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The NDP's Denise Savoie celebrates her victory in the federal election in Victoria on Jan. 23, 2006. (Don Denton/The Globe and Mail)
The NDP's Denise Savoie celebrates her victory in the federal election in Victoria on Jan. 23, 2006. (Don Denton/The Globe and Mail)

Victoria MP joins Speaker race as first NDP and first female candidate Add to ...

The race for Speaker of the House of Commons has its first female candidate and its first New Democrat.

Victoria MP Denise Savoie announced Friday that she wants the job of refereeing the often caustic debate.

Before Ms. Savoie joined the race, the field was already crowded with Conservative MPs, several of whom were in Ottawa this week to make their pitch to the crop of newly elected politicians who are here for orientation sessions.

Most of them have stated that their intention is to bring more civility and decorum to the House than was overseen under former Speaker Peter Milliken. Mr. Milliken, the Speaker for more than 10 years, retired from the chair just before the start of the spring election.

"I'm running for Speaker with a singular focus on raising the tone and quality of debate in Parliament, to restore the trust that Canadians deserve to have in their politicians and democratic institutions," Ms. Savoie said in a release.

Although there are many other candidates, the New Democrat MP has three things going for her: She is bilingual, she has had the experience of being a deputy Speaker, and she is the only person in the running, so far, who is not a member of the governing party - which may appeal to other opposition members.

But that also means that, if the Conservatives voted in unison for one of their own on the final ballot, Ms. Savoie would be outnumbered.

The eventual winner will, according to tradition, be dragged by the Prime Minister and the leader of the Official Opposition to the Speaker's chair. But despite the pretention of reluctance, campaigning will take place before the vote, by secret ballot, on June 2.

Also in the running are Conservatives Andrew Scheer, Bruce Stanton, Dean Allison, Merv Tweed, Barry Devolin and Lee Richardson.

Most have spoken to newspapers in their home provinces about their interest in the job and their ability to defuse the hostile atmosphere that has characterized the last few Parliaments.

Mr. Scheer, 29, who is bilingual and who was an assistant to Mr. Milliken, told the Regina Leader-Post: "We have very profound disagreements, very heated disagreements, but that doesn't mean any of us have bad intentions in there."

Mr. Stanton told the Orillia Packet and Times "People who visit Parliament … are quite taken aback by some of the heckling they see in there."

Mr. Richardson told the Calgary Herald: "I'm not as partisan as many. I have great love and respect for the place ...I was there when it wasn't as raucous and disrespectful."

Mr. Allison told the Hamilton Spectator: "I think if you talked to them you will find that I have tried to work real hard to find the ability to work together and to come to some consensus and to make sure that we work well together."

Mr. Tweed told the Brandon Sun: "I've always been seen as, I think, a person that can work with all sides and I think that's probably what's needed now, more than ever."

And Mr. Devolin, another assistant deputy Speaker, told the Canadian Press: "I think my personality and my approach to politics are well suited to a role like this, a facilitator's role. I'm not very partisan, I don't really have much of a temper."

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