Greetings from the press gallery of the House of Commons, where we will shortly commence with live coverage of the 41st Parliament’s Speaker election. MPs are presently filing into the chamber, acquainting and reacquainting themselves with each other. The proceedings will commence around 11 o’clock.
There are presently eight candidates seeking the post: Dean Allison, Barry Devolin, Ed Holder, Lee Richardson, Denise Savoie, Andrew Scheer, Bruce Stanton and Merv Tweed. Officially, Justin Trudeau will appear on the first ballot, but that is owing to his having not notified the clerk in time that he did not wish to be in the running (MPs must officially opt out of the Speaker’s election).
Very shortly the Usher of the Black Rod will arrive to inform the House that its collective presence is required at the Senate. The Speaker of the Senate will then inform the House that it should choose a Speaker if it wishes to proceed with business. The House will reconvene and Louis Plamondon, as the longest serving MP in the House, will take the chair. The candidates for Speaker will then be called to stand and briefly state their respective cases.
11:11am. Well the message has been delivered and the members—most of them at least—are now shuffling out and down the hall for the arduous journey to the Senate. For those of you keeping track of the seating plan at home, the new official opposition frontbench goes Davies, Perreault, Duncan, Angus, Crowder, Boulerice, Chisholm, Julian, Nash, Davies, Layton, Mulcair, Comartin, Harris, Dewar, Chow, Godin, Boivin, Stoffer, Christopherson, Allen. The four Bloc MPs and Elizabeth May are in the far southeast corner, just behind the diminished Liberal caucus. Thirteen Conservatives MP spill over to the opposition side in the northeast corner.
11:26am. Mr. Plamondon has taken the chair and Mr. Trudeau has formally notified the House that he does not wish to be Speaker (various members made a show of being disappointed). On then to the speeches.
11:33am. Dean Allison promises “thoughtful discernment” and aims to “maintain the sanctity of this place.” He is also keen on free speech. Barry Devolin ventures that this goes beyond party or friendship. He targets Ed Holder and claims he himself has sufficient business experience. He targets Lee Richardson and claims he himself has sufficient life experience. He targets Denise Savoie and claims he himself is sufficiently bilingual. He targets Bruce Stanton and claims he is of sufficient temperament. The gist of this, apparently, is that he is closest to the perfect Speaker, a unique mix of everything anyone else can offer.
11:48am. Ed Holder says he is standing for Speaker because other MPs, from various parties, encouraged him to do so. He promises not only greater decorum and civility, but also fiscal responsibility. Lee Richardson recalls the “oratorical masters” he has admired and suggests he has the “personal fortitude” to take on the hallowed duties of Speaker. He admits his French needs a little work.
11:53am. Denise Savoie vows a “singular focus on raising the tone of debate.” Part of this: “concrete procedural changes.” Helpfully reminds everyone here that the goal is supposed to be good public policy. She suggests the Speaker exists to nurture a proper environment and she imagines a place of witty, informed, intelligent debate. She asks MPs to support her “only” if they are willing to do their part.
11:59am. Andrew Scheer recalls the words of William Lenthall and refers members to his experience and performance as deputy speaker. Proceeds with a couple jokes about his age (he’s 32). Says the standing orders must be more strictly enforced and suggests he won’t allow consistently disrespectful members to ask questions. There is promptly some heckling from the Liberal corner about government ministers and John Baird.
12:05pm. Bruce Stanton recalls his experience running his family’s resort and the lessons of working with others. He notes the balance between decorum and the privileges of members. Hopes Canadians will be able to take “greater pride” in what happens here. According to his French teacher, he speaks the language on an intermediate level.
12:09pm. Merv Tweed works in a reference to the Winnipeg Jets. He laments a “severe decline of decorum in this wonderful chamber,” up to and including the fact members attack each other. Promises to be the Speaker for all members. Says he has been serving with “respect and dignity” and will continue to do so if he’s elected today.
12:13pm. Members will now scatter for an hour to “reflect.” Which is to say they will now go partake of the hospitality suites.
1:20pm. We have reconvened now for the first vote (six “polling stations” are set up in the centre aisle and MPs line up to cast their ballots). It is essentially a run-off vote until someone gets more than 50 per cent. The candidate with the lowest total and anyone who receives less than five per cent of the ballots cast will be dropped after each vote. Last time around it took five ballots to elect Peter Milliken. The first time a Speaker was elected, in 1986, the vote required 11 ballots and went until 2am.
