The impartial Speaker

by Aaron Wherry

Peter Milliken reflects on his time as Speaker.

Ultimately, the Speaker is left to attempt to curb the worst of any excesses, to uphold the rules insofar as this is possible—for example, to ensure that the time limits applicable to questions and answers are strictly adhered to—and to strive to do this in an unbiased and impartial fashion. The toleration of some indecorous behaviour is preferable to creating the impression that the Speaker is intervening in a partial or partisan fashion. Neither can the Speaker be seen to interfere with or arbitrarily to obstruct the legitimate questioning of government Ministers.




Browse

The impartial Speaker

  1. I love how everyone says how swell Milliken was as speaker, while simultaneously complaining that house decorum has sunk to new lows in recent years.  The buck stops at the speaker.

    • The House decorum has appeared robust and noisy because the MPs’ right of freedom of speech is respected, and it is up to the parties’ leaders to restrain their members.  The Honourable Peter Milliken was praised as the best Speaker in Canadian history because he knew the parliamentary procedure at heart, and he was capable of making any decisions based on established principles – guarding Canada above the partisan lines.

      • It is up to the party’s leaders to restrain their members. And when they fail, that duty falls to the Speaker.

        Milliken’s crap about the Speaker can’t be seen as given the impression of siding with one side or the other is something that the House deals with by choosing a new speaker. Ditto for his second attempt at covering up his own cowardice.

        This is the man who laid out specifically that the rules said the government had no leeway to avoid providing documents the House had asked for, and then in the name of saving his own pension, allowed them to do just that.

        • The parties’ leaders have more power to restraint their members than the speaker does.

          Furthermore, I, among the majority of Canadian citizens and MPs, do not share your view.  On the contrary, we do not see the Hon. Peter Milliken as a coward, but the man having led the House with great dignity; who knew and respected the parliamentary rules.  He would not have been re-elected many times as Speaker of the House, had he done a lousy job as you tried to portray him.   You have undermined the MPs’ judgements for electing and re-electing him again and again. As for your accusation of him having been inconsistent for his own gain,I find it was vague and unfounded, attempting to smear the impartial speaker – the Hon. Peter Milliken’s – integrity.

          May peace be with you, Thwim.

          • So you’re among the majority of Canadian citizens and MPs? So.. which riding do you represent, Mr. MP? And how much of our taxpayer funding did you use to conduct the poll that told you you were among the majority of Canadians who felt this way? Oh, and would you mind providing a link to said poll, not that I’m flat-out calling you a liar, I just don’t believe what you’re saying.

            Why wouldn’t he have been re-elected? He was doing everything he could to avoid making a decision that might piss somebody off.

            As for undermining their judgement, you give me far too much credit. They did that themselves. I just happened to point it out on this occasion.

            I didn’t accuse him of being inconsistent — anything but. I accused him of being consistently a coward — being as inoffensive and useless as possible so that they’d keep electing him speaker and doing whatever they liked while he collected the nice pay bump and increase in pension for the position.

            Or is that too vague for you as well?

            As an aside, you may want to check with the eye-doctor, as the difference between being an ass-kisser and a brown-noser they say is simply a matter of depth perception.. and at this point, it looks like you might have your whole head shoved up there.

          • I am not a MP; I am a concerned citizen, who appreciates and respects the Hon. Peter Milliken’s knowledge and integrity.  I did not conduct any poll, but I believe the majority of Canadians and MPs felt that way based on his record of winning elections over the period of 22 years, including the last 10 years as Speaker of the House elected by the majority of MPs from all parties.

            He was not re-elected in the recent election because he was not running; he had announced his decision to retire from politics (June, 2010) before the election was called (March, 2011). 

            I do not agree with you that “he was doing everything he could to avoid making a decision that might piss somebody off”.  On the contrary, he did rule on the supremacy of the parliament against the Harper Conservatives government; which un-doubtfully pissed many, if not all, Conservatives off.

            In your previous post you wrote:  “This is the man who laid out specifically that the rules said the government had no leeway to avoid providing documents …then in the name of saving his own pension, allowed them to do just that.” Now you said you did not accuse him of being inconsistent, but that you “accused him of being consistently a coward – being as inoffensive and useless as possible so that they’d keep electing him speaker …”   This coward accusation is unfair and unkind; which was based on nothing, but your own biased speculation.   As the Speaker, he was expected to serve as the strictly neutral referee of the rules as they stand, not what he would like them to be.  The Hon. Milliken did us a great service, in which he was able to uphold the principle of accountability within the limited scope of the Speaker’s role.

            MPs did not undermine their judgement for electing and re-electing him again and again; they had worked with him over the years, and they respected his qualifications for the job.

            Perhaps due to your partisan bitterness and/or your personal envy at his successful career, your posts were hate-filled. You appeared to be a nasty – very disrespectful and pugnacious – person.   I do not know if your bully has impressed someone, but I am certainly not impressed by it. Again, may peace be with you, Thwim.

  2. Translation: other than using a stop watch while preventing actual fist fights from breaking out, the Speaker does nothing.

    • I have the same comment for you as I did for Frank:  The House decorum has appeared robust and noisy because the MPs’ right of freedom of speech is respected, and it is up to the parties’ leaders to restrain their members.  The Honourable Peter Milliken was praised as the best Speaker in Canadian history because he knew the parliamentary procedure at heart, and he was capable of making any decisions based on established principles – guarding Canada above the partisan lines.

