Liberal backbencher Tom Wappel has come under fire for his refusal to assist a man who lay dying on an Ottawa street corner after being stabbed repeatedly.

Three days ago, Michael Willowbank, a 31 year old artisan and craft maker originally from Vancouver, was attacked, robbed and stabbed on the Sparks Street Mall in Ottawa, a mere 500 feet from Parliament Hill. Willowbank later died in hospital of his injuries.

According to witnesses who were tending to the wounded man, Wappel, who was walking down Sparks Street after a working dinner shortly after the attack occurred, was assisting with the victim and about to call 911 on his cell phone until he noticed an assortment of politically-themed buttons on the wounded man's vest, featuring slogans such as "End Homelessness now!" and "A Woman has a right to choose."

Tom Wappel in full damage control mode

After a brief consultation with an acquaintance of Willowbank, Wappel's demeanor changed abruptly, according to an anonymous onlooker, who claims Wappel sneered at the man and exclaimed, "and to think I almost soiled my hands with this man's blood!"

Despite the protestations and pleas for compassion from the small crowd who by this time had gathered around the wounded man, Wappel ordered a woman believed to be his executive assistant, Mona Lindburgh, to immediately cease feeling for Willowbrook's pulse, before scornfully reprimanding himself for forgetting to check on the man's political affiliation before stopping to help him.

According to Summer Jackman, a friend of Willowbrook's who witnessed the attack, Wappel asked her pointedly why he should do anything to help a "left-wing pinko abortionist," before he and his assistant scurried away from the scene of the attack.

When asked about the issue by NDP MP Svend Robinson in the House of Commons, during yesterday's Question Period, Deputy Prime Minister Herb Gray, stepping in for the Prime Minister, initially dismissed the incident as "an internal matter not relevant to cabinet." However, in a follow-up question from Robinson, Gray defended Wappel's actions, pointing out that the deceased Mr. Willowbrook was not a constituent of Wappel's, so he had no obligation to even stop to help him in the first place.

Gray concluded his response by making a pithy remark about the NDP having a less than significant amount of members in the House of Commons.

Mr. Wappel will be unavailable for comment until 2004, according to Government House Leader Don Boudria.