Mr. Speaker


When the government falls tomorrow afternoon and Parliament is subsequently dissolved, Peter Milliken‘s time as Speaker of the House of Commons will come to an end, Mr. Milliken having already decided that he will not seek reelection as the MP for Kingston and the Islands. First elected to the post in January 2001, he will retire as the longest-serving Speaker in the history of the House.

His tenure will be remembered as historic on a number of fronts, but his ruling last year on Afghan detainee documents and his rulings this year on statements made by International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda and the government’s refusal to turn over documents requested by the House will likely be of significant and lasting consequence. Amid much gnashing of teeth over the state of our parliamentary democracy, Mr. Milliken reasserted the power and preeminence of the House of Commons. As a legacy, a Speaker could not ask for much greater.


Mr. Speaker

  1. I often felt that Speaker Milliken didn't do enough to control the bunch of nutjobs that we send to the House of Commons, but on the occasion of his tenure coming to an end I have to say that overall I think he did an admirable job, and I heartily thank him for his long years of service in a pretty thankless position working on our behalf.

    Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

  2. Farewell Mr Milliken and thank you for your diligence.

  3. Milliken was subscribing to Hansard when he was 14. This was a job he was born to do. If we get another speaker who is half as versed as this guy in parliamentary procedure, we'll be lucky.

  4. Agreed. When asked to step up to the plate when Parliament was on the edge of a cliff, he did quite well. Only critique is I feel he too often allowed Parliament to get out of control on the first place.

  5. farewell.

  6. If I'm not mistaken, Milliken's above noted accomplishments were after he had indicated he was not running for re-election (as an MP and hence Speaker) after his latest win was widely contested – due to a lack of decorum in the House. Maybe there's a lesson here.

  7. Well said! He is a learned and thoughtful man. One can remember the names of few Speakers, but he has shone light on the importance of the knowledge of due process and precedence that role requires, and I think his name will stand as the high bar for some time.

  8. Nexr Speaker: Pierre Polievre.

  9. You have discovered the one argument that could ensure a Liberal majority!

  10. Next Speaker: Bev Oda

    …. but I guess she'll just get to sit in the big chair while John Baird speaks for her

  11. Mr. Milliken was a good speaker, but rightly criticized for being sheepish in his rulings – especially when a strong ruling might have jeopardized his ability to stay in the chair.

    While I don't think he should be denied credit for having asserted himself more recently, I don't think it can be forgotten that he was no longer concerned about sticking around.

    It appears the strongest Speaker is the lame duck speaker. Powers undiminished, but need for restraint gone.

  12. I think your and WDM's assessments of Milliken's tenure hits the nail on the head.

    The next Speaker should be forced to pass a physical similar to what they give to cops and firefighters. And that mace? Time to dust it off.

  13. Lost in the midst this week is the fact that Friday will be the last day in the House of Commons for Milliken, but also Stockwell Day (a former Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition), as well as a cast of several fine MPs such as Keith Martin (Reform, CA, Conservative, Liberal) and Chuck Strahl. I think there are a few others announced (and probably some that haven't announced yet), but these 4 stand out.

    I hope there is a moment for some tribute to these fine Parliamentarians for their service to their country. I would say of each of these four that they were good Members of Parliament and did not dig themselves into the mud but emerge from their service as respected and upstanding individuals for their public service.

    Is Stephane Dion running again? I don't even know he's been so silent. I'd say the same about him.

  14. I thought Andrew Scheer covets that role.

  15. I continue to have great respect for the Speaker, and wish him well in his retirement.

  16. I understand now that 14 MPs are not seeking re-election and will get to say farewell in the House after QP. They each get a couple of minutes.

  17. So he'll be remembered for rulings he made against a Conservative government, but not for presiding over what has surely been one of the least civil and most acrimonious periods in Parliamentary history? And we're going back to when Liberals were in power, too, right? Funny what some people choose to focus on.

  18. I have the same mixed feelings. I agree he seemed amazing in the areas Wherry describes but, in my opinion, he too often hid behind the "will of Parliament" when justifying why he would not enforce decorum or quality of debate in the House. Picking the Speaker is partially a popularity contest and that may have been his MO. Regardless, it kept him in the role and he seemed excellent in all other areas of his job.

  19. No. He'll be remembered for reasserting the Supremacy of Parliament, an important distinction; and criticism of his sometimes ineffectual style has been duly noted.

