Former Manitoba MLA shares tips for new House of Commons Speaker

The House of Commons' new Speaker says he won't tolerate heckling, but a former Manitoba politician says it won't be that easy to lower the volume.

'You've got to read the room,' says former Point Douglas MLA and Speaker George Hickes

Halifax West MP Geoff Regan, the the new House of Commons Speaker, said one of his goals is to get rid of heckling in the House. (CBC)

The House of Commons' new Speaker says he won't tolerate heckling, but a former Manitoba politician says it won't be that easy to lower the volume.

"I wish him all the best, but it's going to be quite a challenge," said George Hickes, former Speaker in the Manitoba Legislature, told CBC's Up to Speed program on Friday.

Geoff Regan, the MP for Halifax West, announced after being elected Speaker on Thursday that he won't tolerate a lack of decorum in the House of Commons.

"I will not tolerate heckling," Regan said, adding, "We don't need it."

But Regan might be getting ahead of himself, said Hickes, who served as provincial Speaker for 12 years from November 1999 to October 2011.

"You have to get to know the members and the members have to get to know you, what your limitations will be," he said.

"Every member that's sent there is passionate about certain issues. At times, they will voice their opinions over the person that has the floor."

Hickes said a Speaker needs to find his own way of dealing with heckling. His was more one-on-one when it came to dealing with the loudest members.

"Some Speakers think if they embarrass a member in the House, then they'll stop doing that. But that was never my style," he said.

"But if it happens too often in the House, I would give the leaders a call and ask them to remind their members they're in the legislative assembly. They're fortunate to be sent there by their constituents."

Because the House of Commons has 338 seats, Hickes said Regan will have to take time and sense what his colleagues might be thinking.

"Some days you go in there and within a few minutes you can tell if it's a more relaxed mood or if there's a more serious issue and there's going to be a tough question period. Then you have to be a bit more strict," he said.

"You've got to read the room."


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