I guess I should get my two cents worth in about the February 19 Charlottetown, P.E.I. airport incident in which junior federal minister Helena Guergis is reported to have acted like a petulant child. The question now seems to be whether the minister of state for the status of women gets to keep her cabinet job.
Here is what is reported to have happened:
Only minutes before her scheduled takeoff time, Guergis arrived at the airport, and, as is usual, she was asked by airport security to remove her footwear. After doing so, however, Guergis slammed her boots into the bin security personnel had provided and then is reported to have said to an airport staff member: “Happy f ---ing birthday to me. I guess I’m stuck on this hellhole.”
Guergis also apparently attempted to pry open the door that separates the pre-board screening room from the boarding area. And when reminded that passengers are usually asked to arrive two hours prior to boarding, Guergis allegedly shouted back:
“I don’t need to be lectured about flight time by you. I’ve been down here working my ass off for you people.”
And here’s what she had to say six days after the fact:
“On Feb. 19, I was rushing to catch a flight at Charlottetown airport and spoke emotionally to some staff members. Regardless of my workload and personal circumstances, it was not appropriate and I apologize to airport and Air Canada staff.”
First let me say that I’m surprised that a minister of state is forced to undergo the same level of screening as the average passenger must. Surely there is a way that such high-profile travelers do not have to be repetitively screened before boarding each and every airplane on which they travel. But Ms. Guergis is a member of the very government that makes the rules so she’s as much to blame as anyone for the inconvenience, and far more to blame than the workers for whom she showed such contempt.
Having said that, Minister Guergis’s behaviour was appalling and her apology underwhelming. But should she lose her cabinet post because of what was, after all, only a single incident for which she has apologized—late and mealy-mouthed though it was? I believe she should.
Under what standard of behaviour could she be allowed to retain her cabinet job? I can’t think of one.
First, she screamed obscenities at and showed contempt for airport staff in a public setting. This alone is unacceptable behaviour by a cabinet minister, even a junior one.
Secondly, she reportedly broke security by trying to force her way through a locked security door designed to protect travelers at the airport. This should have been sufficient to have had her barred from boarding the airplane—it certainly would have been for the average traveler.
Thirdly, she apparently referred to Charlottetown, P.E.I. as a “hellhole,” thereby publicly insulting the entire population of one of our provinces. This behaviour is beyond the pale.
And how does she apologize? She cowardly plays down her obnoxious behaviour claiming that she “spoke emotionally.” That’s it. No apology to the people of Prince Edward Island, no apology to her constituents, no apology to the people of Canada. And it took her six days to address the issue.
Frankly, I’m tired of these insincere, mealy-mouthed apologies we hear from politicians. Usually, the only thing they are really sorry about is getting caught and having to face the music. But, if one is going to apologize, then show some character. Truthfully acknowledge the offending incident and do it quickly. Don’t hold off hoping the affair will blow over.
Do the right thing minister: resign from cabinet. Why keep a job that requires you to work on your birthday—in a hellhole at that? Leave such drudgery to us mere humans.
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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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