  20. Thanks for standing up for Parliament Mr Milliken, and thanks for caring enough to want the job at all.

  21. Forgive me if I don't see it in as enlightened fashion as you do.

  22. LOL.

    Man would I love to see the Sergeant at Arms swingin' the mace around!

  23. I don't know. If Pierre were Speaker we wouldn't hear from him nearly as much.

  24. Bipartisan kudos from me for all those mentioned, and there was a time when I never would have thought I'd say that about Stockwell Day (then again, who knew how often I'd end up pining for the return of Preston Manning!!!).

  25. You're entitled to your opinion.

  26. It comes with a lot of perks, doesn't it?

  27. Dion is indeed retiring as well.

    Too bad actually. I think he could easily have "redeemed" himself and made a real and further contribution to Canada in the manner that Joe Clark did under Mulroney and even Stockwell Day did under Harper.

  28. Funny what some people choose to focus on.

    Couldn't have said it better myself.

  29. You don't know much Parliamentary history to make that claim.

    But on the basic notion that he let incivility go, I agree, that is not a great mark. However, I think he had quite a strong view/philosophy on this which was that the basic habits and conduct of Parliamentarians is mostly a matter of the individual and the party's leader, it being such a fine and difficult line to draw between free speech and civility. Besides, if it really matters, the voter can decide not to vote the imbecile in. Hurt feelings over incivility bring the government and Parliament into disrepute but it is not his job to babysit behaviour.

    However, it is his job to ensure that Parliamentarians are doing and are able to do their job, and that they comply with laws. A law passed without costing that Parliament has ordered to be produced can't simply be amended when it turns out the government was lying. Harper was taking actions that prevented Parliamentarians from doing their job and ensuring basic accountability and he was breaking the law.

    Big big big difference.

  30. Yes, because original thoughts seem to be beyond you lately.

  31. You don't know much Parliamentary history to make that claim.

    Really. You're more than welcome to enlighten me and all those others who routinely make the same claim.

  32. sigh…such as?

    Consevatives did vote for him as speaker too, or has that escaped your eagle eye?

    Not that i give a damn what you think of Milliken.

  33. That's funny because I didn't offer you my opinions of Milliken. In response to your suggestion that it was some kind of sacrifice to take on the job, I merely pointed out that it does come with many additional perks that most Parliamentarians don't get. I'm sorry this angered you so much.

    For the record, the "Perks of Being Speaker":

  34. Oh come on, Dennis. Seriously?

    You don't know much about Parliamentary conduct under MacDonald -Laurier then. I'm not aware of any of recent fisticuffs in the House or projectiles. Rob Anders giving the finger to the opposition was close, I guess, but he was repremanded.

    But have heart. People do routinely make the claim, you are correct, and they are also wrong. Classic Harper Conservative thinking to imagine that if you do something wrong and someone else is also doing or did the same thing wrong, then it must be right.

    What this Parliament is that prior much less civil Parliaments were not is far more juvenile and disrespectful of Parliament itself. Using members statements to attack private citizens and other members like the Conservatives were doing (and Milliken finally repremanded them for), not answering questions (even real questions and not the stupid question-like statements from the opposition), having John Baird answer questions on behalf of cabinet ministers on questions within their portfolio (a violation of their own rules to boot), not to mention the manual on how to make Parliament dysfunctional, contempt, ignoring subpoenas and Parliamentary orders, prorogation to avoid confidence votes and accountability, etc.

  35. That's a really good point. It may be that he allowed the shenanigans that were the 'will of parliament' because he knows better than us Maclean's commenters about the precedence of such a view.

    Still, that part bothered me, too.

  36. Classic Harper Conservative thinking to imagine that if you do something wrong and someone else is also doing or did the same thing wrong, then it must be right.

    No. It's about the left howling and screaming about the tiniest of Conservative infractions when Liberals were guilty of real scandals.

  37. Really? I hadn't heard, and I'm fairly upset by the news. Because, I completely agree that he'd have done a good Joe Clark. And Joe Clark is my favourite PM of all time, largely because of his behaviour after the PMship. But, I guess Dion is quite a bit older than Clark was, and never had the PM mantle anyway.

    Still, a blow.

  38. Don't sucker me like that with reasonable responses Dennis, i'm not prepared for them.

    And i said for caring enough – a postive attribute. Of course you would gloam on to the negative – insinuating he was in it for himself. Since i'ts not possible to know his precise motivation but there is evidence he's been absorbed by hansard since he was 14, i prefer to think well of him.

