I’m hearing from lots of angry Conservative supporters who claim the Speaker of the House of Commons has banned the term “Justinflation.” There is even a Canadian Press story out saying the term is now verboten in the Commons.
That’s not really true and it all comes down to how MPs say the word, or words, and where they put the emphasis.
Calling Canada’s inflation problem “Justinflation” has been a mainstay for Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre for the last year. He always says it in the House as “Just…inflation” in a way that recognizes they are two words but also ties them together.
The reason this matters is that the rules of the House of Commons state that when MPs are speaking, they cannot refer to other members by name, they are required to use their titles. Thus we have the prime minister, the leader of the opposition or the member for Thornhill.
The member for Thornhill, Melissa Lantsman, was one of the MPs who used the term “Justinflation” this past week and was cautioned by the Speaker. Lantsman said there was a “40-year high in Justin flation” when she was asking the government a question.
She put the emphasis on Justin, which of course is the prime minister’s name and therefore not allowed. Yet when Speaker Anthony Rota rose to issue his caution, he never told Lantsman or any other MPs that they couldn’t use the term.
“I just want to remind the honorable members that you can’t do indirectly what you can’t do directly. Maybe if you are saying something, maybe just insert the pause where it’s supposed to be,” Rota said Wednesday.
Silly as all of this might sound, there are rules about language in the House and those rules must be followed. In addition to banning the use of personal names, MPs also can’t refer to one another as a liar, that’s considered unparliamentary language. Yet MPs find ways around that by accusing each other of being “unfamiliar with the truth” or other such euphemisms.
That’s what Poilievre is doing here, he’s skirting the rules by pronouncing “Just-inflation” correctly, with a pause that follows the rules but makes his point – that Justin Trudeau is to blame for inflation.
The tactic has clearly irritated the Liberals.
As the Canadian Press article points out, the governing party has been complaining about this for months. Though last December, to great howls of delight, Trudeau did use the phrase when asked repeated questions about inflation and the pressures on Canadian family budgets just before Christmas.
“They play word games. We are focused on delivering on housing, child care and support that Canadians need, while the Conservatives play cheap political games,” Trudeau said in the Commons as Conservatives cheered after he uttered the words “just inflation” twice during his answer.
This is about more than word games in the House of Commons. The Conservatives are rightly trying to tie the economic policies of the Trudeau Liberals to the inflation Canadians are dealing with. While the Liberals can rightly claim inflation is a global problem, they aren’t telling the truth when they say that their policies haven’t played a role in making things worse.
Despite the cautions from the Speaker, we are going to continue to hear Conservative members call this what it is, “Justinflation,” we’ll just hear them…. pause, and perhaps annunciate a bit better in coming days.