Mauril Bélanger to be honorary Speaker for House of Commons
Ottawa-Vanier MP withdrew from Speaker's race Nov.30, revealing his diagnosis with Lou Gehrig's disease
Mauril Bélanger will be recognized by his colleagues in the House of Commons as an honorary Speaker.
Fellow Ottawa MP and Government Whip Andrew Leslie presented a motion Thursday following question period, as family members and friends of Bélanger looked on from the visitor's gallery.
Leslie's motion said Bélanger will sit in the Speaker's chair on a day yet to be determined.
The Liberal MP was considered a frontrunner in last week's Speaker's race until his unexpected diagnosis with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
His caucus colleague, Geoff Regan, won the Speaker election last Thursday. But several MPs, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and fellow candidate Yasmin Ratansi, spoke movingly of Bélanger's service to the Commons and noted that he would have made a fine Speaker.
Bélanger encountered difficulty speaking during this fall's election campaign, but was not diagnosed with ALS until November.
The disease, which takes its name from the famed baseball player who was stricken with the disease in the prime of his career, causes a person to lose control of their muscles. The average life expectancy after diagnosis is three to five years.
The honour would be the latest show of support for the long-serving Liberal, first elected to Parliament in a 1995 byelection.
When the Liberal caucus met prior to the opening of Parliament last Wednesday, Trudeau walked in with Bélanger in a visible show of support.
During last Friday's ceremonies for the speech from the throne, Bélanger walked in just behind the Speaker, symbolically leading the parade of MPs down the hall to the Senate.
Monday, the Ottawa–Vanier MP received a standing ovation during the first question period of the new Parliament to ask about an issue has been engaged with: the deportation of citizens to Burundi, an unstable country with ongoing security concerns. His speech appeared laboured, but he retained his composure, while colleagues seated around him showed more emotion.
Rising to respond, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said he was "delighted" to answer his first question in his latest cabinet portfolio from "that distinguished member."
Bélanger, who served as a cabinet minister under previous Liberal governments, is already a privy councillor and so can use the honorific "Honourable" before his name, which also comes with election to the Speaker's post.
With files from Julie Van Dusen, Sharon Musgrave