Electing a Speaker will be the first order of business when MPs return to Ottawa on Dec. 5 and several MPs are already campaigning for the key position.
The incumbent Speaker, Liberal MP Geoff Regan, said in a statement that he would “welcome the opportunity” to continue in the post and will run again. But some of the MPs who previously played supporting roles in the Speaker’s chair are now aiming for the top job.
Conservative MP Bruce Stanton, Liberal MP Anthony Rota and NDP MP Carol Hughes all told The Globe and Mail that they are running. All three held positions in the previous Parliament that involved acting as Speaker in Mr. Regan’s absence.
One of the Speaker’s most visible tasks is to supervise the daily Question Period and respond to MPs’ complaints that their rights – or “privileges” – have been infringed in some way. The position includes overseeing and defending the House of Commons’ annual budget of more than $500-million and working with the Senate in areas such as security on Parliament Hill. There is also a significant diplomatic function.
The job comes with several perks: a small apartment with a pull-out bed on Parliament Hill; a large private residence in nearby Gatineau Park; and an $85,500 top up to the base salary for MPs, which is $178,900.
Mr. Stanton, who was deputy Speaker in the previous Parliament, said his constituents appreciate the less partisan tone he is required to take due to his Speaker-related duties.
He also said a Speaker is most effective when MPs are collectively focused on improving decorum.
“Using a bit of appeal to members’ good judgment and good behaviour, I think that’s a good approach,” he said.
Mr. Rota said his style is to focus on private conversations rather than publicly singling out MPs for bad behaviour.
“It does get out of hand at times. It’s just a matter of how you rein it in," Mr. Rota said. “The style that I have is being as fair as possible without causing an MP to lose face.”
In a minority Parliament, where the government’s survival is regularly in jeopardy, governing parties are sometimes open to having an opposition MP in the Speaker’s chair. The Speaker only votes in the rare event of a tie, meaning that the party that is represented in the Speaker’s chair will have one less vote in the House of Commons.
The Liberal Party won 157 seats in the October federal election, falling 13 seats shy of the 170 required to form a majority government. The Conservatives have 121 seats; the Bloc Québécois has 32; and the NDP has 24 seats. The Green Party has three seats, meaning it does not have enough votes to help the Liberals win votes in the House of Commons. Jody Wilson-Raybould was elected as the lone independent.
During the last two minority Parliaments under then-prime minister Stephen Harper, the governing Conservatives allowed Liberal MP Peter Milliken to continue as Speaker. When the Conservatives won a majority in 2011, the Speaker’s job went to Conservative Andrew Scheer, who later became party leader in 2017 and is now the Leader of the Official Opposition.
The rules for the election of a Speaker state that all MPs are on the secret, ranked ballot unless they remove their names. It is possible that some Liberal MPs will wait until Nov. 20 to see if they made it into cabinet before deciding whether to campaign for the Speaker’s position.