`Hot flash' joke ignites MPPs

Oct. 27, 2004


A rookie Liberal backbencher is taking heat from his own government after joking that a rival MPP had menopausal "hot flashes" in the Ontario Legislature.


Shafiq Qaadri (Etobicoke North), a family physician, yesterday suggested that heckling by New Democrat MPP Marilyn Churley (Toronto-Danforth), was a side effect of being a middle-aged woman.


"Okay, the hot flash is over," said Qaadri, 41, signalling to Speaker Alvin Curling that the House could come to order.


When an enraged Churley, 56, demanded he apologize for the remark, the Liberal MPP added insult to injury.


"Mr. Speaker, I believe you said I will give the member opportunity to vent. I was speculating on the cause," he said, provoking chants of "shame" from New Democrats and Conservatives.


In an extraordinary scene, even Qaadri's own Liberal colleagues pounced on his remark.


Children and Youth Services Minister Marie Bountrogianni leapt from her seat and stormed over to Liberal House Leader Dwight Duncan telling him that "this should be handled."


A visibly angry Duncan then made a beeline for Qaadri's seat and ordered him to apologize.


The MPP sheepishly went over to Churley, sat down beside her and tried to smooth things over, but that exacerbated the situation.


"He put his hand on my arm and made things worse by saying: `I'm sorry, but you have to understand I'm a doctor and my mother is a gynaecologist so we understand these things,'" said Churley, who suggested Qaadri needs "sensitivity training."


Finally, the contrite MPP read an apology apparently prepared with input from Premier Dalton McGuinty's office.


"What I said was wrong, inappropriate and beneath the dignity of this assembly," he told the House. Qaadri was later frog-marched out of the chamber by senior McGuinty aides to face a throng of reporters.


"I think I probably didn't do such a good job on both the initial heckle as well as on the apology and so probably I'd like to do a double apology to the MPP for Toronto-Danforth," he said, blaming "temporary insensitivity."


Bountrogianni, 47, who was Qaadri's boss until he was recently dumped as her parliamentary assistant, described his original remarks as "offensive."