Exchange that led to MLA being ejected from Alberta Legislature under review

The speaker's office at the Alberta Legislature is reviewing an exchange Wednesday night that led to an MLA being ejected from the house after she alleged she was being intimidated by a male UCP MLA. 

NDP MLA accuses UCP member of making intimidating gestures in the house

St. Albert MLA Marie Renaud speaks to reporters Thursday about her removal from the legislature Wednesday night. (Peter Evans/CBC )

The speaker's office at the Alberta Legislature is reviewing an exchange Wednesday night that led to an NDP MLA being ejected from the house after she alleged she was being intimidated by a male UCP MLA. 

Marie Renaud, NDP member for St. Albert, was speaking to Bill 30, which proposes changes to health care, when she accused a government member, which her party later identified as Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland UCP MLA Shane Getson, of making faces and other gestures at her. 

When Renaud claimed the gestures were an attempt to intimidate her, acting speaker Nick Milliken, UCP MLA for Calgary-Currie, asked her to retract the claim and apologize.

The remark was "intended to cause disorder and is of insulting nature," Milliken said. 

Renaud retracted the remark but refused to make an apology. She was subsequently "named" by the Speaker and forced to leave the legislature.

"It's humiliating, personally," Renaud said at a news conference on Thursday. "I was trying to do my job. I got kicked out for not apologizing."

UCP caucus staff said Getson was unavailable for interviews. In a written statement to CBC News, he denied he was trying to intimidate Renaud. 

"In no way did I 'intimidate' — as others in the chamber will attest — and I strongly reject any allegation that I did," he said. 

The statement points to the fact Renaud retracted her remarks, something Getson said "is appreciated and I consider this matter closed."

Although Getson was not available for an interview, the UCP government spokespeople offered reporters an interview with Childrens' Services Minister Rebecca Schulz instead. Schulz, who was in the legislature at the time, denied her caucus colleague made intimidating gestures.

Under the rules of the house, a "named" MLA is not allowed to return to the chamber until they apologize. In this case, this requirement was waived for Renaud who made a members statement on the issue. 

"I will continue to do my job. I will stand up for the right to be heard," Renaud told the legislature. "For the women watching, and for the women who will follow in our footsteps and eventually fill these seats, change is coming. 

"This chamber can reflect the diversity of the people who live in our great province. I and my colleagues will lead that change and we will not be intimidated." 

An official in the Speaker's office says the situation is currently under review. 

Earlier this week, UCP MLAs and staff accused the NDP of sexism when Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Marlin Schmidt told the house he was happy the former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher was dead. 

Apology required

Lise Gotell, a professor in the department of women's and gender at the University of Alberta, who studies politics, law and public policy, called what happened to Renaud "truly egregious."

She says Milliken extended the abuse that Renaud faced and should be asked to apologize for failing to defend her rights as a member of the legislative assembly. 

"(Renaud) was participating very constructively in a very serious debate last night and she was derailed in her attempts to exercise her parliamentary privilege," Gotell said. 

The way legislatures and parliaments are recorded in Canada make it difficult to independently confirm who said what. House video shows only the person speaking, not reaction shots. 

Lori Williams, a policy studies professor at Mount Royal University, says politicians take advantage of that. 

"They're counting on the fact that they can plausibly deny doing anything wrong, it doesn't fall under the category of parliamentary language," she said.

"And until the speaker actually sees what is done, they can continue to engage in this activity."

With files from Janet French


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