Canadian House of Commons Braces for Historic Speaker Election on Tuesday


Come Tuesday, Canada’s House of Commons is set to elect a Speaker, following the resignation of Anthony Rota. A day destined to make a mark in the annals of Canadian political history, it promises to be bustling with ceremonial grandeur and procedural intricacies.

The Speaker holds responsibilities extending beyond their common perception as impartial adjudicators of the House proceedings. While indeed they maintain order and diplomacy while interpreting parliamentary procedures, they also carry out salient administrative and managerial responsibilities. Moreover, in their additional role as representatives of the Canadian Parliament, the Speaker undertakes ceremonial and diplomatic duties.

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Once chosen, the Speaker adheres to a nonpartisan approach, refraining from attending caucus meetings of their electing party, engaging in debates, or casting votes unless in the event of a tie. The position garners a remuneration of $92,800 on top of the base MP salary of $194,600—equivalent to a ministerial pay. It includes accommodation at The Farm in the Kingsmere community of Chelsea, Quebec, and a humble apartment in West Block for the long-duty hours.

Historical records state that only two out of the 36 speakers since the Confederation were elected mid-session; one due to a Speaker’s demise in 1899, the other when the Speaker stepped down to become governor general in 1984.

All members of Parliament barring ministers and leaders of recognized parties are considered eligible candidates for the Speaker role. The final list of candidates includes several Liberal MPs such as Quebec’s Alexandra Mendes, Greg Fergus, Peter Schiefke, Ontario’s Stephane Lauzon, and P.E.I.’s Sean Casey. It also includes Conservative Chris d’Entremont from Nova Scotia, Ontario’s NDP Carol Hughes, and Green party representative Elizabeth May from British Columbia.

Commencing Tuesday at 10 a.m. ET, the election day will showcase candidates’ brief speeches aimed at convincing their peers of their aptness for the role. Following a 30-minute break for lobbying, MPs will receive their ballots. Given the secret ranked ballot election mode adopted since 2015, MPs will vote in isolation behind curtains. The ballots will be counted, and the candidate with the fewest votes will be ejected. The ejected candidate’s votes will be distributed to the second choice on those ballots until one candidate secures more than half of the votes.

The name of the winner will be made public, and they shall be invited to the chair, flanked by the prime minister and the Official Opposition leader. Keeping with tradition, the newly-appointed Speaker displays resistance before accepting the role, given its historical reluctance by MPs. Speeches pledging firmness and impartiality ensue amidst congratulatory applause. Following these events, the Speaker is expected to head over to the Senate to acknowledge the new Speaker, even though it isn’t the start of a new session. Within the following days, deputy and assistant deputy speakers are expected to be named by mutual agreement among party leaders.