The next Speaker of the House of Commons should be Joe Comartin.
If you believe the level of debate in the last Parliament wasn’t of sufficient gallantry, Peter Milliken can’t be re-elected. Milliken would seem to be a fine man, a nice enough guy and a careful reader of Parliamentary precedent. (I hear he throws great parties too.) He appears to believe that MPs should be masters of their own domain—that a speaker is there to oversee, but not too explicitly impose upon, the proceedings as democratically run by its members. In a better world, that would make him the perfect caretaker for this place. As it is, the House needs to be imposed upon. The House is, essentially, beneath him. It needs a change.
There are various Conservatives seeking the position, many of whom might even be qualified to hold it. But the next Speaker’s mandate will include reigning in the likes of Baird, Kenney and Van Loan. And there’s no point putting a Conservative in the uncomfortable position of potentially punishing a member of his own side. Same goes for the other Liberal in contention, Mauril Belanger. If things are to change, someone at some point is going to have to be kicked out of Parliament on the occasion of a poorly timed outburst. Chances are that someone is going to sit on the Conservative or Liberal side. And it would be downright cruel to ask a member of either side to risk standing in his own party by ordering such an ejection.
Which brings us to Comartin. There was perhaps no more sober member of the 39th Parliament. He is a serious fellow with a meticulous knowledge of legislative practice. He can seem a bit gruff. Indeed, it’s unclear how often he allows himself to laugh. And, as a member of the fourth party, he is possessed of a certain moral superiority, generally removed as he is from the primary Liberal-Conservative battles of the day.
In short, he is exactly what this place needs. A man of knowledge and perspective, with little to no patience for bullshit. A smaller, less beardy version of Bill Blaikie.
Granted, this endorsement almost certainly screws up whatever chances Mr. Comartin had of winning election tomorrow and, as Kady has argued, his being Speaker would remove an effective member from the opposition benches. But an effective opposition MP isn’t of much use if the proceedings themselves are a mess. And if they are to be brought back into order, Mr. Comartin would seem of just the disposition required.
(Personal disclosure. Though I’d moved on before he won his seat, Mr. Comartin represents the riding in which I grew up. My parents do still reside there, but I’m quite certain neither has ever voted for him.)