Speaker of the House of Commons
Président de la Chambre des communes
Incumbent
Greg Fergus
since October 3, 2023
House of Commons of Canada
StyleThe Honourable (while in office)
Mr. Speaker (in the Commons)
Member ofParliament
ResidenceThe Farm
AppointerElected by the members of the House of Commons
Term lengthElected at the start of each Parliament
Inaugural holderJames Cockburn
SalaryCA$274,500
WebsiteOfficial website

The speaker of the House of Commons (French: président de la Chambre des communes) is the presiding officer of the lower house of the Parliament of Canada. A member of Parliament (MP), they are elected at the beginning of each new parliament by fellow MPs. The speaker's role in presiding over Canada's House of Commons is similar to that of speakers elsewhere in other countries that use the Westminster system.

The 38th Speaker of the House of Commons is Greg Fergus, who assumed the role on October 3, 2023, following the resignation of the 37th speaker, Anthony Rota. He is the first person of colour to be elected speaker. The speaker with the longest tenure is Peter Milliken who was elected for four consecutive terms lasting 10 years, 124 days.

Role

In Canada it is the speaker's responsibility to manage the House of Commons and supervise its staff. It is also the speaker's duty to act as a liaison with the Senate and the Crown. They are to rule over the house and have the government answer questions during the question period as well as keep decorum with the house. The speaker receives a salary of CA$274,500 ($185,800 as an MP in addition to $88,700 as speaker)[1] and has use of a small apartment, in the House of Commons, and an official residence, The Farm, an estate located at Kingsmere in Gatineau Park, Quebec, across the river from Ottawa.[2][3][4][5] for the management of the House of Commons campus, and the 2,000 individuals who work there.[3] In 2015 the speaker managed a budget of $414 million.

Along with the Senate speaker, the speaker of the House is responsible for the Parliamentary Protective Service, which provides security to Parliament Hill with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).[6]

The term "speaker" originates from the British parliamentary tradition. The French term now used in Canada is président (president, chairperson, or presiding officer); the term orateur, a calque (literal translation) of "speaker" and formerly the term used in France for the Speaker of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, was used until the early 1980s.[7]

The speaker and their deputies preside over debates of the House of Commons, invite particular members to speak, maintain order and decorum (including reproving members who misbehave), and make rulings on points of order and points of privilege. By parliamentary rule and tradition, all statements in the House are addressed to the speaker, never to another member. For example, one does not say, "Prime Minister, will you explain to this House...", or "Thank you for the question." Instead, one would say, "Mr. Speaker, will the Prime Minister explain to this House..." or "Madam Speaker, I thank the honourable member for her question." Members are not allowed to speak while the speaker is speaking, and must sit down when the speaker rises to speak.

By convention, speakers are normally addressed in Parliament as "Mr. Speaker" (monsieur le président) for a man, and "Madam Speaker" (madame la présidente) for a woman; the speaker has also been addressed using the Inuktitut term ᐅᖃᖅᑎᑦᑎᔨ (Uqaqtittiji).[8][9] Deputies of the speaker who are presiding at a given time are also addressed as "Mr./Madam Speaker."

Election

The chamber of the House of Commons; the Speaker's chair is front and centre in the room.
Plaque at the western entrance of the Centre Block of Parliament Hill

While the Constitution requires that the speaker be elected by the House of Commons, traditionally this amounted to the rubber-stamp approval of an MP nominated by the prime minister.[10] However, in 1986 this was changed and they are now selected by secret ballot. The speaker remains a sitting MP, but only votes on matters in the case of a tie.

All MPs except for Cabinet ministers and party leaders are eligible to run for speaker. Any MP who does not wish to put their name forward must issue a letter withdrawing from the ballot by the day before the vote. All MPs who do not remove their name from the ballot as of 6pm the day before the election are listed as candidates on the ballot and are allowed a five-minute speech to persuade their colleagues as to why they should be elected.

The dean of the House supervises the election of the speaker. The current dean is Louis Plamondon, who is also the longest continuously serving MP who is not in Cabinet.

All candidates who receive less than 5% of the vote are removed from the ballot. If no candidate received less than 5% of the vote then the MP with the fewest vote drops off. This continues, with a one-hour break between ballots, until one candidate receives more than 50% of the vote. In the event of a tie on the final ballot, the ballot is taken again. This happened once, in 1993, when Gilbert Parent won over Jean-Robert Gauthier.[11]

The winner is escorted to the speaker's chair by the prime minister and leader of the Official Opposition. The newly elected speaker, by tradition, feigns reluctance as they are "dragged" to the chair[12] in a practice dating from the days when British speakers risked execution if the news they reported to the king was displeasing.[13]

On June 2, 2011, Conservative Andrew Scheer (Regina—Qu'Appelle) was elected speaker, defeating the following MPs over the course of six ballots: New Democrat Denise Savoie (Victoria) and Conservatives Dean Allison (Niagara West—Glanbrook), Barry Devolin (Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock), Ed Holder (London West), Lee Richardson (Calgary Centre), Bruce Stanton (Simcoe North), and Merv Tweed (Brandon—Souris). At the age of 32 years, 13 days, Scheer was the youngest Speaker in Canadian history.

