Ahead of the election of a new Speaker on June 2, I’ve sent each of the candidates a set of questions about the job and promised to post here all responses in their entirety. First up, this morning, was Lee Richardson. Here now is Bruce Stanton, the MP for Simcoe North.
1. First and foremost, why do you want this job?
To help facilitate greater decorum and civility in the House – a matter of common criticism by my constituents. This is one way of trying to do something about it.
2. To what degree have you been concerned about the levels of civility and decorum in the House during recent sessions? Would your approach to maintaining civility differ from Mr. Milliken’s and, if so, how?
I echo the concerns of the people I represent who find decorum in the House to be an embarrassment – in what would otherwise be our most respected democratic institution. Improving civility would start with setting the tone and tenor – insisting that unparliamentary language – the area that affords the Speaker some discretion – will be dealt with using a progression of sanctions – from warning, to insisting the Member come to order, to not recognizing, and possibly to naming the Member. I would also look to sponsor and establish events outside of the sittings, for M.P.’s to become more familiar with colleagues across party lines.
3. Mr. Milliken objected to the use of statements by members to launch partisan and personal attacks? Do you share his concern and, if so, what could be done to deal with this matter?
Speaker Milliken had it right. The Standing Orders compel M.P.’s not to use offensive words towards any fellow M.P.. On the question of what constitutes “offensive”, that remains with the Speaker to determine (or other MP’s for that matter). What is needed is the will to act upon it. In my view, this transgression must have consequences – being brought to order, not being recognized (turning off the microphone).
4. Mr. Milliken made three closely watched rulings on privilege during the last Parliament: specifically on matters related to the opposition’s access to documents in regards to the transfer of detainees in Afghanistan, International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda’s dealings with the House and an opposition demand that the government comply with certain requests for information. Did you at the time, or do you now, have any objections to any part of those rulings? As Speaker, would you have handled those matters at all differently?
I believe Mr. Milliken’s rulings were fair and consistent with his obligations to uphold Parliamentary prerogative in these matters. They were well-researched and within the bounds of the Speaker’s role to move the question toward resolution.