      • Parliament is the boardroom of the nation.   No other boardroom in Canada would behave in this fashion…because THEY are all expected to act like adults.

        Milliken allowed our boardroom to become a circus.

        • The Hon. Peter Milliken did not encourage the boardroom to become a circus; in fact, he tried to promote peace among MPs.  He did not have absolute power to control them; it is up to their leaders to manage them.

          • Thank you for the commentary Mr Milliken….now go have another coffee and stay off chatsites.

          • You jumped into the conclusion that I am the Hon. Peter Milliken.  I can tell you this: I am not he; I am a concerned citizen, who appreciates and respects his second to none qualifications, and I would like to thank him for his great service to our beloved country – Canada.

            And, here is my response to your post below, OriginalEmily1: Neither he nor I said that it was not his job, but what I said was that he did what he may have done within the parliamentary rules.

          • @Commentator 

            No, I was just pointing out that as a fanboy, you’re not doing Milliken any good.

            Saying ‘it’s not my job’ just doesn’t cut it.

  3. The British speakers seemed to have figured out a way to keep things civilized. 

    • Though I have not followed the British House closely, I do not agree with your comment because I saw their House also appeared robust and noisy on my two brief random observations on their question periods. I would not want to jump into your conclusion that grass is always greener on the other side.

  4. What Milliken allowed “Members Statements” to become should be a blight on his official portrait.

    • I didn’t realize they were a recent addition.  They now serve as a sort of warm up to the raucousness that is Question Period. 

      • They aren’t that recent, but what’s recent is the vile use that the Harper Conservatives have been putting them to, with impunity. It needs to stop.

        • Oh I know, it’s like kids acting up before the teacher comes into the room.

    • The Hon. Peter Milliken’s knowledge, wisdom, and integrity are not blight, but they are rather a symbol of grace on his official portrait.

  5. The Peter Principle: “In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence”

    The Peter Milliken Principle: “Picking a speaker’s official single malt will scotch everything over.”

    • The Peter Milliken principles are:

      1.  Respecting the MPs’ right of freedom of speech would allow them to rise to their highest level of competence

      2.  Social dinners and Scotch servings to all MPs, would promote peace among them, who would, otherwise, not want to chat and work amicably with one another

      They were designed to encourage MPs to work together and at their best, regardless their political affiliations.

        • Fake, thanks for providing the CPAC web site.  I found the interview entertaining.  I noted there was only one comment posted, whose author had very much enjoyed it, too.  Sadly you, for some partisan reason(s), do not like him; or, you are someone who just likes whining.

          • The guy announces his retirement shortly after the Auditor General indicates they are going to look into profligate spending by parliamentarians. He had, as far as I’m concerned, the biggest target on his ample girth.

            Milliken did nothing to offend anyone as speaker – in fact he went out of his way to appease everyone. Why the Conservatives also liked him so much – he gave them wide latitude to make parliament irrelevant. Hence his re-electoral success. 

            This is not leadership – good riddance. Unfortunately, we will have to put up with his justifications and revisions by clearly partisan individuals like you. Are you related, or did you just work for him?

          • Fake, I am not related, nor did I work for him.  However, I supported him when he was running for the office because I respected his knowledge and integrity, and I still do.

            The Auditor General indicated they were going to look into profligate spending by parliamentarians, which was a coincidence. He did nothing wrong; he had nothing to worry about it.  His announcement of retirement was in accordance with the rule and his conscience – not while the House was still in session, but giving the next person as much time as he possibly could to prepare for her/his campaigns.  The earliest opportunity to do so was on June 26, 2010 – when the House was closed for the summer and before the election was called.

            There is no point to offend anyone; we have our differences, and we should resolve them in a peaceful manner and in compliance with the rules.  I do not agree with you that he made the parliament irrelevant.  On the contrary, he was able to uphold the supremacy of the parliament; which was against the Harper Conservatives government’s wish; which un-doubtfully caused resentment in many (if not all) Conservatives’ hearts and they are now here to smear his integrity.

            The Hon. Peter Milliken’s professional conduct – peaceful yet firm authority – has been an excellent role model for all in politics as well as in other professions. Let’s guard our beloved country – Canada – above the partisan lines, please.

  6. I couldn’t disagree more with Frank. It’s the government of the day that sets the tone in Parliament, not the Speaker.  The Speaker is constrained to serve as the strictly neutral arbiter of the rules as they stand, not what s/he would like them to be.  In the last Parliament, the Harper Government demonstrated time and again that they don’t believe in parliamentary democracy, which is all about holding the government of the day to account.  This continues to be the least accountable Canadian government in living memory (government of the people for the monied by the smug frat boys). Mr. Milliken did us all a great service by the degree to which he was able to uphold the principle of accountability within the limited scope of the Speaker’s role.  He will be missed. 

    • I absolutely agree with you, Ronaldo9901.  I believe that the Hon. Peter Milliken has been the greatest Speaker in Canadian history for, among other things, having had the courage to hold the government accountable to the people of Canada.  I felt sad when he announced his retirement, and I prayed for Canada.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *