October 14, 2016 - 5:19 AM
WINNIPEG - A Manitoba cabinet minister says she was told to take her pants off in the middle of question period by a male NDP opponent, but the NDP are firmly denying the accusation.
Rochelle Squires, the minister for sport, culture and heritage, filed a complaint Thursday with the legislature Speaker over opposition heckling in the chamber a week earlier.
She said that at one point, New Democrat member Rob Altemeyer told her "take your pants off," as she fielded a question from another NDP member.
Squires called the remarks outrageous and insulting, and demanded an apology from Altemeyer.
But Altemeyer denied the allegation and produced an audio recording of the debate.
"My words were 'take a pass on it," Altemeyer said. "My words were referring to this premier and his inability to answer important questions."
The comments were not captured by the official transcript of legislature proceedings and are hard to make out on the audio recording. Altemeyer's voice is faint, in the background and away from live microphones.
The remark came as New Democrat Nahanni Fontaine tried to ask Conservative Premier Brian Pallister a question about appointments to government boards and agencies. Pallister did not field the question — Squires stood up instead.
NDP house leader Jim Maloway said the recording backs up Altemeyer's version of events. He called on Squires to apologize and hinted that the Tories could face legal action.
"Within the house itself, we are privileged in there, and so we cannot be sued. But anything repeated outside is actionable and we will have to take a look ... see what members have said what outside the house."
Speaker Myrna Driedger said she will consider the complaint from Squires and rule at a later date as to whether Altemeyer crossed a line. She also ordered the politicians not to discuss the matter until it is resolved.
Squires said she would obey that order, and refused to answer reporters' questions on the issue.
"I will await (the Speaker's) ruling and then I will happily answer all your questions," she said.
The controversy follows another gender-centered standoff in the legislature last week.
A small number of New Democrats said "shame" as female members of the Tory caucus voted against a bill on sexual harassment at universities and colleges. The NDP members did not direct the remarks at male Tories — only female ones.
Two New Democrats — Andrew Swan and James Allum — later apologized.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016