The Speaker on decorum

Before the House rose last night for Christmas, the Speaker delivered a statement on decorum.

As the House prepares to adjourn for the Christmas holidays, the Chair would like to make a short statement about order and decorum.
In recent months, for a variety of reasons, the atmosphere in the chamber has been at times difficult. This is perhaps not surprising since the House is made up of members who are committed and whose strongly held views are freely expressed on a daily basis.

The House is also an inherently adversarial forum that tends to foster conflict. As a result, sometimes emotions get the better of us and we quickly find ourselves in situations marked by disorderly conduct. Tone and gestures can cause as much of a reaction as the words used in debate. Lately, it appears that at different times the mood of the House has strayed quite far from the flexibility, accommodation and balance that ideally ought to exist in this place.

My task as Speaker is to ensure that the intensity of feeling expressed around some issues is contained within the bounds of civility without infringing on the freedom of speech that members enjoy. The Chair tries to ensure that our rules are adhered to in a way that encourages mutual respect.

However, all members will recognize that ultimately the Speaker must depend on their collective self-discipline to maintain order and to foster decorum. My authority to enforce the rules depends on the co-operation of the House.

Our electors expect all members to make greater efforts to curb disorder and unruly behaviour. So I urge all members to reflect on how best to return the House to the convivial, co-operative atmosphere I know all of us would prefer.

After QP, NDP House leader Nathan Cullen was asked about the role of the Speaker and Mr. Cullen suggested he might have something to propose in the new year.

I’m going to look to do something in the new year that will empower the Speaker with the support again of the House, because I think this is supported by Canadians, to be able to command the House even more and for all the heckling and the jostling and the sneering that goes on which is not representative of Canadian values, as far as I’m—Canadians don’t talk to each other this way, in any other circumstance, other than here in the House of Commons. Maybe in the cheap seats of a hockey game, but that’s about it and the House of Commons should be better than the drunken seats at a sporting event. So we’ll be offering some things to the Speaker and to the House to allow him more discretion and more power to control some of the members, but it’s like any class in a school. There’s only 5 or 10% that cause all of the trouble and I can name them for you. We know who they all are and the Conservatives know who they are too and just—this is their only lot in life I guess now, is that they’re not going to get into cabinet, they’re not getting any special appointments and they’re not very good at their job. So what do they do? They sit there and bark all day and it says a lot more about them than it does us.

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