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Conservative MP Barry Devolin speaks to reporters at a Parliament Hill news conference on May 24, 2011. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Conservative MP Barry Devolin speaks to reporters at a Parliament Hill news conference on May 24, 2011. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Another Tory MP enters 'crapshoot' race for Speaker of the House Add to ...

Barry Devolin vows he won't be acting like the "new sheriff," swaggering into the House of Commons and meting out punishment and time-outs as a way to bring the chamber out of its dysfunction.

The Conservative MP for Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock, first elected in 2004, says he doesn't make "outrageous" comments nor is he "terribly partisan" - and it's that attitude he will bring to the chair if he's elected by his 307 colleagues.

"I think that is what we need in the chair. ... The Speaker is the servant of the House not the master of the House. I think that's an important point," he said. "I actually don't think it's the job of the Speaker to come in with his thumbs hooked in his belt loop saying, 'There's a new sheriff in town.'"

Rather, he wants to work with the other deputy speakers (he served as a deputy in the last Parliament) to ensure there is a consistent approach to keeping the MPs respectful.

He believes this should begin during routine debates in the chamber. If a respectful tone can be maintained there, it could then carry over to Question Period, which serves as the public face of Parliament.

"I think you work towards Question Period," he said. "Question Period is the end of the process. If I can use a hockey analogy, if the referee is going to call more penalties you don't start in the third period, you start in the first period."

This was his pitch Tuesday - made partly in French - for the prestigious and perk-laden job of Commons Speaker. He is one of about half a dozen or so MPs who have indicated interest in the post since it was vacated by Peter Milliken.

There was criticism that Mr. Milliken, who presided over the Commons during the turbulent minority government years, allowed the tone in the chamber to deteriorate. These new candidates are promising to elevate the tone.

The first order of business when the House of Commons returns on June 2 will be to elect the Speaker by secret ballot and it could be a long process. One Conservative MP says there is no favourite. Instead, he described it as "a crapshoot - a totally wide-open race.

Mr. Devolin is running against other veteran Conservative MPs - Lee Richardson, Andrew Scheer, Merv Tweed, Dean Allison and Ed Holder. NDP MP Denise Savoie, who served as a deputy speaker with Mr. Devolin, is also seeking the post.

In addition Mr. Devolin pitched hiring a person who would act as a liaison for MPs. This point person, he suggested, would help "clear the path for them to do a better job" from finding available rooms in the Parliament buildings for meetings to helping them figure out phone service and other issues involving setting up an office. This would allow the MP and his or her staff to focus on their priorities, he argued.

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