On December 2, 2015, Liberal Geoff Regan was elected speaker by members of the 42nd Parliament over fellow Liberal candidates Denis Paradis, Yasmin Ratansi and Conservative Bruce Stanton.[14] He was the first speaker from Atlantic Canada or Nova Scotia in nearly a hundred years[15] since Edgar Nelson Rhodes in 1922.

Anthony Rota was elected as 37th speaker on December 5, 2019, by winning a ranked ballot between himself, Joël Godin, Carol Hughes, Geoff Regan (the speaker during the previous Parliament), and Bruce Stanton.[16] Following Rota's win, the Conservatives said that he had them to thank for his new election, after they decided in a Conservative caucus meeting to unseat Regan as a show of strength to the Liberal minority government that had obtained from the election that October 21. They did so by ranking Regan lower on the ranked ballot.[17][18]

Opposition speakers

The speaker usually comes from among MPs of the governing party. But because they cannot vote unless their vote would break a tie and by convention must vote to maintain the status quo (which includes voting confidence in the government), a minority government can slightly weaken the opposition's power by electing an opposition speaker.

Speakers have been elected from opposition parties during the 1926 tenure of Arthur Meighen's Conservative ministry, the 1979 ministry of Progressive Conservative Joe Clark, and Stephen Harper's Conservative Ministry from 2006 to 2011. In the 39th Parliament, opposition members Peter Milliken, Diane Marleau, and Marcel Proulx ran for speaker. In 1957, when John Diefenbaker took power with a minority Progressive Conservative government, he offered the speaker's chair to Stanley Knowles of the opposition Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (the precursor to the New Democratic Party, or NDP) who declined. So far, every speaker from an opposition party has been a Liberal. Louis Plamondon, who became interim speaker on September 28, 2023 following the resignation of Anthony Rota and will serve until the election of a new speaker in early October, is a member of the Bloc Québécois.

Impartiality

The speaker is required to perform their office impartially, but does not resign from their party membership upon taking office, as is done in the United Kingdom. Speaker Lucien Lamoureux, the 27th holder, decided to follow the custom of the Speaker of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom and ran in the 1968 election as an independent. Both the Liberal Party and the Progressive Conservative Party agreed not to run candidates against him. The New Democratic Party, however, declined to withdraw their candidate. Lamoureux was re-elected and continued to serve as speaker. However, in the 1972 election, the opposition parties did not come to an agreement and ran candidates against him. Lamoureux was again returned but no subsequent speakers have repeated his attempt to run as an independent. The opposition parties may have chosen not to follow the 1968 precedent because of how close the election was: it produced a Liberal minority government with just two more seats than the Conservatives.

Tie-breaking votes

On May 19, 2005, Speaker Peter Milliken was required to cast the tie-breaking vote during a confidence measure for the first time in Canadian history. Faced with the defeat of Paul Martin's minority government, Milliken voted in favour of the NDP budget amendment. Despite popular belief that the speaker, as a Liberal MP, would automatically support the government, his vote was pre-determined by other factors. As speaker, Milliken's vote must be cast to allow the continuation of debate, or to maintain the status quo, a reflection of Speaker Denison's rule practiced in the British House of Commons. Thus, the speaker voted in favour of second reading, "to allow the House time for further debate so that it can make its own decision at some future time."[19] The bill would later pass third reading without the need for Milliken's vote.

Speakers have only needed to vote in order to break a tie 11 times in Canadian parliamentary history. Milliken did so on five occasions, almost more than all previous speakers combined.[20]

Deputy speaker

In addition to the speaker, a deputy speaker, also known as the Chair of Committees (of the whole), is elected at the beginning of each parliament to act in place of the speaker when the latter is unavailable. Under the Standing Orders, the speaker, after consulting with each of the party leaders, nominates a candidate for deputy speaker to the House, which then votes on that nomination. The deputy speaker presides over daily sessions of the House when the speaker is not in the chair. The deputy speaker also chairs the House when it sits as a Committee of the Whole. Other presiding officers, the deputy chair of committees and the assistant deputy chair of committees, are chosen each session to occupy the chair when the speaker and deputy speaker are not available. The deputy speaker and the other presiding officers are members of the Panel of Chairs, and can therefore be selected by the speaker to chair legislative committees. Like the speaker, the deputy speaker has a role in administering the House.[21]

