Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday March 21, 2019
Morneau’s budget speech drowned out by shouts of ‘let her speak’
After a delay in the House of Commons, federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau was finally able deliver his budget speech this evening — even though nobody could hear it at first.
Morneau tabled his government’s 2019 budget just before 4 p.m., getting around a threat by the Opposition Conservatives to stir up a disruption because Liberal MPs on the justice committee had shut down an investigation into the SNC-Lavalin affair.
But his budget speech was delayed by procedural votes. When he did stand to speak, he was drowned out by Opposition MPs banging on their desks and chanting “let her speak” — a reference to Jody Wilson-Raybould, whose resignation from cabinet last month over the SNC-Lavalin controversy has left the government on the defensive for weeks.
Per tradition, Morneau was set to deliver his budget speech just after the markets closed, but it was delayed by a vote on a motion to allow MPs studying fisheries to travel.
The Conservatives had threatened all day to disrupt the vote in hopes of delaying Morneau’s speech to make a point about the justice committee.
However, Morneau shocked many observers when he rose in the House and tabled the budget document anyway. That meant the lockups — where reporters and stakeholders were anxiously waiting for clearance to file their work — were released on time and the contents of the budget were made public.
The Tories went ahead with their delaying tactics, which included having a number of Tory MPs voting both for and against the motion. MPs also rose on points of privilege and points of order, further delaying Morneau’s speech.
When the finance minister began speaking around 5 p.m. ET, he was drowned out by thunderous noise.
Speaker Geoff Regan tried to intervene multiple times with calls for order, but those requests were disobeyed.
Conservative MPs eventually walked out of the Commons, with Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer calling the justice committee’s decision “an assault on democracy.”
The justice committee was looking into allegations the Prime Minister’s Office and other officials inappropriately pressured Jody Wilson-Raybould, justice minister and attorney general at the time, to allow Quebec engineering firm SNC-Lavalin to avoid criminal prosecution on bribery charges providing it met certain conditions in a remediation agreement.
After about two hours, members of the Conservative Party and the NDP emerged and said the Liberals — who hold the majority on the committee — voted in favour of a motion to “consider the meetings on this topic to be concluded.” (Source: CBC)