Members of Parliament begin the 41st session of Parliament Thursday, and the first order of business is to decide who will be in charge of keeping them in order in House of Commons.
The Speaker must be elected and take his or her seat before anything else gets done, according to the Constitution. The process starts at 11 a.m. ET with speeches no longer than five minutes from the candidates.
At least nine MPs are in the running, but the names of all 308 MPs are on the ballot unless they have indicated by 6 p.m. Wednesday that they don’t want to stand for the job.
Candidates for Speaker:
- Denise Savoie
- Andrew Scheer
- Barry Devolin
- Merv Tweed
- Bruce Stanton
- Dean Allison
- Ed Holder
- Lee Richardson
Among the declared candidates are eight Conservatives and one NDP MP. The Liberals and Bloc Québécois, with only 34 and 4 MPs, respectively, haven’t put forward any candidates.
The next Speaker will succeed Peter Milliken, a former Liberal MP from Kingston, Ont. First elected Speaker in 2001, he held the post longer than any other, and was known as a policy wonk. He has retired from politics.
The election of the Speaker is the only time MPs vote by secret ballot, and they will keep voting until one candidate wins a majority. The whole process could be wrapped up quickly if someone wins on the first ballot, or it could go on for several rounds. In 1986, it took 11 rounds of voting to elect John Fraser as Speaker. The last-place person and candidates who receive less than five per cent support are dropped off the ballot after each round of voting.
The process is not without a certain amount of politicking.
Merv Tweed has invited all MPs to stop by his "hospitality suite" before the voting gets underway, where he will be serving Starbucks coffee. Between votes he will be offering wine. Other candidates are also offering food and drinks to their colleagues as they try to win their support throughout the day. Barry Devolin is serving ice cream and Andrew Scheer is offering light snacks, though his invitation to MPs didn't specify what kind.
Once a winner is declared, the new Speaker will take a seat in the Speaker’s chair and adjourn the House of Commons until Friday afternoon, when Gov. Gen David Johnston will read the speech from the throne.
Candidates promise to improve Commons decorum
Several of the candidates, including Lee Richardson, are promising to improve the behaviour of MPs in the House.
"I think I will seek to restore the decorum in the House, but more than that, respect for Parliament. I've been here a long time and I think Canadians expect more from their parliamentarians. I think we need a little gravitas in the chair, I think we need someone who has respect of the members," Richardson said Wednesday. "I hope I can bring that."
Andrew Scheer, 32, is considered a leading candidate. He is bilingual, was deputy Speaker in the last Parliament and before that he was assistant deputy Speaker. If he wins, he would be the youngest Speaker in history.
He’s not the only candidate with deputy Speaker experience, however. Denise Savoie of the NDP, who was recently reelected for Victoria, has served almost two years as assistant deputy speaker.
Popular Liberal MP Justin Trudeau unexpectedly found his name on the ballot, although he's not running for the job. A spokesman from Trudeau's office said the paperwork to remove the MP's name was sent, but the Speaker's office didn't receive it.
Perks of the job
The Speaker is not just the MP responsible for maintaining order and decorum in the Commons, presiding over debates and ensuring the rights and privileges of members of Parliament are protected. He or she also gets a car and driver, an apartment in Parliament Hill’s Centre Block, a beautiful, 19th century farmhouse in Gatineau Park, a sizeable budget for entertaining, and a paycheque worth about $233,000.
Which of the Speaker's job perks would you most like to have? Take our survey.
The election of the Speaker kicks off a busy couple of days for parliamentarians.
After Friday's throne speech, many MPs will travel to their ridings for the weekend, then return Monday when the House will begin its routine proceedings. The first question period will take place – a historic one that will see NDP leader Jack Layton pose his first question to the prime minister as Opposition leader.
Monday is also when Finance Minister Jim Flaherty will present the federal budget. He has indicated it will be similar to the one tabled in March, with a few tweaks. It will include both a controversial plan to phase out an important source of revenue for the federal political parties, the per-vote subsidy, and more than $2 billion for Quebec in compensation for harmonizing its provincial sales tax with the GST.
An earlier version of this story said Denise Savoie was a Liberal MP when she served as assistant deputy speaker. In fact, Savoie, who was recently reelected for Victoria, has only been an NDP MP and served almost two years as assistant deputy speaker.Jun 01, 2011 6:18 PM ET