Spread the love

The eventful year of Greg Fergus, unloved and tireless president

Photo: Sean Kilpatrick La Presse canadienne Le président de la Chambre des communes, Greg Fergus

The parliamentary session was not easy for the Speaker of the House of Commons, Greg Fergus. In less than a year in office, the latter has already survived three motions demanding his resignation, had to pay a $1,500 fine and preside over sometimes chaotic debates.

“It’s sport,” he admits with a nervous laugh in an interview with Le Devoir in the impressive office of the Speaker, a few steps from the House of Commons.

Seated at a long table, in the center of the room with walls lined with books and portraits of famous politicians, Mr. Fergus reflects on recent months, colored by events that cost him the trust of nearly half of the House.

The first incident was in November, less than two months after taking office, when the new Speaker recorded a video to pay tribute to the outgoing interim leader of the Ontario Liberals, also a personal friend. He was wearing his official uniform in the Speaker’s office.

The video, broadcast at an Ontario Liberal leadership convention, sparked outrage among opposition parties, who stressed the importance of the Speaker of the Commons remaining impartial.

“I apologized to the House of Commons. It was a mistake to make that video. It was supposed to be a private thing. But whatever.” I shouldn't have filmed it, period,” he regrets.

The man who represents the Hull-Aylmer region in Outaouais had then promised to regain the confidence of the deputies as the holiday season approaches.

However, new partisan incidents have emerged, such as the recent publication of an invitation intended for citizens of his constituency, who criticized the policies of Pierre Poilievre's party. The Liberal Party quickly apologized, saying the partisan message and language of the invitation had been used without Mr. Ferguson's consent.

The President of 55, in whom trust was already weakened, recognizes that he could well have done without this third incident.

“I was disappointed that it was arrived, he admits. I make enough mistakes myself. I don't need someone to make mistakes for me. »

Although he is aware that the Conservatives and Bloc members ardently wish for his departure, he still intends to continue to occupy the chair until a majority of elected officials show him the door — even if this involves new calls for his resignation at the start of the parliamentary term.

“It’s part of the game”, says- he shrugged his shoulders.

The art of drawing the line

One thing is certain, the native Montrealer will have learned a lot since his election to the presidency which, let us remember, also took place in the middle of a media storm. Mr. Fergus took office on October 3 following the resignation of former Speaker of the House Anthony Rota, who invited a former Nazi fighter during the Ukrainian president's visit.

Very quickly, the new president had to learn the workings of parliamentary procedures and define the limits, sometimes vague, of the provocative remarks made in the House.

< p>“It’s an ongoing work to know where to draw the line. What is not acceptable one day may be acceptable another day. It’s an art rather than a science,” he believes.

Contrary to the National Assembly, in Quebec, there is no guide which contains a list of words and expressions that are unparliamentary in Ottawa. Rather, the president must take into account “the tone, manner and intention of the Member who uttered them, the person to whom they were addressed, the degree of provocation and the possible disorder they caused to the Chamber”, specifies the research office of the House of Commons at Devoir.

Also read

  • House Speaker Anthony Rota resigns
  • Pierre Poilievre temporarily expelled from the House of Commons

Mr. Fergus calls MPs to order almost daily, but his judgment was particularly tested on April 30, when the leader of the official opposition, Pierre Poilievre, called Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “crazy.” (wacko, in English).

The Conservative leader having refused to withdraw his remarks four times, the Speaker made the decision to expel him from the House of Commons for the day, causing even more hubbub during question period.

This scene will nevertheless have been a blessing in disguise, believes the president, who has observed a certain return to calm since the expulsion of the conservative leader.

“Since that moment, I find that all the deputies fall within the framework of what is acceptable,” he assesses.

“On both sides [ of the House], I find that there is less hullabaloo. The elected officials perhaps understood that they had crossed [the limits], and that if they continued like this for five weeks in a row, it was going to become unbearable,” he continues.

< p>The Conservative leader has never repeated this episode, but continues to play on the line by frequently using the term “crazy” to describe the government's policies.

“Crazy policies are different from an attack on the person,” judges Mr. Fergus. I think it works, because we are in the process of [describing] the ideas. It’s important to have strong conflicts of ideas. This is also our parliamentary system. »

The end of a Parliament

The parliamentary year, which has just drawn to a close, will have been marked by a wave of threats and harassment towards elected officials, but also by the denunciations of the toxic climate which is establishing itself among the elected officials themselves.

Liberal MP Pam Damoff notably announced her departure from politics, deploring that relations between elected officials in Ottawa have deteriorated due to a desire for clips and likes on social networks.

“We are reaching the end of a Parliament. So there is a certain excitement in the air. Some MPs would like to go to elections, while others are thinking about their future in politics, so the tension is growing,” admits Mr. Fergus.

The latter is not worried about excesses in the near future, but does not rule out being able to draw inspiration from more severe sanctions in force in other countries. The British parliament, for example, provides for the suspension of an MP for five working days without pay for a first offense, then for twenty days if he repeats it.

“I think [our rules] are working well right now. But we must admit that we will have to see if this will be sufficient in the future. We’ll see,” he concluded.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116