Commons Speaker Greg Fergus says he is prepared to resign his post if that’s the recommendation of a committee of MPs he appeared before today.
The Liberal MP conceded his exit may be the outcome of the work of the Procedure and House Affairs Committee, which is looking into Fergus’s appearance in a congratulatory video for the former interim leader of the Ontario Liberals, a personal friend.
In the video, Fergus is wearing his Commons uniform. The Bloc Québécois and the federal Conservatives have called for him to quit, saying his partisan conduct raises questions about his impartiality.
“I truly wish to rectify the problem and regain the trust of the House of Commons, but if the House decides that this isn’t possible, that the issue can’t be remedied, then of course I will leave,” Fergus told MPs in response to a question from NDP House Leader Peter Julian, describing himself as a “servant of the House.”
Fergus’s departure would make him the second speaker to exit under a cloud this year. His predecessor, Anthony Rota, stepped down in September over his decision to invite a Ukrainian-Canadian war veteran – who, it turned out, was a former member of a Nazi unit – to the House of Commons during an official visit by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Fergus, who is Black and the first person of colour to serve as Speaker, was elected by MPs in a secret ballot in October.
The procedure committee will report back to the House this week on the implications of Fergus making a congratulatory video for John Fraser, who served as interim leader of the Ontario Liberals until Bonnie Crombie won the provincial party leadership.
Multiple times during the hearing, Fergus apologized for his appearance, echoing previous written apologies he has offered. “I know I messed up,” he said.
Julian said he was satisfied with some of Fergus’s answers during hours of testimony, but added, “Quite frankly, I am not satisfied with other answers.”
Bloc MP Claude DeBellefeuille was blunt in her assessment of the situation, saying Fergus was too compromised to continue as Speaker.
“The members of the Bloc will never be able to trust you again,” she said.
She said she had doubts about Fergus, a former federal Liberal Party national director and parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, when he was elected Speaker.
“My doubts were confirmed,” she said. “Every time that you will now make a decision or do something, I will doubt you. I will wonder if you are not speaking to the government behind our backs.”
She added, “This is very sad, but I would like you to think about what I am telling you.”
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Ottawa announces details of expanded dental care program for uninsured Canadians – The full implementation of the income-based dental care program for uninsured Canadians will not take effect until 2025.
Conservatives have “successfully” scapegoated carbon price in affordability crisis, Trudeau says – The Prime Minister told The Canadian Press that the carbon price is not to blame for the cost-of-living crisis, and eliminating it will neither lower prices nor make climate action cheaper. Story here.
British intelligence says Canada’s cyberspies are “at the head of the pack” – A five-year study by the British House of Commons’ Intelligence and Security Committee said Canada plays a “leading role” in cybersecurity in the Five Eyes intelligence partnership, which also includes Britain, the U.S., Australia and New Zealand.
Foreign ministers from Middle East meet with Joly, Trudeau in Ottawa to discuss Israel-Hamas war – The quietly planned meeting, held Saturday, focused on ways countries could help efforts to secure peace for Palestinians and Israelis, after Hamas militants launched a deadly rampage in Israel on Oct. 7.
New Brunswick’s access regime among the most restrictive in Canada, Globe audit finds – In 2021, the province had the second-longest average response time to access-to-information requests, 72 days, behind only the federal government, which averaged 83 days.
Quebec’s English-language universities send government counteroffer on tuition hikes – Now, the universities are waiting to hear whether the province will consider a tiered-tuition proposal that will charge out-of-province students different amounts based on the program they attend, bringing fees more in line with those of programs in other parts of the country.
Ottawa didn’t audit IT firms’ compliance with Indigenous procurement program – Two IT staffing companies that worked on the ArriveCan app and received more than $400-million in federal contract work over the past decade, including frequent use of a set-aside program for Indigenous business, have never been audited to determine whether they delivered on the program’s requirements to support Indigenous entrepreneurs.
Montreal mayor to miss city budget meeting as she recovers from “malaise” – Six days after a health scare that saw her collapse during a news conference, Valérie Plante announced today that she would not be present during a city council meeting to vote on the 2024 municipal budget.
Toronto mayor backs naming stadium after Rob Ford – Olivia Chow’s office confirms she is supporting a proposal to rename a football stadium in Toronto after former mayor Rob Ford.
