House of Commons Hansard #1 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was ballot.

Topics

The 40th Parliament having been dissolved by proclamation on Saturday, March 26, 2011, and writs having been issued and returned, a new Parliament was summoned to meet for the dispatch of business on Thursday, June 2, 2011, and did so accordingly meet on that day.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

This being the day on which Parliament was convoked by proclamation of His Excellency the Governor General of Canada for the dispatch of business, and the members of the House being assembled:

Audrey O'Brien, Clerk of the House of Commons, read to the House a letter from the Secretary to the Governor General informing her that the Deputy Governor General would proceed to the Senate chamber today at 11 o'clock to open the first session of the 41st Parliament of Canada.

A message was delivered by the Usher of the Black Rod as follows:

Honourable Members of the House of Commons:

It is the desire of the Right Honourable Deputy of His Excellency the Governor General, that this Honourable House attend her immediately in the Senate chamber.

Accordingly the House went up to the Senate chamber, where the Speaker of the Senate said:

Honourable Members of the Senate, Members of the House of Commons:

I have it in command to let you know that His Excellency the Governor General of Canada does not see fit to declare the causes of his summoning the present Parliament of Canada until a Speaker of the House of Commons shall have been chosen, according to law; but tomorrow afternoon, Friday, June 3, at the hour of three o'clock His Excellency will declare the causes of him calling Parliament.

And the House being returned to the Commons chamber:

First Session--41st Parliament

11:05 a.m.

The Clerk of the House

Honourable members, pursuant to Standing Order 3, I invite Mr. Louis Plamondon, member for the electoral district of Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, to take the chair and preside over the election of a Speaker.

Election of Speaker

June 2nd, 2011 / 11:25 a.m.

Bloc

The Presiding Officer Louis Plamondon

Dear friends, this is the second time that I have had the opportunity to sit in this prestigious chair, and I must admit that I am starting to enjoy it.

Allow me to congratulate all of you on your election to the House of Commons. As I sit in this prestigious chair, I would like to acknowledge my constituents in my riding of Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, who placed their trust in me for the ninth time this past election. I had always been able to ride the wave, but this time the wave was coming right at me. I found it different, but tiring.

I would also like to acknowledge my companion Manon, who has always supported me, my children, Catherine and Lucie, as well as my grandchildren. I also thank my election committee, which was a huge help in this election. Let us begin.

The list of members who have withdrawn or who are ineligible as candidates has been placed on each member's desk and is available at the table.

The list of those members who are eligible as candidates has also been placed on each member's desk and is available at the table.

Before we begin, I want to invite any member whose name is on the list of candidates but who does not want to stand for election to rise and inform the Chair accordingly.

The hon. member for Papineau.

Election of Speaker

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Papineau, QC

Irrespective of my written efforts to decline the opportunity to become speaker, fate has decreed, with a little help from Canada Post, that I must consider it. Therefore, consider it I have.

Despite my desire to have what may be a better seat in the House, I am making the difficult decision to decline. I would have liked to see a francophone included on this list. However, I must withdraw my candidacy for the honour of being Speaker of the House.

Election of Speaker

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

The Presiding Officer Louis Plamondon

You had five minutes, maximum.

Following that statement, the list of candidates is revised.

Pursuant to Standing Order 3.1, the House must proceed to the speeches from each candidate for the office of the Speaker.

Notwithstanding any Standing Order or any procedure and practice adopted by this House, and to help the newly elected members identify the candidates for the office of Speaker, I will recognize in alphabetical order each candidate by name and by electoral district.

When the last candidate to address the House completes his speech, I will leave the chair for one hour, after which members will proceed to the election of the Speaker.

I will now call upon Mr. Dean Allison, the hon. member for Niagara West—Glanbrook, to address the House for not more than five minutes.

Election of Speaker

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Let me begin by offering my sincere congratulations to all my esteemed colleagues on their election to this distinguished place. To those returning, welcome back.

I wish to welcome those who are in this House for the first time.

The Canadian people have chosen each individual in this room to represent them. With that endorsement comes an incomparable level of duty and responsibility. From coast to coast to coast, Canadians have spoken and expect each of us to work in their best interests by coming together to make this historic 41st Parliament not only work, but also work well.

