The first Atlantic Canadian in nearly a hundred years has been elected Speaker of the House of Commons. 

Geoff Regan, a veteran Liberal MP from the riding of Halifax West, was chosen for the role by a secret ballot of other members of Parliament on Thursday.

After being dragged — a parliamentary tradition — to the plush Speaker's chair by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose, Regan looked out onto the chamber that lay before him, visibly awestruck.

"Wow," Regan said. "This is a very humbling experience."

"I beg to return my humble acknowledgements to the House for the great honour you have been pleased to confer upon me by choosing me as your Speaker," he said, easily adopting the verbose parliamentary language often used by the Speaker.

"I look very much forward to working with our new prime minister, the other party leaders, with the House leaders and with every member, and for every member, of this House."

It was a particularly joyous occasion for the 56-year-old Bluenoser, as his election also fell on the day of his 22nd wedding anniversary to his wife, Kelly, who is a cabinet minister in Nova Scotia's Liberal government. 

A friendlier tone

The results of the secret ballot will remain just that — a secret — but Regan clearly swayed a great number of his colleagues with his impassioned pitch to clean up the chamber and rid it of the hyper-partisan vitriol that plagued proceedings in the last Parliament.

He may be off to a slow start.

"My role as your Speaker is to be fair, and I want to assure you I intend to be fair and I intend to be firm. I will not tolerate heckling. We don't need it," Regan said, only to be drowned out by heckling from his fellow members. 

But he brushed the friendly interruptions aside, doubling down on his promise to restore civility after a fractious election campaign.

"You have given me a very important responsibility. And I think we need to elevate the tone in this chamber and reconstitute good will. We have to have respect for one another, despite our differences," he said in French to thunderous applause.

During his ultimately successful campaign for Speaker, Regan also made a point of emphasizing his varied career in Parliament, moving from the backbenches to cabinet to a member of the third party, a humbling experience for any politician.

It was a pitch that likely appealed to members of the Conservative opposition after their government's defeat. 

Regan's victory was welcomed by Trudeau, who praised him as "uniquely suited" for the new role, a position he called an "immense honour." 

Justin Trudeau speaks in the House of Commons as Prime Minister for the first time0:56

A varied political career

The Bedford, N.S., native was first elected as an MP in 1993, the last Liberal landslide that turfed the Tories and swept Jean Chrétien to power.

He lost in the next election, largely because of regional unease about changes to the employment insurance program. But he triumphantly returned in the 2000 election with a new role: parliamentary secretary to House leader Don Boudria, where he first got a taste of the intricacies of our Westminster parliamentary system.

COAST GUARD

Geoff Regan was appointed minister of fisheries and oceans by Paul Martin in 2003. Regan is seen here on Sept. 20, 2005, just before he cut the ribbon on a new Canadian Coast Guard search and rescue station in the small fishing village of Sambro, N.S. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Regan was elevated to cabinet in 2003 when Paul Martin appointed him minister of fisheries and oceans, a department close to the lives of many Atlantic Canadians.

In the doldrums of opposition, under Stéphane Dion and Michael Ignatieff, he sat on a number of House committees including natural resources, environment and industry.

He barely survived the Liberal collapse in the 2011 federal election, holding onto his suburban Halifax seat by only a few percentage points. But Regan coasted to victory during the last campaign, taking an impressive 68 per cent of the vote, joining 31 other Liberals in the House after the party's commanding performance in the region.

Politics in the family

As with the country's new prime minister, politics runs in the Regan family blood. The Speaker's father, Gerald Regan, was also a Liberal parliamentarian — winning his first election in 1963. He went on to lead the Nova Scotia Liberal Party to victory in the 1970 provincial election. After his defeat in 1978, he returned to Ottawa as an MP and was appointed minister of labour in Pierre Trudeau's cabinet. 

FATHERS OF CONFEDERATION

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau appears in a group photo of all of the premiers taken after dinner in Victoria in June 1971. Gerald Regan, seated in the front row on the far left, was premier of Nova Scotia at the time of photo. He later returned to Parliament in 1980 as minister of labour in Trudeau's cabinet. (Peter Bregg/Canadian Press)

Regan's mother, Carole, was the daughter of Jack Harrison, a Saskatchewan Liberal member of Parliament.

Both mother and father were in the chamber Thursday to see their son take over the Speaker's chair, and Trudeau noted the similarities of their political families.

"To my knowledge," said Trudeau, "only two women in the history of Canada have had the dubious distinction of having been the daughter, the wife, and the mother of a member of Parliament

"One of those women is my mother, the other is yours Mr. Speaker, whom we salute today," Trudeau said.

His wife, Kelly, was tied up with cabinet duties in their home province, but she offered her best wishes from afar.

"I'm thrilled for Geoff," she told CBC News in Nova Scotia immediately following the announcement. Adding that the result didn't come as much of a shock.

"It doesn't surprise me because he was making an awful lot of phone calls. He had a lot of support and people who were out there working for him."

Regan beat out three other candidates for the job, including Liberals Denis Paradis, Yasmin Ratansi and Conservative Bruce Stanton.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said that Jean Chrétien appointed Geoff Regan to cabinet. In fact, he was named to cabinet by Paul Martin.
    Dec 04, 2015 7:44 AM ET