Speaker of the House of Commons (Canada)

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Speaker of the House of Commons of Canada
Incumbent
Andrew Scheer

since 2 June 2011
Style The Honourable
Mr/Madam Speaker (In the House)
Residence The Farm
Appointer Elected by the members of the House of Commons
Term length Elected at the start of each Parliament
Inaugural holder James Cockburn
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The Speaker of the House of Commons of Canada (French: Président de la Chambre des communes) is the presiding officer of the lower house of the Parliament of Canada and is elected at the beginning of each new parliament by fellow Members of Parliament (MPs). The Speaker's role in presiding over Canada's House of Commons is similar to that of speakers elsewhere in other countries that use the Westminster system (see Speaker of the House of Commons). The current Speaker is Andrew Scheer.

Purpose[edit]

The chamber of the House of Commons; the Speaker's chair is front and centre in the room.

In Canada it is the Speaker's responsibility to manage the House of Commons and supervise its staff. It is also the Speaker's duty to act as a liaison with the Senate and the Crown. He is to rule over the house and have the government answer questions during the question period as well as keep decorum with the house. The Speaker of the House of Commons receives a salary of about $230,000 CAD and has use of the official residence, The Farm, an estate located at Kingsmere in Gatineau Park, Quebec, across the river from Ottawa.

The term "Speaker" originates from the British parliamentary tradition. The French term now used in Canada is Président (president, chairperson, or presiding officer); the term Orateur, a calque (literal translation) of "Speaker" and formerly the term used in France for the Speaker of the British House of Commons, was used until a few decades ago.[1] By convention, Speakers are normally addressed in Parliament as "Mister Speaker", for a male, and "Madame Speaker", for a female.

Election[edit]

While the Constitution requires that the Speaker be elected by the House of Commons, traditionally this amounted to the rubber-stamp approval of a Member nominated by the Prime Minister. However, in 1986 this was changed and they are now selected by secret ballot. The Speaker remains a sitting MP, but only votes on matters in the case of a tie.

All MPs except for Cabinet ministers and party leaders are eligible to run for the Speakership. Any MP who does not wish to put his or her name forward must issue a letter withdrawing from the ballot by the day before the vote. All MPs who do not remove their name from the ballot as of 6pm the day before the election are listed as candidates on the ballot and are allowed a five minute speech to persuade their colleagues as to why they should be elected.

The election is presided over by the Dean of the House, currently Louis Plamondon, who is the longest continuously serving MP who is not in Cabinet.

All candidates who receive less than 5% of the vote are removed from the ballot. If no candidate received less than 5% of the vote then the MP with the fewest vote drops off. This continues, with a one hour break between ballots, until one candidate receives more than 50% of the vote. In the event of a tie on the final ballot, the ballot is taken again. This happened once, in 1993, when Gilbert Parent won over Jean-Robert Gauthier.[2]

The winner is escorted to the Speaker's chair by the Prime Minister and Leader of the Official Opposition. The newly elected Speaker, by tradition, feigns reluctance as he or she is "dragged" to the chair[3] in a practice dating from the days when British Speakers risked execution if the news they reported to the King was displeasing.[4]

On June 2, 2011, Conservative Andrew Scheer (Regina—Qu'Appelle) was elected Speaker, defeating the following MPs over the course of six ballots: New Democrat Denise Savoie (Victoria (electoral district)) and Conservatives Dean Allison (Niagara West—Glanbrook), Barry Devolin (Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock), Ed Holder (London West), Lee Richardson (Calgary Centre), Bruce Stanton (Simcoe North), and Merv Tweed (Brandon—Souris). Speaker Scheer is the youngest Speaker in Canadian history.

Opposition Speakers[edit]

The Speaker usually comes from among MPs of the governing party. But because he or she cannot vote unless his or her vote would break a tie and by convention must vote to maintain the status quo (which includes voting confidence in the government), a minority government can slightly weaken the opposition's power by electing an opposition speaker.

Speakers have been elected from opposition parties during the 1926 tenure of Arthur Meighen's Conservative ministry, the 1979 ministry of Progressive Conservative Joe Clark, and Stephen Harper's Conservative Ministry from 2006 to 2011. In the 39th Parliament, three opposition members, Peter Milliken, Diane Marleau and Marcel Proulx, ran for Speaker. In 1957, when John George Diefenbaker took power with a minority Progressive Conservative government, he offered the Speaker's chair to Stanley Knowles of the opposition Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (the precursor to the NDP), who declined. So far, every Speaker from an opposition party has been a Liberal.

Impartiality[edit]

The Speaker is required to perform his office impartially, but does not resign from his or her party membership upon taking office, as is done in the United Kingdom. Speaker Lucien Lamoureux decided to follow the custom of the Speaker of the British House of Commons and ran in the 1968 election as an independent. Both the Liberal Party and the Progressive Conservative Party agreed not to run candidates against him. The New Democratic Party, however, declined to withdraw their candidate. Lamoureux was re-elected and continued to serve as Speaker. However, in the 1972 election, the opposition parties did not come to an agreement and ran candidates against him. Lamoureux was again returned but future Speakers would not repeat his attempt to run as an independent. The opposition parties may have chosen not to follow the 1968 precedent because of how close the election was: it produced a Liberal minority government with just two more seats than the Conservatives.