THIS AND THAT
Bringing you news from Windsor – Globe and Mail Editor David Walmsley writes here on the launch this past weekend of the new pop-up bureau, this time bringing focus to events in Windsor, Ont.
Hugs in the Commons – NDP MP Charlie Angus took note here of a bipartisan hug in the Commons.
Today in the Commons – Projected Order of Business at the House of Commons, Dec. 11, accessible here.
Deputy Prime Minister’s Day – Private meetings, and Chrystia Freeland attends Question Period. She also attends a Hanukkah on the Hill event on Parliament Hill and a Liberal fundraising event in Gatineau, Que.
Ministers on the Road – Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault is in Dubai, attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP28, through Dec. 12.
Commons Committee Highlights – Employment Minister Randy Boissonnault and Diversity Minister Kamal Khera appeared before the human resources committee. RCMP Commissioner Michael Duheme appeared before the access to information, privacy and ethics committee on the decision of the RCMP not to pursue a criminal investigation in relation to the SNC-Lavalin affair. House of Commons Speaker Greg Fergus appeared before the Procedure and House Affairs Committee to answer questions about his appearance in a video for the former interim leader of the Ontario Liberals. Eric La Flèche, president and chief executive officer of Metro Inc., appears before the agriculture and agri-food committee to discuss efforts to stabilize food prices.
PRIME MINISTER'S DAY
Private meetings, and Justin Trudeau delivers remarks at a Hanukkah on the Hill event, accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Mental Health Minister Ya’ara Saks. In the evening, Trudeau, with 18 members of cabinet, attends a fundraising event in Gatineau for the Laurier Club of the federal Liberal Party.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May is at COP28.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, in Toronto, holds an event to discuss dental care with seniors, to be followed by a news conference.
No schedules provided for Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet and Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre.
On today’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, national health reporter Carly Weeks explains what experts think we should do to help prevent the rise of cervical cancer cases in Canada. The Decibel is here.
Carbon pricing - Canadians are feeling slightly more confident in the carbon tax’s effectiveness at combatting climate change than they were a few months ago, but uncertainty is still high, according to new Nanos research here.
Charter of Rights and Freedoms - One-third of Canadians say they have read the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but many fail to distinguish between its text and that of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, a new survey here suggests.
The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on Ontario pouring a pint of reform for alcohol sales: “Somebody teleported to one of Ontario’s ubiquitous Beer Stores might reasonably assume that the dreary set-up – with all the charm of a Soviet department store – is a government-run monopoly. It is not. Rather, the province has to date opted for the worst of both worlds: the efficiency and customer service standards one would expect from government-run monopoly, but with profits flowing to private breweries. In a long overdue move, Ontario Premier Doug Ford is looking to put an end to that oligopoly, dominated by foreign-owned Molson Coors Beverage Co. and Anheuser-Busch InBev SA.”
Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on how population growth is the housing issue politicians can’t keep ducking: “If there’s a hot political debate over why Canada has a housing crisis, it is important to talk about the proximate cause. It’s population growth. And the temporary resident boom. Canadian politicians have spent a lot of time dodging and ignoring this unavoidable fact. Rapid population growth, driven primarily by an unprecedented boom in temporary residents – mostly temporary workers and foreign students – has turbocharged demand for Canada’s slow-growing stock of apartments and houses.”
David Parkinson (The Globe and Mail) on ex-BoC boss David Dodge saying we need economic strategy focused on investment, not consumption: “David Dodge describes the economic times we’re in as “an interesting period, in the Chinese sense of the word.” And even as we start to see the light at the end of the long pandemic/inflation/interest rates tunnel, the former Bank of Canada governor thinks things aren’t going to get much less “interesting” in Canada’s future. In a new economic outlook report to be released Monday by law firm Bennett Jones LLP – which employs the 80-year-old economist as a senior adviser – Mr. Dodge and his colleagues argue that the country needs to overhaul its economic policy model to address its serious productivity problems.”
Allan Rock and Jennifer Trahan (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how Canada must ensure it doesn’t let Putin off the hook: “A core group of countries, including Canada and the G7, is considering how the international community will legally respond to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine. As a sitting head of state, Mr. Putin is immune from the jurisdiction of the domestic courts of any other state. That result flows from the principle that sovereign states are equal: National courts in one state cannot sit in judgment over certain high-level officials of another state. Accordingly, if there are charges to be brought against Mr. Putin, alleging that he committed international crimes in Ukraine, they must be brought before an international tribunal.”