The deputy speaker of the 44th Canadian Parliament was Chris d'Entremont (Conservative); and the assistant deputy speaker was Carol Hughes (NDP).[22]

The Chair of Committees is vested by Subsection 43(1) of the Parliament of Canada Act with full and adequate authority to address matters in the titular Speaker's absence: "Whenever the House of Commons is informed of the unavoidable absence of the Speaker thereof by the Clerk at the table, the Chairman of Committees, if present, shall take the chair and perform the duties and exercise the authority of Speaker in relation to all the proceedings of the House, as Deputy Speaker."[23]

Retirement

Most former speakers retire from Parliament after their tenure as speaker, sometimes after returning to the backbench for a period. Several have been appointed to diplomatic positions, summoned to the Senate, or appointed to a vice-regal position such as lieutenant-governor of a province or, in two cases, governor general of Canada (Roland Michener and Jeanne Sauvé). While several former Cabinet ministers have served as speaker or stood for the position, no former speakers have subsequently been appointed to Cabinet. One speaker, Andrew Scheer, has gone on to assume a front bench position in the House of Commons: Scheer became leader of the Conservative Party of Canada in 2017 and served as leader of the Opposition from 2017 to 2020.

Interim speaker

The resignation of Speaker Anthony Rota on September 27, 2023, led to an unprecedented situation in which there was no Speaker while the House had several sitting days already planned. To give time for the election of a new Speaker to be organized, the House moved on September 27 to name Louis Plamondon of the Bloc Québécois as interim Speaker until the election. He was chosen as interim speaker by virtue of his status as Dean of the House, the longest-serving MP who is not a cabinet member or party leader; the Dean of the House is in any event in charge of presiding over the election of a Speaker at the beginning of a new Parliament. [24]

Honorary Speaker

On March 9, 2016 Liberal MP Mauril Bélanger served as honorary speaker for about an hour to honour his years of service.[25] Speaker Regan resumed his duties for the remainder of the sitting of the House.

Mauril Bélanger had initially been considered a front runner for the post of Speaker the previous year, but had withdrawn due to his being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Bélanger died on August 15, 2016, five months after being named honorary speaker.[25]

Counterparts

The speaker's counterpart in the upper house is the speaker of the Senate of Canada. Canadian provincial and territorial legislatures also have speakers with much the same roles. The position was preceded by the speaker of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada.

List of speakers of the House of Commons

Key:

