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.