And that is what we must do.

We have an opportunity and, indeed, a duty to transcend perfunctory courtesies and bring back to this great chamber a level of honour and respect befitting Canada's House of Commons.

I challenge each of you to consider your role as a member here.

I challenge you to consider not only how you perceive your responsibilities but also how you are perceived by those who have placed their trust in you by giving you the honour and the privilege of working in this hallowed place to the benefit of all Canadians.

By nature and by duty, we are all fiercely loyal to our beliefs and our political leanings, but as individuals and as representatives of our constituents, our conduct should be no less than exemplary. The political composition of this House embodies the great democratic values that are the foundation of Canada. They reflect the many different interests that naturally exist across our great country.

As we work to advance these interests, we must remember that this is not the time for political posturing and self-aggrandizement. The work of this chamber is greater than merely the sum of its parts.

If selected by you to serve as your Speaker, I would uphold the time-honoured traditions of this chamber. I would call for thoughtful discernment and appropriate consultation, and would then execute all the duties of the position to the best of my ability.

As Speaker, I would employ all means within my capacity to maintain the sanctity of this place, especially when it relates to members' decorum. It is ultimately up to each hon. member, however, to make the conscious decision and exercise the appropriate level of professionalism, respect and restraint.

As elected representatives of the Canadian people, we all share the privilege and fundamental right to freedom of speech in this place: the right to speak without fear of barrier, the right to express any opinion or to speak on any matter that we consider to be in the interests of our constituents or the country as a whole.

However, with the right to freedom of speech comes great responsibility, responsibility to our hon. colleagues and, indeed, responsibility to the institution and the rules of the House.

It is the duty of the Speaker to ensure that the right of free speech is protected and exercised to the fullest possible extent. This is accomplished by presiding over debate in the House and interpreting and enforcing all rules and practices. The Speaker is to preserve the order and decorum in the chamber, which is tantamount to the success of Parliament itself.

As members know, the Speaker is also the chief administrative officer of the House and in this capacity requires a cognizant stewardship as well as experience and capacity to execute these duties. As well, the Speaker has the honour to represent Parliament in its relations with persons and authorities outside of this Parliament, and in this capacity the Speaker must succinctly convey the principles, jurisdictions and views held by Parliament.

Hon. members of this place, today I stand before you humbly.

I submitted my candidacy for the office of Speaker because I want the honour of serving you.

I entered political life over a decade ago with a desire to serve. During my tenure in this place, I have worked diligently on behalf of my constituents. I have served my party, both in opposition and on government benches. I have served the House in the capacity of chair on many committees where, I hope my colleagues will agree, I have always sought to be fair and impartial, and sought consensus among all members. I have always sought and will continue to seek ways to build a better Parliament and a better Canada.

I am here to advocate for the support of all members to be selected as Speaker. As Speaker of the House, I will continue to serve members of Parliament and the people of Canada, for this is the primary function of the position.

I have the necessary experience. I have the required talents and abilities.

I wish to serve.

Now, all I need is the support of the members. Thank you for your consideration

Election of Speaker

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

The Presiding Officer Louis Plamondon

I now call upon Barry Devolin, the hon. member for Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, to address the House for not more than five minutes.

You have the floor.

Election of Speaker

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Barry Devolin Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

I stand here today as one of eight candidates applying for a job. That means that the other 300-some members of Parliament constitute the hiring committee in this process. In my view, today they bear a significant responsibility to themselves, to one another, and to all Canadians to carefully consider each of the candidates before deciding which one they think would make the best Speaker of this House of Commons.

This is about more than party politics, more than helping a friend, and more than who asked them first. Today, the members will decide as a group who will be offered a four-year non-revocable contract to manage this place and to help steer the ship of Canadian democracy.

In a few minutes, we might hear my colleague, the hon. member for London West, say that experience in business is a big asset for managing the day-to-day operations of this place. I agree with that, which is why my experience as a successful businessman in real estate and running a communications company before I entered politics should be important to members. I know the importance of managing a budget and looking after customers.