  Liberal Party of Canada
  Historical conservative parties: Liberal-Conservative, Conservative, Unionist, National Liberal and Conservative, Progressive Conservative
  Conservative Party of Canada
  Bloc Québécois
No. Portrait Name
Electoral district
(Birth–Death)
Term of office Term length Party Parliament
Term start Term end
1 James Cockburn
MP for Northumberland West
(1818–1883)
November 6,
1867
March 5,
1874
6 years, 99 days Conservative 1st
2nd
2 Timothy Anglin
MP for Gloucester
(1822–1896)
March 26,
1874
February 12,
1879
4 years, 323 days Liberal 3rd
3 Joseph-Goderic Blanchet
MP for Lévis
(1829–1890)
February 13,
1879
February 7,
1883
3 years, 359 days Liberal-Conservative 4th
4 George Airey Kirkpatrick
MP for Frontenac
(1841–1899)
February 8,
1883
July 12,
1887
4 years, 154 days Conservative 5th
6th
5 Joseph-Aldric Ouimet
MP for Laval
(1848–1916)
July 13,
1887
July 28,
1891
4 years, 15 days Liberal-Conservative
7th
6 Peter White
MP for Renfrew North
(1838–1906)
July 29,
1891
August 18,
1896
5 years, 21 days Conservative
7 James David Edgar
MP for Ontario West
(1841–1899)
August 19,
1896
July 31,
1899
2 years, 346 days Liberal 8th
8 Thomas Bain
MP for Wentworth South
(1834–1915)
August 1,
1899
February 5,
1901
1 year, 188 days Liberal
9 Louis-Philippe Brodeur
MP for Rouville
(1862–1924)
February 6,
1901
January 18,
1904
2 years, 346 days Liberal 9th
10 Napoléon Belcourt
MP for Ottawa (City of)
(1860–1932)
March 10,
1904
January 10,
1905
306 days Liberal
11 Robert Franklin Sutherland
MP for Essex North
(1859–1922)
January 11,
1905
January 19,
1909
4 years, 8 days Liberal 10th
12 Charles Marcil
MP for Bonaventure
(1860–1937)
January 20,
1909
November 14,
1911
2 years, 298 days Liberal 11th
13 Thomas Simpson Sproule
MP for Grey East
(1843–1917)
November 15,
1911
December 2,
1915
4 years, 17 days Conservative 12th
14 Albert Sévigny
MP for Dorchester
(1881–1961)
January 12,
1916
January 7,
1917
361 days Conservative
15 Edgar Nelson Rhodes
MP for Cumberland
(1877–1942)
January 18,
1917
March 5,
1922
5 years, 46 days Conservative
13th
16 Rodolphe Lemieux
MP for Gaspé
(1866–1937)
March 8,
1922
June 2,
1930
8 years, 86 days Liberal 14th
15th
16th
17 George Black
MP for Yukon
(1873–1965)
September 8,
1930
January 16,
1935
4 years, 130 days Conservative 17th
18 James Langstaff Bowman
MP for Dauphin
(1879–1951)
January 17,
1935
February 5,
1936
1 year, 19 days Conservative
19 Pierre-François Casgrain
MP for Charlevoix—Saguenay
(1886–1950)
February 6,
1936
May 10,
1940
4 years, 94 days Liberal 18th
20 James Allison Glen
MP for Marquette
(1877–1950)
May 16,
1940
September 5,
1945
5 years, 112 days Liberal 19th
21 Gaspard Fauteux
MP for St. Mary
(1898–1963)
September 6,
1945
September 14,
1949
4 years, 69 days Liberal 20th
22 William Ross Macdonald
MP for Brantford
(1891–1976)
September 15,
1949
June 11,
1953
3 years, 269 days Liberal 21st
23 Louis-René Beaudoin
MP for Vaudreuil—Soulanges
(1912–1970)
November 12,
1953
October 13,
1957
3 years, 335 days Liberal 22nd
24 Roland Michener
MP for St. Paul's
(1900–1991)
October 14,
1957
September 26,
1962
4 years, 347 days Progressive Conservative 23rd
24th
25 Marcel Lambert
MP for Edmonton West
(1919–2000)
September 27,
1962
May 15,
1963
230 days Progressive Conservative 25th
26 Alan Macnaughton
MP for Mount Royal
(1903–1999)
May 16,
1963
January 17,
1966
2 years, 246 days Liberal 26th
27 Lucien Lamoureux
MP for Stormont—Dundas
(1920–1998)
January 18,
1966
September 29,
1974
8 years, 253 days Liberal 27th
Independent 28th
29th
28 James Jerome
MP for Sudbury
(1933–2005)
September 30,
1974
December 14,
1979
5 years, 75 days Liberal 30th
31st
29 Jeanne Sauvé
MP for Laval-des-Rapides
(1922–1993)
April 14,
1980
January 15,
1984
3 years, 276 days Liberal 32nd
30 Lloyd Francis
MP for Ottawa West
(1920–2007)
January 16,
1984
November 4,
1984
293 days Liberal
31 John Bosley
MP for Don Valley West
(1947–2022)
November 5,
1984
September 29,
1986
1 year, 328 days Progressive Conservative 33rd
32 John Allen Fraser
MP for Vancouver South
(born 1931)
September 30,
1986
January 16,
1994
7 years, 108 days Progressive Conservative
34th
33 Gilbert Parent
MP for Welland—St. Catharines—Thorold (until 1997)
MP for Niagara Centre (from 1997)

(1935–2009)
January 17,
1994
January 28,
2001
7 years, 11 days Liberal 35th
36th
34 Peter Milliken
MP for Kingston and the Islands
(born 1946)
January 29,
2001
June 2,
2011
10 years, 124 days Liberal 37th
38th
39th
40th
35 Andrew Scheer
MP for Regina—Qu'Appelle
(born 1979)
June 2,
2011
December 2,
2015
4 years, 183 days Conservative 41st
36 Geoff Regan
MP for Halifax West
(born 1959)
December 3,
2015
December 5,
2019
4 years, 2 days Liberal 42nd
37 Anthony Rota
MP for Nipissing—Timiskaming
(born 1961)
December 5,
2019
September 27,
2023
3 years, 296 days Liberal 43rd
44th
Louis Plamondon
MP for Bécancour—Nicolet—Saurel
(born 1943)
(Interim)
September 27,
2023
October 3,
2023
6 days Bloc Québécois
38 Greg Fergus
MP for Hull—Aylmer
(born 1969)
October 3,
2023
Incumbent 144 days Liberal

