Justin Trudeau criticized for losing his cool in House of Commons

A day after a vote on the government’s assisted-dying bill turned physical, observers and colleagues are questioning the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's ability to maintain his composure.

While emotions can run high in House, no excuse for Trudeau's actions, analyst says

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes part in the National Prayer Breakfast in Ottawa on Thursday, May 19, 2016. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

A day after a vote on the government's assisted-dying bill turned physical, observers and colleagues are questioning the prime minister's ability to maintain his composure.

In video from the House, Trudeau is seen walking toward Opposition whip Gord Brown and taking his arm in an apparent effort to force Brown into his seat. While doing so, Trudeau elbowed NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau in the chest.

How the 'elbow incident' in the House of Commons unfolded

7 years ago
Duration 3:39
CBC’s Catherine Cullen walks through what happened on Parliament Hill – and how people are reacting.

The incident, now being referred to as "elbowgate," turned a routine vote into a tumultuous afternoon complete with accusations that Trudeau used the f-word and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair calling Trudeau "pathetic."

'Like watching a daycare'

CBC Montreal political analyst Yolande James, a former provincial politician, says she can see how people can lose their cool in a parliamentary system that is very confrontational and where emotions often run high.

But she added that the prime minister has to be beyond reproach.

"Even though you say it was just an accident, people at home are going to say 'This is like watching a daycare. This is not what we sent you to Parliament Hill to do,'" she said.

Both James and Conservative MP Gérald Deltell said the problems started when Trudeau rose from his seat.

Deltell was a few feet away when the melee broke out.

"I saw it and I said 'My God what's going on there? Is that the real prime minister? Is that my prime minister grabbing someone physically? That's impossible,'" he recounted on CBC Montreal's Daybreak.

Deltell acknowledged that Trudeau hurt Brosseau by accident, but pointed out that if he had stayed at his desk, nothing would have happened.

"You can't grab someone else, even if it's an adversary," he said.

"If you have a political adversary, you talk to him, you try to convince him, you make arguments with him. You don't make physical attacks like we have seen yesterday."

Distracting from the issues

Though he apologized for his behaviour, the incident makes parliament as a whole look bad, James said.

"Instead of running the agenda on legislation you should be talking about, today Justin Trudeau's going to have to come back on the issue and apologize. It's a setback, it's a distraction," she said.

Justin Trudeau apologizes to Ruth Ellen Brosseau

7 years ago
Duration 1:44
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologizes to NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau, and the House, for his actions in the Commons.

She recalled an incident from 2005 when then-premier Jean Charest called Parti Québécois MNA Elsie Lefebvre a bitch under his breath, which caused a similar firestorm and forced Charest to apologize.

James said this incident will derail the government's work in on the assisted-dying bill. The Supreme Court-imposed deadline to pass the legislation is June 6.

Deltell says Trudeau made a tremendous mistake.

"It's unacceptable, unethical, period," he said.