The Conservatives and Bloc Québécois are calling for the Speaker of the House of Commons to resign after he appeared wearing his parliamentary uniform in a video paying tribute to the outgoing interim leader of the Ontario Liberals.
The two parties, representing more than 40 per cent of MPs in Parliament, said Monday that Greg Fergus, a Liberal MP from Quebec who has only been Speaker for about two months, has no choice but to go.
Andrew Scheer, the Conservative House Leader and a former Speaker, compared the situation to a National Hockey League referee giving a pep talk to a team about to go out on the ice.
“How long do we think that NHL referee would continue in that post?” Mr. Scheer told MPs.
Earlier Monday, Bloc House Leader Alain Therrien told the Commons that Mr. Fergus had run afoul of the conventions of impartiality with his video praise for John Fraser.
In a speech to the House, Mr. Therrien said the Bloc initially had concerns with Mr. Fergus’s nomination as Speaker, given that he was known as an “extremely partisan” MP.
Mr. Therrien described the current mood of the House as “tense,” and said a Speaker in this environment needs to have two key qualities: impartiality and impeccable judgment.
“Unfortunately, the Speaker has demonstrated that he has neither,” Mr. Therrien said in French. “For this reason, the Bloc Québécois is asking the Speaker to immediately resign.”
In Parliament, the Conservatives have 117 seats and the Bloc 32. The governing Liberals have 158 seats and the NDP has 25. There are two Green MPs and three Independent MPs.
NDP House Leader Peter Julian said in the Commons that the situation was a serious matter that should be referred to a House committee for review.
But the office of Government House Leader Karina Gould says Mr. Fergus deserves a second chance.
“The Speaker addressed the House on this issue this morning. He indicated that he understands how the video could be interpreted, and apologized to the House,” said the statement issued by spokesperson Olivia Batten.
“He also indicated that an event like this would not happen again. There is a long tradition in the House of Commons that when someone apologizes, that apology is accepted and the House moves forward.”
In an interview with The Globe and Mail at his Parliament Hill office, Mr. Fergus said he hoped to survive the political turmoil.
He acknowledged that “the members are upset,” adding that he could say little about the situation beyond a statement he issued earlier in the day on the matter.
“Obviously I am concerned about the debate in the House, but will see where that leads,” said Mr. Fergus, who became the first Black person to serve as Speaker in the Commons.
In a subsequent statement on Monday afternoon, the Speaker’s spokesperson, Mathieu Gravel, said there would be no further comment on how the office would respond to the situation because the matter is currently before the House of Commons.
MPs chose Mr. Fergus, a former parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau first elected to the Commons in 2015, as Speaker in a secret vote held after Anthony Rota stepped down as Speaker in September.
Mr. Rota had been facing intense criticism for honouring a member of a Nazi unit in the Second World War during an official visit to the House by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The incident sparked critical headlines around the globe and provided material for Russian propaganda. Mr. Rota invited 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka to the Commons and urged those present to honour him.
Mr. Fergus’s tribute to the interim leader of the Ontario Liberals was played at a Saturday meeting in Toronto where Bonnie Crombie was chosen new leader.
In remarks to the House earlier Monday, Mr. Fergus said his tribute to Mr. Fraser was a “non-political message to a personal friend of more than 34 years.”
Mr. Fergus said that Mr. Fraser and his wife played an important role in the lives of his family for many years.
“Like you all, I have deep and abiding relationships with people from all political backgrounds. It should not be seen as partisan to recognize a colleague’s departure. It is an act of friendship and respect,” the Speaker said.
Mr. Fergus said he was asked to record a video for an intimate party for a long-time friend who was leaving his job, and agreed to do so.
“I regret that this video was used in a different way than intended.” He said that it was “broadcast at the convention of a party of which I am not a member, in a province where I do not live, in a jurisdiction where I have not been able to vote for almost three decades.”
In a posting on X, formerly Twitter, Mr. Fraser thanked “my dear friend” for his tribute.
“I am sorry that it wasn’t clearly communicated to his office where and when it would be used. Our family deeply appreciated your very kind gesture,” he said.