1:34pm. It would be tacky to dwell too long on this whole “My, those NDP MPs are young” thing, but… along the back row of the NDP side, Pierre-Luc Dusseault and Mylene Freeman are seatmates. Their combined age? 42.
2:07pm. With nothing much to do while the ballots are counted, one can only sit and watch the MPs mill and chat. After awhile it begins to feel like watching a zoo inclosure.
2:10pm. First ballot results are in. Dean Allison and Bruce Stanton have been eliminated. Off to the second ballot.
3:00pm. Second ballot results are in. Ed Holder has been eliminated. Off to the third ballot.
3:27pm. In case you were wondering, the Throne Speech will be delivered at 3pm tomorrow by Governor General David Johnston. We should be just about done selecting a Speaker by then.
3:40pm. Third ballot results are in. Barry Devolin has been eliminated. Off to the fourth ballot.
4:08pm. There are various theories now as to how this vote plays out. None of them, of course, are based on anything like actual numbers because the results are not revealed. One possibility that’s not being discussed: a new Speaker is elected, but suddenly Peter Milliken’s theme music (the Tragically Hip’s “Courage”) starts playing. Everyone looks around shocked and then Mr. Milliken steps out from behind the throne, smashes the winner over the head with a steel chair and reveals that, when no one was paying attention three months ago, he and a band of rebel MPs passed a motion to make him Speaker for life.
4:19pm. Fourth ballot results are in. Merv Tweed has been eliminated. Off to the fifth ballot.
4:23pm. After disappearing for a bit, the Prime Minister is back in his seat and once more going over a pile of documents at his desk. Rest assured that, despite the instability caused by this Speaker’s election, Mr. Harper will not be distracted from his paperwork.
4:43pm. One of the younger NDP MPs just skipped up an aisle to her spot in the back row.
4:48pm. Elizabeth May is going around handing pieces of paper to newly elected MPs. Apparently it’s for some kind of party. I’m going to go ahead and allege that it is a pool party at her house.
4:58pm. Fifth ballot results are in. Lee Richardson has been eliminated, leaving only Andrew Scheer and Denise Savoie. Off to the sixth ballot.
5:03pm. Mr. Scheer is now standing in centre aisle, accepting handshakes from a procession of Conservatives. Fans of math may note that the Conservatives hold more than half of the seats in the House of Commons. Make of this what you will.
5:13pm. Fans of obscure procedural history will note that this equals 1994 as the second-longest election for Speaker since Parliament adopted this process in 1986.
5:37pm. Sixth ballot results are in … and the winner is Andrew Scheer. The House of Kids gets a Boy Speaker.
5:40pm. Mr. Scheer makes a good show of not really wanting the job as Mr. Harper and Mr. Layton drag him to the chair. Mr. Layton jabs him in the back with his cane and Mr. Harper gives him one last shove as he ascends to the throne. Mr. Plamondon cedes the spot and Speaker Scheer officially takes power. In doing so, he becomes the 35th, and youngest, individual to hold the position.
5:44pm. He humbly acknowledges the “great honour” conferred upon him. Turning to the gallery he notes the presence of his wife and infant son (the youngest of his four children) and his parents. He thanks all for the trust they have placed in him and manages his first “order” in response to some playful heckling from the government side. He understands, he says, that all are here to make Canada the best country in the world and vows to do his best to live up to the trust placed in him.
5:50pm. Kind words now from Mr. Harper and Mr. Layton and Bob Rae. Much hoping for civility and decorum and respect. The Prime Minister manages a hockey analogy. The Leader of the Opposition publicly commits for the official record that there will be no heckling from side. Mr. Rae says he will not commit to complete silence from his side, pronouncing himself a “profound realist.” He says he is looking forward to the “first sign of life” from the official opposition and will be waiting to see how long the vow of silence lasts. The NDP side seems not terribly impressed.
5:58pm. Final words now from Mr. Plamondon on behalf of the Bloc and, in her House debut, the Green’s Elizabeth May. Ms. May senses we have the makings of a more respectful Parliament and vows that, like Mr. Layton, she will commit that no one in the Green caucus will participate in heckling.
6:01pm. The Speaker offers a few more words of thanks and duly informs the House that the Governor General will be arriving on Parliament Hill at 2:30pm tomorrow and will proceed to the Senate to open the 41st Parliament. The House is thus duly adjourned.