  39. Early days. Still, there be some nervous nellies particularly in the liberal camp i'd imagine.

  40. Yes, but it has been the trend whenever the prospect of an Iggy prime ministership comes to the fore. Which might explain why Harper is perfectly content to be brought down by a Liberal motion thrown down by the Iggster himself.

    The only hope for the opposition appears to be hyping so far non-existent scandals for the duration of an election campaign. Otherwise, methinks they have some formidable challenges to overcome.

  41. That's more like it.

  42. non existent is an entirely arbitrary judgement – certainly not mine.

  43. Describe one major Conservative scandal in one brief sentence. Try it.

  44. From "The ruling" (i.e. the first one):

    The function of the Speaker is limited to deciding whether the matter is of such a character as to entitle the Member who has raised the question to move a motion which will have priority over Orders of the Day; that is, in the Speaker's opinion, there is a prima facie question of privilege. If there is, the House must take the matter into immediate consideration. Ultimately, it is the House which decides whether a breach of privilege or a contempt has been committed.

  45. … and later…

    the Chair cannot but conclude that the Government`s failure to comply with the Order of December 10, 2009 constitutes prima facie a question of privilege.
    I will allow House Leaders, Ministers and party critics time to suggest some way of resolving the impasse for it seems to me we would fail the institution if no resolution can be found. However, if, in two weeks' time, the matter is still not resolved, the Chair will return to make a statement on the motion that will be allowed in the circumstances.

    The Speaker failed the institution by ignoring his role as prescribed in the first quoted paragraph. He may not have failed the country; this was probably the wise course to follow. Just not the legitimate one.

    (all bolding in quoted text is MYL's)

  46. Bev Oda Lied to parliament.

  47. and that's a scandal, is it?

    Nobody even knows what she apparently lied about, but that's somehow a reason to have a $300 million election?

    Again, good luck with this. I honestly think you're going to need a lot of it, and then some.

  48. Of course we know what she lied about…claiming that the decision to defund KAIROS had originated withCiDA.

  49. I don't think she ever specifically claimed that, but even if she did, that's a big scandal? That's what you've got? She fumbled an explanation about funding for an organization nobody every heard of. Off with her head?

    By the way, I think there's a strong case to be made for her to resign. She might not have because her actions were in part the result of confusing directions from the PMO. Nevertheless, how does this qualify as a significant scandal?

    Like I said, this is awfully thin stuff to go into an election with. In fact, Harper may not have fired her precisely to give the opposition such weak ammo and election bait.

    The opposition might get some play with a freshly developing Carson story. But that's an iffy proposition at best. This other stuff isn't catastrophic in any way. Harper will attribute it to bitter partisanship on the part of the opposition, and my bet is that most voters will, too.

    This nonsense vs economic and political stability. What do voters want? Judging by some recent polling, the latter sentiment seems to be prevailing.

  50. Thank you to the Speaker of the House of Commons, for the great work you have done for a record number of years in such a difficult position.

    I for one believe he will be remembered well and will be honoured with the Companion to the Order of Canada and hopefully another rare honour, being permanently titled with Right Honourable.

    We could use more honest public servants in politics like him.

  51. Don't criticize the Speaker for not maintaining decorum when you cannot act with dignity and respect on this all but important comment blog on one short magazine article in the anonymous WWW.

    This just shows that decorum and respect are not just the Speaker's responsibility, but are the responsibility of everyone involved in the "conversation"
    It's exactly what's wrong with our democracy right now.

  52. Wait a minute. You're saying that the Speaker shouldn't be responsible for decorum in the House because you're accusing me of not maintaining here? What kind of bizarre logic is that? Of course the Speaker has responsibility for decorum. And this speaker has been accused of being far too lenient on this score.

  53. I am drawing a comparison to the larger patterns, thats all.
    And sure, maybe he could have done more – but maybe not… I don't think that would be easy.
    What the House of Commons needs is an overhaul of things like QP that inflate the false dichotomy of us versus them. We need to govern and make consensus, not fight and yell, slander and belittle.

  54. He's not a saint just because he ruled against the Conservatives and gave the opposition a flimsy excuse to force an election, you know. Again, I don't understand where this euphoria over an election is coming from. People want to see humility from those who say we need an election, and I see just the opposite. I see an opposition and its supporters that are completely out of touch with the sentiment of the day, and I never thought I'd see the day when it was the opposition that was more out of touch than the government was. That is quite the achievement, and it's probably the most notable one to be claimed by this particular opposition bunch.

