Thursday, March 18, 2010

Move over, Helena Guergis: Another Conservative minister has an airport meltdown. With tequila!

You know how they say truth is stranger than fiction? Well, if you told me that, after Hurricane Helena Guergis' airport meltdown in PEI, where she berated airport security staff, threw her boots, tried to break through a security door and called the province a hell hole, that we'd have another Conservative minister would have an airport blow-up, I wouldn't believe you.

And if you told me it would involve a bottle of tequila, I'd say you're smoking something that Stephen Harper would definitely not approve of.

Veterans Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn caused a fuss when airport security stopped him from carrying a bottle of tequila onto a plane in Ottawa, just fours days after Helena Guergis berated airport employees in P.E.I., CTV News has learned.

Blackburn wanted to bypass a rule that all Canadians must follow: You cannot pack containers filled with more than 100 millilitres of liquid.

When security at the Ottawa airport told Blackburn he would have to give up his bottle of tequila, sources say he asked that the bottle be kept for him. When security refused, he demanded that they empty the bottle in his presence.

Sources told CTV News the argument became so heated, security almost called the police.
Apparently, Blackburn never apologized and never told the PMO, who I'm sure were thrilled to hear about it.

Here's a "senior government official" doing some sort of damage-controlling spin:
"The minister wasn't pleased by the fact he had to leave the bottle of alcohol behind. He was upset that they wouldn't destroy it in front of him," the official said, on condition of anonymity. "He remained polite. He didn't pull a Helena apparently."
Yes, that is apparently a real quote, apparently from a real senior Conservative official, presumably in the PMO. I'm sorry, Helena. Some people claim that there's a woman to blame. But I know ... it's his own damned fault.

And here's my favourite line from the story:
The PMO says Prime Minister Stephen Harper will issue an edict to his ministers, reminding them that they're not above the law.
Yes, the PMO really said Harper would remind his ministers they have to follow the law. And not just the big ones, but all the stupid little ones too, just like the regular Tim Horton's folks. They are, however, entitled to their entitlements.

Let them eat apple fritters!

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Ted Betts said...

Too funny.

Bad bad week for the Conservatives.

But if Harper is telling his Ministers to comply with the law, who is telling him that he has too as well?

deBeauxOs said...

Aw, come on. We're talking serious hardship and deprivation here. Blackburn was probably flying on an ultra-important mission to a destination where tequila is NOT available.

Now, where in the world would that particular brand of tequila that Blackburn drinks not be available?

Errr ... a Muslim country?

Issachar said...

I'm of two minds here. Obviously while an MP is clearly not intending to blow up a plane, MP's shouldn't be able to bypass the rules if only for the sake of appearances. On the other hand, the rules against liquids are mere security theatre and do not deserve any respect whatsoever.

The security guards pretending to conduct security and make travel safer didn't invent the rules, but at what point do you say "these people are the enforcers of a useless, expensive and onerous pretense for security"?

Jeff Jedras said...

Laws are laws, even the stupid ones, and they apply to everyone. The security officials are just doing their jobs: enforcing the rules I agree, are theatre.

But you know who makes those rules? The freakin' federal government, of which Blackburn and Guergis are senior members. If we have to abide by the idiot rules they pass, then so do they.

Maybe seeing how their rules are so stupid will spur them to argue for change. I suspect, however, that they won't be at the cabinet table much longer at this rate.

Issachar said...

Indeed. There's also no excuse for being nasty to the security people, even if they're just play-acting at security.

Still, if all we do is get after the MP for trying to bypass the rules, we lend legitimacy to the rules by our silence. The more incidents like this one that the better.

Next up, I'd like to see Mr. Ignatieff try to walk on the plane with a few large bottles of coca-cola then spend a little time grilling the government on how they defend ignoring real safety concerns and focusing on security theatre. In fact, I'd like to see EVERY opposition MP do this.

Ted Betts said...

Not only are "laws laws" Jeff, but this is the party that wants to ram down our throat their "tough on crime", "tight on security" BS, which clearly - Guergis, Jaffer, Blackburn - is too tough and tight for them.

Another example of "Conservatives: Our principles (and laws) don't apply to us."

CanadianSense said...

Were either MP refused boarding due to their behaviour or level of intoxication?

Can anyone rember a Senior Liberal MP who was?

Any other MP ever refused in boarding a plane?

RuralSandi said...

Oh CanadianNonsense - we all know about that - and we know he was intoxicate - not attacking staff.

Brian Busby said...

A senior Liberal MP intoxicated at an airport? Yep, I've heard that one before.

And I've seen more than a few similarly tipsy people in airports.

But what I've never encountered is anyone refusing the requests of security officers, banging on windows or trying to force open locked security doors.

Jeff Jedras said...


Still, if all we do is get after the MP for trying to bypass the rules, we lend legitimacy to the rules by our silence.

I disagree. I think if they're going to make stupid rules, they should have to abide by them just like the rest of us. If there is a positive, it's that someone like Blackburn or Guergis is, unlike you or me, in a position to influence making the rules less stupid. So maybe being confronted first-hand with the stupidity will snap them to action.

Ted Betts said...

More than that Jeff.

Most of these new security rules and tighter enforcement of prior rules, have come in under the Conservatives.

More to the point. It would be completely irresponsible for a government minister or an MP to flaunt or fight the laws/rules in order to send a message. They have mouths and they can speak in Parliament. The message sent by flaunting rules is that we should all be doing that with whatever law or rule we feel is stupid.

Issachar said...

I should have been more clear. I should have said that I hope there are more incidents that drive home to MP's how stupid the rules actually are and thus give them some incentive to change them.

Blaming this on the Conservatives is of course correct since they're the government, but it's also short-sighted. EVERY western government has responded to terrorist threats by implementing useless security theatre rules and deploying expensive technology to defend against movie plot threats. This is why I'd be very happy to see the Liberals take the lead on this one. I don't see any reason to believe that the Liberals wouldn't be implemented useless rules if they were the government because every other western government has done exactly that regardless of which political party is in power.

It's a "politician" problem more than just a "Conservative" problem. The upshot is that it's an easy way for the Liberals to demonstrate that they're not "just another set of politicians", and I think that's what we really want. Certainly I think it's why Obama's "Hope" campaign resonated so well.

Ted Betts said...


Point taken but, in this case, I actually don't think banning someone from taking a full bottle of tequila on the plan is so stupid.

On the security front, I think the idea of limiting the amount of liquid sounds good but is really silly. It is just as easy to create an explosive out of 300 ml as it is out 1 litre if you have the right chemicals so the rule is pointless.

But allowing anyone to take on that much alcohol or that much (tongue in cheek here) weapons grade glass for a flight is just asking for problems.

Issachar said...


I actually don't think banning someone from taking a full bottle of tequila on the plan is so stupid.

Not at all. With the manhandling that checked luggage goes through putting a duty free bottle in your checked luggage is just rolling the dice.

Issachar said...

Leaving aside Ms. Guergis' meltdown, does anyone think that Mr. Blackburn's demand that they pour the bottle out was that unreasonable? It's rather insulting obviously, but is it unreasonable? The security staff pour out liquids all the time, some of which may smell.

Mtn Goat said...

I just find this all too amusing. Say what you like, we live in a pseudo-democracy, perhaps even an oligarchy. Governments have been long telling us what's best for us while living in a different world themselves. Try to understand the frustration of these two MPs when they were forced to acknowledge that they hadn't really "arrived" as members of the upper echelon but were still just members of the hoi polloi along with the rest of us poor saps. All together, with feeling: "awwwwwwwww".