Liberals demand Guergis resign over airport tantrum
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.