I also expect that in a few minutes we might hear my colleague from Calgary Centre suggest that a broad range of life experience is necessary for our Speaker to serve as an ambassador for Canada on a global stage. I could not agree more. As we know, our Speaker stands fifth in the order of precedence and has many ceremonial and diplomatic responsibilities. That is why I place great value in my academic and international background.

I have a bachelor's degree from Carleton University and a master's degree from the State University of New York. I have also lived for a year or more in Europe, the United States and Asia. Collectively, these experiences will be a great asset if I have the opportunity to serve as the Speaker in Canada and abroad.

I expect that in a few moments, my hon. colleague from Victoria will argue that the Speaker of the House should speak both official languages. She is quite right. I believe that bilingual candidates have a clear advantage. I feel it is a matter of respect for all members of the House.

Six years ago, I could not put together a single sentence in French. Today I consider myself bilingual, perhaps not perfectly bilingual, but I can communicate in French most of the time. However, if a complicated issue or a point of order is raised, I must rely on our interpreters, because making a fair decision is paramount.

After that, I think my hon. colleague from Regina—Qu'Appelle will tell you that one must have experience in the House and in the chair in order to step into the position. I would have to agree. In the vast majority of professions, one must go through a period of training in order to master all aspects of the job. I think the same holds true here. That is why I believe that the candidate from Regina—Qu'Appelle, the candidate from Victoria and I have an advantage in this contest.

Later, I expect one thing we will hear from the member for Simcoe North is that having the right temperament is key, that having an approachable and fair-minded facilitator, someone with a calm and contemplative nature, is critically important to have in the chair.

Once again, I agree with my colleague. I believe I have the temperament well-suited to this position. I listen carefully, consider all points of view, and seek consensus when resolving delicate situations.

Finally, I expect that the candidate from Brandon—Souris across the aisle will highlight his experience managing multi-million dollar budgets as a provincial cabinet minister.

I also agree with my colleague that experience managing large public sector budgets is invaluable training to serve as Speaker of the House. While never having been a provincial cabinet minister, I have served as chief of staff for two in Ontario and played a major role managing a budget of tens of millions of dollars.

I have also served as the director of research for a national political party where I hired and managed a staff of more than 30 persons.

As I reflect back on all the positive things I have said about my fellow candidates, it seems to me that we might be able to construct the perfect Speaker if we could take the best from each of them. Alas, that is not possible. The perfect candidate is not available.

The reality is that 300 members must decide which of the eight candidates they believe would be best able to serve in this role. If it is felt that on balance I am the strongest candidate in this group, then I ask for the support of the members. If I am elected as Speaker, I will work hard every day to warrant that trust and to serve members to the best of my ability.

Election of Speaker

11:40 a.m.

Bloc

The Presiding Officer Louis Plamondon

I will now call upon Mr. Ed Holder, the hon. member for the electoral district of London West, to address the House for not more than five minutes.

Election of Speaker

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder London West, ON

Hon. colleagues, allow me first to congratulate you on your election. You are here because this is important to you and you have decided to make a difference.

Having campaigned to become a member of Parliament sets you apart from the 34 million other Canadians, especially considering that only 5,000 Canadians have been elected to this House since Confederation.

My friends, I recall I was in awe when I first came to this place. Even with my 30 years of business experience, I could not help but feel like a young person going to his first job. When I took my seat in this House, I was so excited. I knew this is where I should be. It was inspiring.

To the new hon. members, allow me to welcome you to Parliament and to your new parliamentary family. Savour this experience: it will become a part of you. We are proud to have you as colleagues and we sincerely wish you all the best.

It is tremendous to have our colleagues who are returning back in Parliament. Today, it is my honour to present myself to all members for their thoughtful consideration as Speaker of the House.

I stand before the members today because I was first approached by a member of the opposition upon the announcement of the pending retirement of Speaker Milliken. Although a thoughtful compliment, it was not until several members from all parties suggested strongly that I consider the role that I was compelled to take it more seriously. After some deliberations and strong encouragement, I have agreed to let my name stand.

Colleagues, today we have our first duty, which is to elect our Speaker. I am honoured to be joined by several friends who have allowed their names to stand. I know these people as exceptionally honourable and I consider them worthy choices.

My friends, I am a great believer in the importance of tradition, especially when it comes to this place, the House of Commons.

