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Canadian Lawmaker Uses 'Tight Underwear' Excuse To Explain Absence

A member of Canada's House of Commons has earned laughs and toasts from his colleagues, after he blamed his absence during a vote on tight underwear that makes him uncomfortable.

MP Pat Martin of Winnipeg Centre gave the explanation to foil an attempt to have his vote thrown out because, contrary to parliamentary rules, he had left his seat during the voting process.

"I can blame it on a sale that was down at the Hudson's Bay [store]," Martin announced. "They had men's underwear on for half price. I bought a bunch that was clearly too small for me. I find it difficult to sit for any length of time, Mr. Speaker."

Maintaining a deadpan delivery even as howls of laughter began, Martin added, "I apologize if it was necessary for me to leave my seat briefly, but I did not mean to forfeit my right to vote."

Applause broke out as Martin sat back down. Several of his colleagues raised glasses of water in his direction.

The incident touched off a round of jokes on Twitter. Our friends at the CBC have collected some of the best comments.

"How do I deal with that?" the presiding officer, Deputy Speaker Joe Comartin, asked after Martin stood and delivered his response. After a short interval, Comartin drew more laughs when he announced, "I have no briefing on this type of a motion."

Recounting the events, Comartin acknowledged that Martin had left his seat and that he had instructed the member to return to his chair.

"I didn't understand the explanation at the time, that he subsequently gave," he added. "Can't say I really understand it at this point."

In the end, Comartin ruled that Martin's vote would stand.

When Martin spoke to the CBC about the incident later Thursday, he suggested that his story wasn't entirely serious, and that he was trying to quash what he called an "overreaction" by a member of a rival party.

"I believe that his point of order was tongue-in-cheek and it warranted a cheeky response," Martin said.

While he admitted that a half-off sale is like "catnip to a Winnipegger," the lawmaker also wondered whether "a lot of the grumpiness in the House of Commons might be traced to the fact that MPs are buying one size too small in their knickers."

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.