Greg Fergus, the new Speaker of the House of Commons, delayed the start of Question Period on Wednesday to deliver a speech on the importance of decorum.
But the move sparked catcalls and criticism, largely from Conservative members of Parliament.
“The Speaker has a plethora of occasions to stand on his feet and make any point he wants, or any declaration he likes,” Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said as Mr. Fergus began his remarks.
Mr. Poilievre said Mr. Fergus was cutting into the “sacred” time of Question Period when the opposition holds the government to account. Former speaker Andrew Scheer also objected to Mr. Fergus making his point in time that is allotted for Question Period.
But Mr. Fergus, a Liberal MP elected Speaker earlier this month and the first person of colour to hold the position, said he had an “important message” to deliver to MPs and forged on to make it, reading from a statement.
He denounced “boorish and rude” heckling designed to intimidate, insult or drown out others, and a trend toward ideas and thoughts expressed “in provocative terms” that harm the necessary collegiality of work.
“Latitude in expressing one’s point of view will be given, but questionable language and unnecessarily provocative statements will no longer be tolerated,” said Mr. Fergus.
And he cited a growing tendency for MPs to make pointed criticisms “in a way that is unnecessarily personal, and designed to denigrate, bully, elicit an emotional reaction, or to attack the integrity of the person,” as well as bringing what he called a “toxicity” to the proceedings.
Mr. Fergus also took issue with comments designed to draw attention to the absence of members as a means of embarrassing them even though this is against Commons rules. Mr. Poilievre has, occasionally, made remarks about the absence of Justin Trudeau when the Prime Minister has been travelling on official business.
Mr. Fergus said these issues are most evident in Question Period, which is unfortunate “because it is when our proceedings receive the most attention from those watching, or from the public in the galleries, and from which clips are most widely circulated on social media.”
Mr. Fergus, who has served as parliamentary secretary to Mr. Trudeau as well as a parliamentary secretary to the Health Minister and Treasury Board President, was elected eight years ago as the Quebec MP for Hull-Aylmer.
The job of Speaker came open after Anthony Rota resigned from the post over the furor created by his inviting Yaroslav Hunka, a 98-year-old constituent in his riding, to the House of Commons for a Sept. 22 speech by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Mr. Rota hailed Mr. Hunka as a Ukrainian hero of the Second World War. It was later revealed that Mr. Hunka fought with the Nazi Waffen-SS Galacia Division.
Mr. Fergus said Wednesday that he decided to stand for Speaker because he had noticed a deterioration in the collective decorum of the Commons in his years as an MP.
“It is important to note that this deterioration was not inevitable, it is not a natural outgrowth of the advent of social media. We can choose to conduct ourselves differently. I suspected other members felt the same way,” he said.