In the spirit of that tradition, I have not overtly campaigned for the position. It will be decided today if that was the right approach.

Instead, I have tried whenever possible to meet with you personally to introduce myself and talk to you about issues that matter to you, about your ideas and your expectations of the Speaker of the House. I will do the same as Speaker. I believe it is the hon. members who make this place so extraordinary and that is why I did not submit my candidacy in a letter or through the media. As the Speaker, my door will always be open. In fact, I encourage all of us to build new relationships with our colleagues.

What we have heard from candidates is the need for greater decorum and civility in the House; that we must show greater respect among one another. Ironically, nothing separates any of the candidates in that regard. We have all learned through our parents to treat each other with respect and civility, and we know this to be true. I was taught that by my Cape Breton mother.

However, that is only one part, albeit an important part, of the role of Speaker. The Speaker is also chair of the Board of Internal Economy and, as such, is responsible for the whole parliamentary precinct. The budget and staff for this is significant, and my experience as chief executive officer of a successful large company, I believe, positions me well for this responsibility.

At the same time, there is a necessity to show fiscal prudence. Our bosses, the Canadian taxpayers, deserve no less. I will commit to taking the same business approach to the budget as I did when I ran my own company, with a critical eye and a compassionate, caring style.

Colleagues, we also need to return to a time of representing the traditions of this House when parliamentarians were the ones responsible for our affairs. This is our place. These are our choices and it begins by building respectful relationships with each other.

The Speaker has a role to play in supporting these relationships. Speaker Milliken did a superb job in encouraging members from all parties to come together in a non-partisan fashion on a regular basis through various events and receptions. It is my intention to carry on with these important traditions.

The Speaker is the servant of this House. If you give me the honour of serving, I will do so with humility and respect.

We have all come here with the goal of making Canada better.

With the thoughtful support of members, we can do it together. I thank them for their thoughtful consideration.

Election of Speaker

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

The Presiding Officer Louis Plamondon

I will now call upon Mr. Lee Richardson, the hon. member for the electoral district of Calgary Centre, to address the House for not more than five minutes.

Election of Speaker

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Lee Richardson Calgary Centre, AB

First of all, I would like to thank my long-time colleague in the House of Commons, the dean of this House, my friend, the hon. member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour.

We have an important decision to make today in choosing one of our number to preside over the House for the 41st Parliament.

Each of us has a strong personal interest in making this a better place. I will not dwell on the obvious: the incivility of recent years, the lack of decorum and the lack of mutual respect. We all know what must be done and I think we know it can be done. Today we will choose the person among us who we think can get it done, presiding over the House as its firm guiding hand.

In making your decision, you will seek strength of character, parliamentary experience, knowledge of history and an understanding of the people and the regions whose interests we represent. You will want an individual in whom you have confidence to represent the House with fairness, dignity and respect.

Throughout my life, this House has been like a home to me. I first stepped into the visitors gallery of this place in 1972 as executive assistant for the Right Hon. John Diefenbaker. I watched some of the greatest parliamentarians of their day. I served on the senior staff of Prime Minister Mulroney for five years and, in 1988, I sought election and was privileged to serve in the government caucus.

Over these years, I have learned about victory and I have learned about defeat. I learned why running for Parliament is one of the greatest sacrifices we can make as men and women, fathers and mothers. I hold in the highest regard any man or woman who puts his or her reputation on the line to seek election and serve their community and country in this place.

Throughout my time here, I have seen great Speakers, those whose words uttered with great calmness and authority could cool a boiling House of Commons. I have seen others who tried with every ounce of their energy and intellect but could never quite manage the hard political conflict that, left unchecked, could turn debate into disrepute. I have learned from them all as I have learned from the oratorical masters of this place for nearly four decades.

That is why my commitment, if chosen as Speaker, is to earn and keep earning the respect of this House, to defend the sacred rights of MPs and to deal with each member as an equal.

I know that the Speaker's authority comes from the members and from the members only. The Speaker must inspire their confidence and earn their trust through a relationship founded on fairness, integrity, mutual respect and character.

I know from experience that members will accept a decision when they understand it was arrived at fairly, with impartiality and with due regard for tradition, precedent and the rules of procedure.

