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MPs elect Andrew Scheer, 32, as Speaker of the House

Two weeks removed from his 32nd birthday, Regina-Qu'Appelle MP Andrew Scheer was elected Speaker - the new face of a younger House of Commons.

The former deputy speaker beat out six other Conservative MPs, finally winning a majority of votes in a final ballot that included B.C. New Democrat Denise Savoie.

For over six hours Thursday, members of Parliament spent their first day in Ottawa since the May 2 election casting secret ballot after secret ballot to select a new Speaker. In between ballots, MPs were plied with sandwiches, sweets and suds in the offices of the various candidates as they tried to woo their colleagues.

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It's been a long time since there was a change in the chair. Former Liberal MP Peter Milliken held the job for the last 10 years.

Mr. Scheer, a friendly and easy-going MP, focused on his experience as deputy speaker and his ability to speak French. Each candidate gave a five-minute speech explaining their qualifications. In his, he acknowledged his age.

"The current Speaker of the House of Commons in the United Kingdom, Mr. John Bercow, also faced questions about his age as he was relatively young when he successfully ran for Speaker," Mr. Scheer said. "I am sure he will not mind me retelling one of his stories. In his speech asking members for their support, one particular MP said to him, 'Certainly not, Bercow. You are not just too young, you are far too young, given that, in my judgment, the Speaker ought to be virtually senile.'"

He is the youngest Speaker in the history of the House of Commons.

The job comes with plenty of perks, but also lots of responsibility. The most obvious is to enforce the rules of decorum in the House, deciding how best to admonish MPs who stray from the rules. Less known are the major administrative and diplomatic responsibilities of the office.

The Speaker is in charge of the House of Commons, which is not unlike being mayor of a small town. Yet unlike municipal governments, all management decisions related to running the $417-million operation are made behind closed doors at what is called the Board of Internal Economy.

Sparse minutes are eventually released, but little is known about how decisions are reached. With Parliament in the midst of a major renovations that will see a new, temporary, glass-covered House of Commons built inside the West Block, the job involves major decisions on how tax dollars are spent.

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The Board, which is chaired by the Speaker, is also responsible for House of Commons security.

On the diplomatic side, the Speaker is often called on to host visiting parliamentarians and can occasionally travel abroad as a representative of Canada's Parliament.

The other candidates were Niagara West-Glanbrook MP Dean Allison, Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MP Barry Devolin, London-West MP Ed Holder, Calgary Centre MP Lee Richardson, Brandon Souris MP Merv Tweed.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

A member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery since 1999, Bill Curry worked for The Hill Times and the National Post prior to joining The Globe in Feb. 2005. Originally from North Bay, Ont., Bill reports on a wide range of topics on Parliament Hill, with a focus on finance. More

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