References

  1. ^ "Indemnities, Salaries and Allowances". lop.parl.ca. Retrieved June 8, 2020.
  2. ^ "Farewell to Peter Milliken". Ottawa magazine. March 25, 2011. Retrieved December 16, 2018. There are benefits for the 61-year-old bachelor to being Speaker: he has a small apartment just down the hall from his spacious offices and a grand official residence in Gatineau Park (the Farm), across the Ottawa River in Quebec.
  3. ^ a b Althia Raj (November 27, 2015). "Andrew Scheer, Outgoing House Speaker, Reflects On Pressures, Perks Of Coveted Job". Huffington Post. Retrieved December 16, 2018. He or she is responsible for the administration of the Commons, the staff, the precinct's security, printing and postal services, and providing MPs funds and resources to do their job — an office that comes with an approximately $414 million budget.
  4. ^ "Speaker Geoff Regan opens door to secret apartment in Parliament". Toronto Sun. December 16, 2018. Retrieved December 16, 2018. One of the best-kept secrets inside the main building on Parliament Hill — known as Centre Block — is what's inside room 202N.
  5. ^ Melanie Marquis, Ben Singer (December 16, 2018). "Take a look at the Speakers secret Parliament apartment..." YouTube. Retrieved December 16, 2018.
  6. ^ "Parliamentary Protective Service Directors". lop.parl.ca. Retrieved June 8, 2020.
  7. ^ "What's in a Name: Speaker/Orateur/Président". Archived from the original on April 16, 2005. Retrieved February 4, 2016.
  8. ^ Idlout, Lori (November 23, 2021). "Thank you for acknowledging the indigenous territory and languages in your acceptance. I will be calling you Uqaqtittiji, this is what is used in the Nunavut legislature for Speaker". X (formerly Twitter). Retrieved September 27, 2023.
  9. ^ "House of Commons Debates Official Record (Hansard)". Parliament of Canada. 1515. November 23, 2021. Retrieved September 27, 2023. Uqaqtittiji, first, it was incredible to hear a part of the throne speech delivered in Inuktitut. Canada is richer for it and my sincere congratulations to Her Excellency Mary May Simon. I love that a qulliq was lit beside her and that I could smell it from where I stood. (Lori Idlout)((cite web)): CS1 maint: location (link)
  10. ^ Brent Holland (October 17, 2014). "Peter Miliken Speaker Of The House Canada Parliament Ottawa Brent Holland Show". YouTube. Retrieved December 16, 2018.
  11. ^ CPAC. "CPAC". Retrieved February 4, 2016.
  12. ^ [1][dead link]
  13. ^ "About Parliament: Traditions of Parliament". parliament.co.uk. Retrieved May 16, 2011.
  14. ^ "Meet Geoff Regan, the new Speaker of the House of Commons". www.cbc.ca. Retrieved December 4, 2015.
  15. ^ "Geoff Regan elected House Speaker as 42nd Parliament opens". www.cbc.ca. Retrieved December 4, 2015.
  16. ^ Tunney, Catharine; Zimonjic, Peter; Harris, Kathleen (December 5, 2019). "Liberal MP Anthony Rota elected Speaker of the House of Commons". CBC News. Retrieved December 16, 2019.
  17. ^ "Liberal MP Anthony Rota elected Speaker. You're welcome, Conservatives say". National Post. December 5, 2019. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  18. ^ "Liberal MP Anthony Rota upsets Regan to become Speaker in minority Parliament". Burnaby Now. December 5, 2019. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  19. ^ Canadian Press (May 20, 2005). "Speaker's vote breaks first no-confidence tie". theglobeandmail.com. The Globe and Mail Inc. Retrieved November 3, 2015.
  20. ^ "3,178 days and counting". Archived from the original on October 15, 2009. Retrieved October 13, 2009.
  21. ^ "The Speaker of the House of Commons". Retrieved July 6, 2020.
  22. ^ "Speaker and Other Presiding Officers of the 44th Parliament". Retrieved March 25, 2022.
  23. ^ Brassard, John (March 24, 2022). "44TH PARLIAMENT, 1ST SESSION EDITED HANSARD • No. 045 CONTENTS THURSDAY, MARCH 24, 2022". Parliament of Canada. Hansard.
  24. ^ Marquis, Mélanie; Bellavance, Joël-Denis (September 26, 2023). "Ex-soldat nazi applaudi aux Communes: Le président Anthony Rota démissionne". La Presse (in Canadian French). Retrieved September 28, 2023.
  25. ^ a b The Canadian Press Politics (March 8, 2016). "Mauril Belanger to take Speaker's chair, though ALS has robbed him of speech". Ipolitics.ca. Retrieved July 8, 2017.