When members look at their choice for Speaker, they should see an individual with experience, judgment and character, and the personal fortitude to put those qualities to the service of members.

As has been said, the Speaker is also an ambassador for Parliament, a parliamentary host of visiting dignitaries, as well as representing this House and Canada in international parliamentary meetings. I shall represent members and this Parliament with dignity, purpose and honour.

In closing, I would like to quote from my maiden speech in this House 23 years ago when I said, “We have built one of the world's greatest nations, not on might, but on justice and tolerance. Tolerance is the basis of a civilized society”.

That reality is reflected in the celebration of our two official languages, French and English.

Growing up in Ottawa my children had an opportunity, which I did not have growing up in Calgary, to learn French.

So although they are both bilingual, their father is not, at least not yet.

I will do everything possible to improve my French, and I assure you that I will defend the equality of French and English in the House if I have the honour of serving you as Speaker.

As my dear colleagues can hear, my French is a work in progress but it is progressing.

I seek to serve this House as Speaker. I put before my colleagues my goals, my commitment and the skills I bring to restore dignity and respect. In service to members, I will make this institution an honourable place for the people's representatives to debate and shape important public policy once again.

I would be honoured to have your support.

Election of Speaker

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

The Presiding Officer Louis Plamondon

I now invite Ms. Denise Savoie, the hon. member for the riding of Victoria, to take the floor for not more than five minutes.

Election of Speaker

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Denise Savoie Victoria, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and I would like to congratulate all of my colleagues here today.

It is an honour and a privilege to sit in this House, to represent our constituents’ interests and values, and to advance public policy.

Before I begin, I would like to offer my sincere condolences to the member for Kitchener—Conestoga whose wife passed away recently.

I present myself today to serve as Speaker with a singular focus on raising the tone of debate in the House to a level that restores the confidence of Canadians in their politicians and in this democratic institution. I offer to facilitate a process by which each of us and our parties commit to a higher standard of conduct, that we monitor our progress and that we make concrete procedural changes to support our goal.

During the last election campaign, many Victorians told me that Parliament should work in the interest of Canadians, not the interest of parties. In the time I have been here, I have tried to operate under that exact principle. Of course this is a partisan place. It is adversarial by design, and for good reason. However, unlike high school debates, the idea of parliamentary debate is not to score points but to make good public policy.

Each of us here represents different perspectives that our electors have judged deserve to be heard and, I dare say, incorporated in public policy so that government and Parliament truly work for all Canadians. It is absolutely not the Speaker's job to determine substantively how this is to happen, but it can be the Speaker's job to nurture, to foster and to maintain an environment where this approach can succeed. It is absolutely important that this be allowed to happen.

Imagine for a moment a parliament that functions well, a parliament where debate is intelligent, informed, witty and, above all, respectful.

Imagine a parliament where our interaction leads to more inclusive public policy, and thus to win-win situations for all Canadians.

I am not proposing a utopian project, but an objective that must be met to reverse the cynicism that Canadians feel toward their politicians and democratic institutions.

So I stand today, fully committed to the Speaker’s chief duty to preserve order and decorum in the proceedings of this House.

I also promise to protect the rights and privileges of every member, and to balance them with our responsibility to serve the interests of all Canadians, according to the rules of procedures of Parliament.

The Speaker cannot do this alone. All members of this House must also be committed to these goals.

I thus ask for the support of members today only if they are prepared to do their part to improve decorum, to work with me to improve the way we conduct business, our debates, question period and all of our interactions. I pledge as your Speaker to be guided solely by the will of the House and, if that will is resolute in the pursuit of a well-functioning Parliament, together we can restore the faith of Canadians in their Parliament.

Our outgoing Speaker said recently that federal politics had become less democratic and more partisan since he was a rookie MP. I hope that one of the rookie MPs here today will retire as MP one day and can say the exact opposite. Let us say today that the 41st Parliament was the turning point. Let that change begin today.

Election of Speaker

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

The Presiding Officer Louis Plamondon

I now call upon Mr. Andrew Scheer, the hon. member for Regina—Qu'Appelle, to address the House for not more than five minutes.