Funny ways: The year in weird politics

When it comes to politics, 2016 was the year of the strange. From a grim reaper at the Conservative Party's policy convention to debates about farts in the House of Commons, here's when things got weird.

From debates about farts in the House of Commons to a strikingly similar speech, 2016 was an odd one

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Barack Obama pose for a group photo during the North American Leaders' Summit in June. (Chris Roussakis/AFP/Getty Images)

When it comes to politics, 2016 was the year of the weird — there were unexpected votesupset wins, tight red cardigans and lots of shirtless photos.

And there were some weird moments.

The year in weird politics

7 years ago
Duration 1:33
When it comes to politics, 2016 was the year of the strange. From a grim reaper at the Conservative Party's policy convention to debates about farts in the House of Commons, here's when things got weird.

Some were trivial, others more significant — but these offbeat moments in the House of Commons, on the U.S. campaign trail and in everyday political life provided a much-needed respite from the divisiveness.

Here's a look at when things got politically weird.

Weird words

Michelle Rempel, Elizabeth May spar over the word 'fart'

7 years ago
Duration 1:10
Conservative MP Michelle Rempel was criticizing the government this week for not doing enough to address job losses in Alberta - but Green MP Elizabeth May took issue with one small word.

Plenty of salty language has been thrown around in the House of Commons, but it was Conservative MP Michelle Rempel's use of the word "f-a-r-t" when lamenting Alberta's job losses that caused a particular stink in November.

Green Party MP Elizabeth May rose to point out the word was "distinctly unparliamentary" and asked Rempel to consider withdrawing it. Rempel refused, calling it "the craziest, most useless, out of touch intervention from another MP" she had ever experienced.

The mood was decidedly more jovial inside the House earlier this year when Liberal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna accidently said she shared "sunny ways" with Conservative MP Ed Fast at the UN climate talks in Paris.

'Sunny ways' - or funny ways?

8 years ago
Duration 2:07
Environment Minister Catherine McKenna's response to a question from Conservative MP Ed Fast led to some question period giggles Friday.

Giggles erupted from both sides of the aisle and earned a clever quip from Speaker of the House Geoff Regan — "It's so nice to see members getting along so well."

Perhaps the weirdest political words of the year belonged to incoming first lady Melania Trump. But that's only because they were partially cribbed from her predecessor, Michelle Obama.

There were striking similarities between Melania Trump's speech at July's Republican National Convention and Michelle Obama's address eight years earlier at the Democratic National Convention.

Striking similarities: Michelle Obama's speech vs Melania Trump's speech

7 years ago
Duration 0:37
Melania Trump's speech at the Republican National Convention bears striking similarities to Michelle Obama's 2008 speech.

The plagiarism was pointed out by eagle-eyed social media users, who poked fun using the hashtag #FamousMelaniaTrumpQuotes, citing other well-known quotes and attributing them to her.

Honourable mention: "You're not getting the cubs. Even if you want them, you can't get them; they're going back to China in 2018." — Toronto Coun. Georgio Mammoliti, who mistakenly told Calgary that the pandas born last year at the Toronto Zoo weren't making the move west.

Weird body movements

Whether it was tossing a handful of pumpkin seeds in protest at Justin Trudeau, or George W. Bush bopping during a memorial for the Dallas shooting, the year was packed with strange body motions.

A trilateral meeting between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico turned awkward when Trudeau tried to facilitate a three-way handshake between fellow leaders Barack Obama and Enrique Pena Nieto. 

Pena Nieto ended up shaking to no one while Obama clasped awkwardly onto Trudeau's hand. So instead of calling them the Three Amigos, the internet mockingly dubbed them the Three Stooges.

A few weeks earlier, Trudeau threw the House of Commons into an uproar when he strode across the aisle and grabbed the Conservative party whip by the arm to hustle him to his seat so a vote could take place.

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.

Touching an MP in the House is a no-no on its own.

But it is what happened next that caused much upset and provoked four public apologies by the prime minister and gave rise to a new scandal moniker: elbowgate.

South of the border, Ted Cruz accidently gave his wife, Heidi, a one-two punch, then an elbow to the face while dropping out of the presidential race. His wife, who was on the edge of the group hug, kept her cool as it happened. The Cruz family are no strangers to oddity, after all.

But that wasn't the most awkward movement of the U.S. election campaign: that distinction belongs to Ben Carson, who didn't move much at all — he simply stood still when his name was called to come on stage during a Republican Party debate in February.

As other candidates' names were called, they breezed past Carson. He even ignored a stage manager, who was trying to wave him on stage. Donald Trump ended up standing beside Carson, patting him on the back while they mugged for the camera.

The pair finally made it to their podiums when the moderators re-announced their names. Carson said the snafu wasn't planned — he just couldn't hear his name.

Honourable mention: Former Texas governor Rick Perry's moves on Dancing with the Stars. He is Trump's pick for energy secretary.

Weird guests

The Conservatives hosted their first post-defeat policy convention in May … and the grim reaper showed up. Hidden under the veil was MP Marilyn Gladu, who joked of "gloom and doom" before breaking out the dance moves.

Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu's 'Tory Talk' segment opened with her taking on the character of the grim reaper, intoning doom for the party. By the end, she was dancing to Taylor Swift. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau wasn't an unexpected guest at an Ottawa tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. — but her singing definitely was. She spontaneously decided to perform a song she wrote for her daughter called Smile Back at Me.

Remixes started circulating online, with bass-heavy beats backing up Grégoire-Trudeau's genuine lyrics, which she said she penned during "a difficult time."

Lots of weird guests also showed up on the U.S. campaign trail — Happy Days actor Scott Baio, a bird at a Bernie Sanders rally and "shucky ducky" Herman Cain to name a few.

But it was undecided voter Ken Bone that captivated the masses when he stood up and asked a question about energy policy during one of the presidential debates, decked out in a red sweater and sporting a disposable camera.

And just as fast as Bone became a meme, he caused controversy and faded from the public spotlight.

The year 2016 was weird that way.


Haydn Watters is a roving reporter in Ontario, mostly serving the province's local CBC Radio shows. He has worked for the CBC in Halifax, Yellowknife, Ottawa and Toronto, with stints at the politics bureau and entertainment unit. He ran an experimental one-person pop-up bureau for the CBC in Barrie, Ont. You can get in touch at haydn.watters@cbc.ca.