Conservative senator from Manitoba apologizes for ‘losing my cool’ on Senate floor

With trembling hands and a voice shaking through tears, a Manitoba senator — accused by two female senators of physical intimidation and verbal harassment in the Red Chamber — apologized Thursday, saying his behaviour that day was not acceptable.

“What I did was wrong, it was unprofessional, it was unbecoming,” Conservative Sen. Don Plett said Thursday.

“I hold myself in higher regard than how I conducted myself that day. I never intended to cause harm or discomfort. I acknowledge that I lost my cool.”

The incident happened earlier this month during debate on a carbon pricing bill. Plett’s Thursday apology was directed to Senate Speaker Raymonde Gagne, Sen. Raymonde Saint-Germain, leader of the Independent Senators Group, and the group’s deputy leader, Sen. Bernadette Clement.

According to Saint-Germain and Clement, Plett’s outburst happened when Clement moved to adjourn debate on an amendment being proposed for C-234, a hotly contested Conservative private member’s bill that would lift the carbon levy on natural gas or propane used by farmers to heat barns or dry grain.

They said Plett “violently” threw his translation earpiece on his desk, charged across the Senate floor and began berating them in their seats.

Clement has said she had sought to adjourn debate because there were senators who wanted to speak about the amendment but who weren’t in the room. She was so frightened during the tirade that she “just froze,” she said in an interview.

Sen. Raymonde Saint-Germain looks into the Main Hall at the Senate of Canada Building, formerly the Government Conference Centre, is shown in Ottawa.
Sen. Raymonde Saint-Germain looks into the Main Hall at the Senate of Canada Building in Ottawa. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Plett then turned his wrath on the Speaker, arguing Clement had been recognized ahead of other senators who were standing and waiting to speak to the bill.

Saint-Germain rose on a point of privilege on Tuesday regarding the incident, arguing her privileges as a senator had been breached. Clement supported the assertion.

Saint-Germain and Clement also said some senators shared a social media post that they believe was the impetus for a barrage of hateful phone calls, including one that compelled Clement to leave her home on the advice of police.

Plett said Thursday he did not agree it was a point of privilege because no senators were prevented from exercising their rights to speak or vote in the chamber as a result of the events.

“What happened in this chamber on Nov. 9 and what some senators did on social media, offensive as they may be, is not covered by privilege,” he said.

Conservative House Leader Andrew Scheer posted Clement’s photo and contact information, along with the details of Sen. Chantal Petitclerc, on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. The post urged people to call them to ask why they were shutting down debate.

This all happened as furor over the carbon pricing bill brought the temperature up in the Senate.

The bill was introduced by Conservative MP Ben Lobb in 2022 and passed the House of Commons earlier this year with support from all parties except the Liberals.

The legislation would extend carbon-price exemptions for at least eight years to propane and natural gas used by farmers to heat buildings and dry grain. After the final stage of debate in the Senate concludes, if the bill does not get amended, it is one vote away from becoming law.

Conservatives push bill after Liberal carbon tax carve out

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, who is pledging to “axe” the carbon price if elected prime minister, launched a campaign to get the bill passed following the Liberals’ decision last month to exempt heating oil from carbon pricing for three years.

The Liberals say that move was designed to give people more time and money to replace oil furnaces with electric heat pumps.

Conservatives, including Plett, have accused senators, including Clement, of conspiring with the Liberal cabinet to kill the bill, which they deny.

They say if the Senate amends the bill, it has to go back to the House of Commons for another vote, and the government could prevent that vote from happening.

On Wednesday, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault was in the Senate to answer questions from senators.

Plett, who is the leader of the Conservatives in the Senate, pushed Guilbeault on the bill and questioned the intent behind his calls to about a half-dozen senators. Guilbeault said he is just providing the government’s position and denied pressuring them to vote against it.

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