Liberals shout down PM over 'base' attack

Liberals objected to Prime Minister Stephen Harper raising a media report that said a Liberal MP's father-in-law was allegedly interviewed in connection with the Air India bombing case.

Prime Minister Stephen Harperwas shouted down with cries of "shame, shame" during question period Wednesday after he raised a media report that said a Liberal MP is the son-in-law of a man police allegedly interviewed in connection with the Air India bombing case.

Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion was askingthe prime ministerabout judicial appointments, accusinghim of stacking the committees with Conservatives and jeopardizingthe independence of the judiciary.

Harper responded that the Liberals opposed the changes the Conservative government hasmade that give police officers a voice in the process.

Then Harper saidhe was "not surprised, given what I'm reading in the Vancouver Sun today when I read this is how the Liberal party makes decisions."

"The Vancouver Sun has learned that the father-in-law of the member of Parliament for Mississauga-Brampton South …"

At that point, the last two rows of Liberal benches erupted in shouts, banging on their desks and jeering,the CBC's Susan Bonner reported.

"They were ready for this. They were primed and they were angry," Bonner said.

Navdeep Singh Bains, the Liberal MP Harper was referring to, sat with his head down.

Questioning stopped

House Speaker Peter Miliken tried to get the Liberals to stop.

"We're wasting a lot of time. The honourable prime minister has the floor. Order."

When the shouting continued, he cut off their questioning and went to the Bloc Québécois for the next question.

Bonner said several Liberals went over to Bains's seat in a show of support, but Bains just kept his head down, trying to keep out of it.

Liberals immediately called for Harper to apologize.

"Apologize and withdraw what was clearly going to be a drive-by smear against a young, honourable member of this house," MP Bill Graham told Harper.

Dion later echoed the demand for an apology, accusing the prime minister of trying to smear an MP with a"base" partisan attack. But Harper refused, saying he did not have an opportunity to say anything because of the actions of the Liberals.

Harper suggested he was raisingthe issue because the Liberals are jeopardizingthe Air India investigation by opposingprovisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act.

"Even the Air India families say that the position [the Liberals] are now taking will jeopardize the police investigation into the Air India terrorism act."

Dion has said he is against extending those provisions that allow the hearings to take place.

The Vancouver Sun reported that Bains's father-in-law told the RCMP hehad met a man who was later convicted of shooting a potential witnessin the Air India trial. He also allegedly said he met with Ajaib Singh Bagri, who was later acquitted in the Air India bombing. The 1985 bombing killed 329 people.

The Vancouver Sunalso reported thatBains's father-in-law is on the RCMP's potential list of witnesses at investigative hearings designed to advance the Air India criminal probe.

Bains later stood in on a point of privilege and asked personally for an apology for what he said was a partisan attack on him and his family.

"I had the opportunity to listen to the prime minister attack my integrity, the integrity of my family and I would personally ask the prime minister to apologize," he said.

'Gutter politics,' Goodale says

Outside the Commons, the prime minister's comments drew wide condemnation from opposition parties.

"Mr. Harper's actions today are the worst kind of gutter politics that I have seen in nearly 20 years in this House," Liberal MP Ralph Goodale said.

"What the prime minister did was wrong," NDP MP Nathan Cullen told the CBC's Don Newman Tuesday after question period. "It was absolutely embarrassing."

Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe said the comments showed "a serious lack of dignity" by Harper and suggestedthe prime ministerhasdroppedefforts to appearas a moderate duringthe last election.

"He changed a bit but he's coming back to his original nature," Duceppe told reporters."He believes he's never wrong."