Tie-breaking votes[edit]

On May 19, 2005, the Speaker was required to cast the tie-breaking vote during a confidence measure for the first time in Canadian history. Faced with the defeat of Paul Martin's minority government, Milliken voted in favour of the NDP budget amendment. Despite popular belief that the Speaker, as a Liberal MP, would automatically support the government, his vote was pre-determined by other factors. As Speaker, Milliken's vote must be cast to allow the continuation of debate, or to maintain the status quo. Thus, the Speaker voted in favour of second reading, "to allow the House time for further debate so that it can make its own decision at some future time."[citation needed] The bill would later pass third reading without the need for Milliken's vote.

Speakers have only needed to vote in order to break a tie 11 times in Canadian parliamentary history. Milliken did so on six occasions, more than all previous Speakers combined.[5]

Deputy Speaker[edit]

In addition to the Speaker, a Deputy Speaker, also known as the Chair of Committees of the Whole or "Chair of Committees", is elected at the beginning of each parliament to act in place of the Speaker when the latter is unavailable. Under the Standing Orders, the Speaker, after consulting with each of the party leaders, nominates a candidate for Deputy Speaker to the House, which then votes on that nomination. The Deputy Speaker presides over daily sessions of the House when the Speaker is not in the chair. The Deputy Speaker also chairs the House when it sits as a Committee of the Whole. Other presiding officers, the Deputy Chair of Committees and the Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees, are chosen each session to occupy the chair when the Speaker and Deputy Speaker are not available. The Deputy speaker and the other presiding officers are members of the Panel of Chairs, and can therefore be selected by the Speaker to chair legislative committees. Like the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker has a role in administering the House.[6]

The Deputy Speaker is Joe Comartin, and the other two presiding officers for the first session are Deputy Chair of Committees Barry Devolin (Conservative) and Assistant Deputy Chair Bruce Stanton (Conservative).[7]

Counterparts[edit]

The Speaker's counterpart in the upper house is the Speaker of the Canadian Senate. Canadian provincial and territorial legislatures also have Speakers with much the same roles. The position was preceded by the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada.

List of Speakers of the House of Commons[edit]

Plaque at the western entrance of the Centre Block of Parliament Hill.

Key:

Speaker Tenure Party Riding
1 James Cockburn November 6, 1867 March 5, 1874 Conservative Northumberland West
2 Timothy Warren Anglin March 26, 1874 February 12, 1879 Liberal Gloucester
3 Joseph Godéric Blanchet February 13, 1879 February 7, 1883 Liberal-Conservative Lévis
4 George Airey Kirkpatrick February 8, 1883 July 12, 1887 Conservative Frontenac
5 Joseph-Aldéric Ouimet July 13, 1887 July 28, 1891 Liberal-Conservative Laval
6 Peter White July 29, 1891 August 18, 1896 Conservative Renfrew North
7 James David Edgar August 19, 1896 July 31, 1899 Liberal Ontario West
8 Thomas Bain August 1, 1899 February 5, 1901 Liberal Wentworth South
9 Louis Philippe Brodeur February 6, 1901 January 18, 1904 Liberal Rouville
10 Napoléon Antoine Belcourt March 10, 1904 January 10, 1905 Liberal Ottawa (City of)
11 Robert Franklin Sutherland January 11, 1905 January 19, 1909 Liberal Essex North
12 Charles Marcil January 20, 1909 November 14, 1911 Liberal Bonaventure
13 Thomas Simpson Sproule November 15, 1911 December 2, 1915 Conservative Grey East
14 Albert Sévigny January 12, 1916 January 7, 1917 Conservative Dorchester
15 Edgar Nelson Rhodes January 18, 1917 March 5, 1922 Conservative Cumberland
16 Rodolphe Lemieux March 8, 1922 June 2, 1930 Liberal Gaspé
17 George Black September 8, 1930 January 16, 1935 Conservative Yukon
18 James Langstaff Bowman January 17, 1935 February 5, 1936 Conservative Dauphin
19 Pierre-François Casgrain February 6, 1936 May 10, 1940 Liberal Charlevoix-Saguenay
20 James Allison Glen May 16, 1940 September 5, 1945 Liberal Marquette
21 Gaspard Fauteux September 6, 1945 September 14, 1949 Liberal St. Mary
22 William Ross Macdonald September 15, 1949 June 11, 1953 Liberal Brantford
23 Louis-René Beaudoin November 12, 1953 October 13, 1957 Liberal Vaudreuil-Soulanges
24 Roland Michener October 14, 1957 September 26, 1962 Progressive Conservative St. Paul's
25 Marcel Lambert September 27, 1962 May 15, 1963 Progressive Conservative Edmonton West
26 Alan Macnaughton May 16, 1963 January 17, 1966 Liberal Mount Royal
27 Lucien Lamoureux January 18, 1966 September 29, 1974 Liberal/Independent++ Stormont-Dundas
28 James Alexander Jerome September 30, 1974 December 14, 1979 Liberal Sudbury
29 Jeanne Sauvé April 14, 1980 January 15, 1984 Liberal Laval-des-Rapides
30 Cyril Lloyd Francis January 16, 1984 November 4, 1984 Liberal Ottawa West
31 John William Bosley November 5, 1984 September 29, 1986 Progressive Conservative Don Valley West
32 John Allen Fraser September 30, 1986 January 16, 1994 Progressive Conservative Vancouver South
33 Gilbert Parent January 17, 1994 January 28, 2001 Liberal Welland—St. Catharines—Thorold
Niagara Centre
34 Peter Milliken January 29, 2001 June 2, 2011 Liberal Kingston and the Islands
35 Andrew Scheer June 2, 2011 Incumbent Conservative Regina-Qu'Appelle

References[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Parliamentary Library of Canada - contains biographies of all of Canada's speakers and information on the historical development and current role of the position.