfere during question period, and that MPs would need to change the rules before the Speaker would be able to take control in such an exchange.

“I have no doubt that Canadians expect members to elevate the tone and substance of question period exchanges,” he said. “As your Speaker, I hope the House can rise to that challenge.”

The incident came to an awkward conclusion when Calandra issued a tearful apology from the House floor for his non-response to Mulcair’s questions.

Through the tears, angry editorials and face-slapping memes, Scheer somehow managed to stay above the fray. It’s a feat that will likely be difficult to repeat going forward, now that he’s in the spotlight and gunning for the nation’s highest office.