  55. she did claim that, and not only her. No one but you is claiming this is all their going to run on. The ethics list is a long one. But mostly it's cumulative.

  56. She did make that claim, in fact, her story changed a couple times.
    The fact that she "may" be being honest now doesn't change the fact that she lied when she said she CIDA recommended defunding, and then when that document surfaced, that she didn't know who wrote "NOT" into the document to signify her decision – shady, and then now to say it was her decision and her responsibility and right to make said decision… on and on… her story and explanation changed.

  57. She fumbled the explanation of how funding was revoked for a group no one cares about. Wrong? Yes. Scandalous? Hardly.

  58. Well, we've gone from claiming that there have been serious scandals, to now it all being "cumulative."

    Another factor to consider is this: Do people believe Liberals, of all people, would act saintly if given power again?

    Again, I think this is flimsy.

    What else is there? Jets that Liberals are going to purchase anyway, and prisons that people want built.

    I think a big problem for the opposition is that perhaps never before has a PM become so adept at giving them so little to go on.

  59. Your last sentence is laughable.

  60. I don't think Day has done much except keep his head down over the last few years. if he's shown a great improvement, it's only been from risible to tolerable.

  61. Perhaps, but I may be grading on a curve here too.

    How many tolerable Cabinet Ministers does Harper even have? Even that aside, how many politicians, of any stripe, ever go from risible to tolerable? The trend line is usually in the opposite direction, imho.

  62. I don't see much that Dion even has to redeem himself for. Turns out he wasn't a good politician at the level of national party leader. Big deal.

    He's still done more for this country than the VAST majority of MPs in the House today have. WAAAAAY more.

  63. I think Day, as a cabinet minister, has been quietly competent and not simply and only rabidly partisan always on. His website updates/blog have been pretty idiotic, but my impression is that he has conducted himself in the House and as a Parliamentarian, both as leader and after, in a respectful manner, unlike the guy who replaced him as leader and others who get sent up to speak most like Baird and Poilievre.

    Which doesn't mean his groundless and idiotic scientific views are any closer to reality, of course.

  64. Redeem only in the sense that, a lot like Day and a bit like Clark (who called the leadership race that he lost because he had less than 80% support), he left the spotlight with the taste of failure in the mouth from a poor leadership. And that becomes his legacy by stepping away from politics unfortunately.

    All three prove the Peter Principle: Day and Clark leave the indelible mark that they were very competent and just didn't have that particular leadership ingredient for the top job because of what they did after. History will give Chretien more credit for Dion's Captain Canada efforts in Quebec in support of the Clarity Act I think.

  65. Other than Adscam, not so much. And over 13 years to boot.

    By contrast, the Harper Conservatives fill a page of scandals and lawbreaking and corruption in just 5 years. None admittedly as big as Adscam, but add them up and you have one of the most dispicable governments in our history.

  66. Also, the Liberals admitted to and cleaned up their scandals. They were also a different type – they didn't attackt he very foundations of democracy the way harper has.

  67. Well, let's not go too far.

    I think using taxpayer dollars to funnel into election campaigns as was done in Adscam – even though it was only a few, even though the criminals also stole money from the Liberal Party as well – is attacking the very foundations of democracy.

    It certainly wasn't an organized attack on democracy from the top down the way "financial considerations" for Cadman + shutting down Parliament 4 times (3 prorogations, 2 of which to avoid accountability/confidence motions) + election fraud + influence peddling + contempt + the "make Parliament dysfunctional" manual ++++++ all add up.

    But Liberals aren't pure in this either, if you want to say a party inherits its history of a decade and a half ago.

  68. I think the justification for this election is laughable, as are your feeble efforts to defend it. lol. Next.

  69. Who are you trying to kid? First, Adscam was huge. You can't overlook that. Two, look at all the others: BDC bank,/grand-mere, somaliagate, etc, etc. These were serious allegations, not this Parliamentary partisanship that the opposition has gotten into a lather about.

  70. lol, that's like a thief exonerating himself because he had to return the money. lol. Yes, real Liberal scandals are OK because, damn it, we hate it that Harper is in power and is so strong, even after five years in minority. His critics can't stand him because he's been so shrewd and successful. They hate him for it.

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