Lib­er­als de­mand Guer­gis re­sign over air­port tantrum

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE -

OTTAWA (CP) — The fed­eral Lib­er­als are call­ing for the res­ig­na­tion of ju­nior cab­i­net min­is­ter He­lena Guer­gis over a tantrum at Char­lot­te­town air­port.

Guer­gis, min­is­ter of state for the sta­tus of women, is­sued an apol­ogy Thurs­day, say­ing she was rush­ing to catch a flight last week and “spoke emo­tion­ally” to air­port staff.

She wasn’t spe­cific, but air­port work­ers have said she yelled at them and com­plained about be­ing “stuck in this hell hole.”

Lib­eral MP Anita Neville said the apol­ogy isn’t enough. She said Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper “needs to hold his min­is­ters to a higher stan­dard,” and should ask Guer­gis to step down.

“Air­port se­cu­rity mea­sures and staff are in place for our safety,” Neville said. “Arriving late for a flight does not al­low you to cir­cum­vent th­ese pro­ce­dures, nor does it al­low you to treat staff dis­re­spect­fully.

“Un­der her watch, Ms. Guer­gis has overseen the steady ero­sion of women’s rights and women’s ad­vance­ment in Canada. Cana­dian women de­serve a bet­ter rep­re­sen­ta­tive at the cab­i­net ta­ble. An apol­ogy is not enough. She must re­sign now.”

A Harper spokesman dis­missed the de­mand: “She has apol­o­gized for her ac­tions. The mat­ter is closed,” An­drew MacDougall said.

In her apol­ogy Thurs­day, Guer­gis wrote: “Re­gard­less of my work­load and per­sonal cir­cum­stances, it was not ap­pro­pri­ate and I apol­o­gize to air­port and Air Canada staff.”

Guer­gis, who rep­re­sents the On­tario rid­ing of Sim­coe-Grey, also stressed her fond­ness for Prince Ed­ward Is­land.

The Con­ser­va­tive MP’s mea culpa came on the heels of an anony­mous let­ter sent to P.E.I. Lib­eral MP Wayne Easter, de­tail­ing the min­is­ter’s al­leged con­duct as she at­tempted to board an Air Canada flight to Montreal, Feb. 19. The Lib­er­als re­leased the let­ter to The Cana­dian Press and other me­dia.

Guer­gis’s of­fice did not re­spond to an email ask­ing if the de­tails in the let­ter are ac­cu­rate.

Ac­cord­ing to the let­ter, Guer­gis and an aide were at the Air Canada ticket counter five min­utes be­fore the flight was to de­part and they were “be­ing so dif­fi­cult and rude” they were al­most de­nied per­mis­sion to board.

At se­cu­rity screen­ing, the writer says Guer­gis ini­tially re­fused to re­move her boots, which set off the metal de­tec­tor. She then “huffily” re­moved her boots, “slammed” them into a bin and groused to the se­cu­rity screener: “Happy f... birth­day to me. I guess I’m stuck in this hell hole.” Guer­gis’s birth­day is Feb. 19. The writer also claims that Guer­gis tried to force open a locked door from the pre-board­ing area on to the tar­mac, and that Guer­gis and an aide be­gan “scream­ing and ham­mer­ing on the sound­proof tinted glass that sep­a­rates pre-board from air­side,” ap­par­ently hop­ing to catch the at­ten­tion of an air­line rep­re­sen­ta­tive.

Guer­gis’s apol­ogy landed the same day that her cab­i­net col­league, Trans­port Min­is­ter John Baird, an­nounced a hike in the air­port se­cu­rity tax to pay for tighter se­cu­rity.

Guer­gis’s hus­band, for­mer Ed­mon­ton Tory MP Rahim Jaf­fer, is fac­ing charges of co­caine pos­ses­sion and drunk driv­ing. His case is ex­pected to be set­tled by a plea bar­gain March 9.

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