Greg Fergus’ impartiality as Speaker of the House of Commons is headed for study by a committee of MPs, after he appeared in a video tribute that played at this past weekend’s Ontario Liberal convention.
In the video, Mr. Fergus, dressed in the Speaker’s robes and standing in the Speaker’s office, praises interim Ontario Liberal leader John Fraser, whose tenure ended Saturday with the election of Bonnie Crombie as provincial party leader. The federal Conservatives and the Bloc Québécois began calling for Mr. Fergus’s resignation on Monday, saying the tribute to a partisan figure called into question his ability to be an impartial referee on House matters.
On Tuesday, after deputy speaker Chris d’Entremont told the House that its members needed to decide what to do next, Andrew Scheer, the Conservative House leader and a former Commons speaker, moved that the Commons procedure and House affairs committee study the issue and come up with a remedy. He said Conservatives will push for the Speaker’s resignation.
Although the motion did not come up for a vote on Tuesday, it appears likely to pass. The Conservatives and the Bloc together account for 149 of 337 MPs in the Commons, and the idea of sending the matter to the committee has support beyond those two parties.
Mr. Fergus is a Liberal MP who represents a riding in Gatineau. He was elected by MPs to replace Anthony Rota as speaker two months ago, after Mr. Rota stepped down from the role in the midst of a scandal over his decision to invite a man to attend an official visit by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The man, it soon emerged, had once served with a Nazi military unit.
Mr. Fergus has recused himself from the debate over his actions. He was not in Ottawa on Tuesday.
Nancy Pelosi, the former speaker of the House in the United States, said on social media that she had hosted Mr. Fergus and Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., as they visited Capitol Hill in Washington. Ms. Pelosi noted that it was Mr. Fergus’s first official visit to Washington.
In the House, Mr. Scheer advocated for his motion to study Mr. Fergus’s conduct. “I hope my colleagues in the House will agree with me that this situation is serious, that it matters not just to members but to Canadians, because this is the pillar of our parliamentary democracy,” Mr. Scheer told MPs.
Mr. Scheer, a former leader of the federal Conservatives, noted that Mr. Fergus had a recent history of partisan activities when he was elected speaker, including stints as parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other ministers. “We went out on a bit of a limb to believe that he would put aside all of that partisanship and conduct himself in a way that would earn that trust and justify that trust,” Mr. Scheer said.
Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet said the issue needs to be resolved quickly.
“It should be fixed as soon as possible for it not to become a distraction in the Parliament,” he told reporters ahead of Question Period.
Earlier Tuesday, Government House Leader Karina Gould told reporters she continues to have confidence in Mr. Fergus as Speaker.
She noted that Mr. Fergus has apologized, and acknowledged that he made a mistake.
“We have a tradition in this place that once somebody apologizes, that we accept that and we move on,” she said.
The NDP is not seeking Mr. Fergus’s resignation. Still, NDP House Leader Peter Julian told Tuesday’s debate that the situation is a serious matter, and that he has confidence the House affairs committee will deal with it in a timely way.
Liberal MP Mark Gerretsen, a member of the committee, said the group could conduct a thorough study of the issue.
“I think that the committee could actually use this as an opportunity, not just to figure out the proper recourse in terms of what should be done now … but to set a precedent and certain rules, and establish best practice to ensure that something like this does not happen again.”