Liberal MP Greg Fergus Elected New Speaker of the House

The Speaker’s role is to ensure that question period is conducted in a civil manner while defending the right of all MPs to be heard in debate.
Liberal MP Greg Fergus Elected New Speaker of the House
Newly elected Speaker of the House of Commons Greg Fergus is escorted into the House of Commons by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Oct. 3, 2023. (The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick)
Matthew Horwood
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The House of Commons has elected Liberal MP Greg Fergus to be the next Speaker of the House.

“We need to make sure that we treat each other with respect, that we show Canadians the example because there can be no dialogue unless there’s a mutual understanding of respect,” Mr. Fergus said during his acceptance speech on Oct. 3.

“There can be no ability to perceive the arguments to make your points be heard unless we all agreed to extend to each other that sense of respect and decorum. So I’m going to be working hard on this. And I need all of your help to make this happen.”

In keeping with tradition, Mr. Fergus was physically dragged to the chair by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre. The tradition of feigning reluctance to the new role dates back several centuries to the days of the British parliament, where the Speaker’s function was to express the opinions of the House of Commons to the monarch, and they risked execution if the messages were negative.

Speaking from the chair, Mr. Fergus said “The Speaker, to use the old hockey analogy, is nothing more than a referee.”

“And if there’s one thing I know, it’s that nobody pays good money to go see the referee. They go to see the stars: you,” he told the MPs.

Mr. Fergus’ role will entail ensuring that question period is conducted in a civil manner and defends the right of all MPs to be heard in debate, requiring an MP to apologize or ordering an MP to leave the chamber if necessary. The Speaker does not participate in debates and only votes in case of a tie.
Six other candidates ran for the position of speaker: Liberal MPs Sean Casey, Stéphane Lauzon, Alexandra Mendès, and Peter Schiefke, New Democrat MP Carol Hughes, and Green Party co-leader Elizabeth May.
The previous House Speaker Anthony Rota saw his position come to an abrupt end on Sept. 26, following an incident the previous week where he gave tribute to a former member of a Nazi military unit in Parliament.
The Nazi unit veteran, Yaroslav Hunka, had previously fought with the 4th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, a military wing of the Nazi Party. While Mr. Rota apologized for the incident shortly after becoming aware of the mistake, he was forced to resign. Mr. Rota had served as Speaker since 2019.

Congratulatory Remarks

The prime minister congratulated Mr. Fergus, saying he hoped the Liberal MP would use his new role to help MPs “behave to the highest standards.”

“The House of Commons is a place for debating ideas. It’s normal that we don’t always agree with our colleagues. Mr. Speaker, we elected you to help us to be civil in our debates and to remind us that we are all here for the same reason, which is to serve Canadians,” he said.

Mr. Poilievre congratulated Mr. Fergus and said he knew he had “strong enough arms for the job because I had the difficult task of dragging you all the way to that chair.” The Conservative leader added that it was “an incredible achievement to serve in the role that Parliament has been bestowed upon you.”

New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh said he hoped Mr. Fergus would be able to “restore the honour of this chamber,” saying there was increased division and polarization in Canadian politics. Mr. Singh said he at times felt “embarrassed” that children in the viewing gallery would see parliamentarians acting in an unruly manner.

“I’m embarrassed sometimes kids are watching people yelling out outlandish things, acting as if it’s cool to be yelling at someone while they’re speaking. And I hope that you can restore some of that decorum,” he said.

Ethics Violation

Back in February 2023, Mr. Fergus violated the Conflict of Interest Act when he wrote a letter of support for a television channel’s application to the CRTC for mandatory carriage, something that parliamentary secretaries and cabinet ministers cannot do.

Mr. Fergus subsequently apologized for the “unintentional error” and vowed to “redouble my efforts to be more diligent in the future to ensure my obligations under the act are fully met.”

Mr. Fergus’ new position comes with several perks, such as an additional $92,800 on top of his $194,600 base salary as an MP, a $1,000 car allowance, a new apartment on Parliament Hill, and an official country residence in Quebec’s Gatineau Hill. The Speaker also has a yearly office budget of $1.26 million, according to CBC News.
The speaker was elected by a written secret ranked ballot, where MPs listed the candidates in order of preference. If there is no winner on the first ballot, the last-place candidate will be dropped and their votes redistributed until someone obtains a majority.