A brief history of the most explosive f-bombs in Canadian politics
This week’s f-bomb, dropped by Senator Nancy Ruth, might have raised a few eyebrows, but public representatives using the f-word is nothing new. Beginning with the infamous Pierre Trudeau “fuddle duddle” incident, the granddaddy of swear words seems to crop up every time a politician is overtired, overworked, angry, drunk or all of the above. For your reading pleasure, our collection of the most explosive f-bombs in Canadian politics. View the slide show now >>
The granddaddy of all of Canada’s political cursing is Pierre Trudeau’s fuddle duddle incident in 1971, which set a precedent for both swearing in the House of Commons and later denying it (the event is listed in the Wikipedia f-word entry). After having mouthed “fuck off” at two MPs, Trudeau said he simply moved his lips “in a gesture of derision,” without mouthing anything specific. When asked by a reporter what his thoughts were when he was moving his lips, the PM retorted, “What is the nature of your thoughts…when you say fuddle duddle?”
At a city council meeting in 1995, Mel Lastman, then the mayor of North York, became confused by the proceedings. When Councillor Brian Harrison loudly rebuked the mayor for failing to simply read his agenda, Lastman told Harrison to go fuck himself. The remarks were picked up by the internal public address system and were audible throughout the council chamber. Insert Bad Boy joke here.
Scarborough Councillor Mike Tzekas never made secret his loathing of rival Councillor Norm Kelly, once describing Kelly as an albatross around his neck. But when the two came to blows in 1998 over how to develop an east-end hydro corridor, Tzekas threatened Kelly with violence: “I’ll kick your fucking ass right now; I’ll drop you in front of your wife.” Providence can be unkind, however: the two had to face off in an election when their respective wards merged in the 2000 municipal elections. Kelly won the seat hands down.
When Liberals heckled Alliance MP Cheryl Gallant as she tried to pose a question on Afghan soldier deployment, the famously bombastic MP mouthed “fuck you” at the opposition across the aisle. Although Gallant quickly offered a formal apology, she later clarified that what she mouthed was actually “feel good.” Right, and Trudeau was really thinking “fuddle duddle.”
According to Paul Wells’s book Right Side Up, Stephen Harper allegedly went mental on his aides during the 2004 election campaign: “I can’t fucking believe there’s no fucking script for tomorrow. I want some fucking answers! And I want a fucking script!” he then paused. “I also want to know why nothing ever happens unless I use the word ‘fuck’!” It’s ironic, then, that he has since changed his tune to something like “things would happen if I stopped using the word ‘prorogation.’”
Thanks to YouTube and the documentary Hogtown: The Politics of Policing, the John Barber vs. Rob Ford shouting match at city hall has become one of Toronto’s most notorious journalist-politician arguments. While trying to force an answer out of Ford, Barber let slip, “Answer the question, you fat fuck.” Rather than being offended, however, a giddy Ford paired with a riled-up Giorgio Mammoliti to chase the journalist from the building, yelling, “Why did you do it?” For some, however, the answer is obvious.
Although most politicians seem to let the f-bombs fly only when they are extremely drunk, tired or in the midst of some sort psychotic episode, Brian Mulroney let one drop in an undeniably deliberate manner in 2005. After his one-time friend Peter Newman released his bridge-burning tell-all about the former PM, Mulroney gave a video address to close the annual Press Gallery dinner in Ottawa. The retired politician’s speech was short but sharp: “Peter Newman, go fuck yourself” was the only line, except for salutations and thanks to the audience. Too bad the Karlheinz Schreiber affair wasn’t nearly as brief.
Sure, Rob Ford has said a lot of ridiculous things over the years (we’re almost used to it), but in 2006 he added excessive alcohol consumption to his already big mouth, resulting in ejection from a Leafs game for calling fans “communist bastards” and sarcastically yelling, “Green party fucking rules.” And George Smitherman is the one we call “furious”?
Whitby-Oshawa MPP Christine Elliott undeniably took the high road after losing the provincial Conservative leadership race to Tim Hudak; she was the only one of his three adversaries to show up for his victory party at a downtown pub. Elliott should have left her husband, federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, at home, however; he reportedly took the opportunity to attack Ernie Hardeman, telling the Tory MPP to “fuck off” for not supporting his wife’s campaign.
Although it’s easy and sometimes popular for the feds to hate Toronto, Transport Minister John Baird cut straight to the chase when he said the city “should fuck off,” after Mayor David Miller shirked proper procedure when applying for infrastructure stimulus money—evidently the only municipal leader in the country, out of over 700, who didn’t follow the rules. Baird’s comments didn’t draw much ire from Torontonians. His statement confirmed what we already knew: the Tories hate Toronto, and the Transit City plan should be renamed Transit Pity.
Forty-one is not going to be an age that Helena Guergis remembers fondly. In addition to having her name dragged through the mud thanks to her scandal-plagued husband—not to mention losing the Tory nomination in her Ontario riding—she spent her birthday having a meltdown in P.E.I.’s Charlottetown airport. After Guergis arrived late for a flight to Montreal, she berated airport security guards, called the province a “hellhole” and, like an angst-filled teenager, wished herself a “happy fucking birthday.”
While debating such intractable issues as health care funding and foreign policy at a Liberal party “deep thinkers” summit in March of this year, pundits could agree on only one thing: the future looks grim. Halfway through one debate, former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna whispered to former prime minister Paul Martin, “We’re fucked.” To which Martin offered nothing less than, “The whole world is fucked.” We guess that in relative terms, then, things are all right.
…which brings us to our latest potty-mouthed politico. Old people swearing can be particularly creepy, especially if they look a little bit like Susan Boyle. And when 68-year-old Nancy Ruth told international aid groups to “shut the fuck up” on the Canadian government’s refusal to fund abortions as any part of its foreign aid, Ruth forever shattered our illusion that those of the pre-boomer generation are all Betty White sugar-and-spice.