Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons

Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons

In Canada the Speaker of the House of Commons (French: "Président de la Chambre des communes") is the presiding officer of the lower house and is elected at the beginning of each new parliament by fellow MPs. The Speaker's role in Canada is similar to that of Speakers elsewhere in other countries that use the Westminster system (see Speaker of the House of Commons). The current Speaker is Ontario Liberal MP Peter Milliken. The longest-serving occupant of the office was Lucien Lamoureux who served for eight years, nine months and eleven days.

The Job

In Canada it is the Speaker's responsibility to manage the House of Commons and supervise its staff. It is also the Speaker's duty to act as a liaison with the Senate and the Crown. The Speaker of the House of Commons receives a salary of about $209,000 CAD and has use of the official residence, the Kingsmere estate outside Gatineau, Quebec, across the river from Ottawa.


While the Constitution requires that the Speaker be elected by the House of Commons, traditionally this amounted to the rubber-stamp approval of a Member nominated by the Prime Minister. However, in 1986 this was changed and they are now selected by secret ballot. The Speaker remains a sitting MP, but only votes on matters in the case of a tie.

All MPs except for Cabinet ministers and party leaders are eligible to run for the Speakership. Any MP who does not wish to put his or her name forward must issue a letter withdrawing from the ballot by the day before the vote. All MPs who do not remove their name from the ballot as of 6pm the day before the election are listed as candidates on the ballot and are allowed a five minute speech to persuade their colleagues as to why they should be elected.

The election is presided over by the Dean of the House, currently Bill Blaikie, who is the longest continuously serving MP who is not in Cabinet.

All candidates who receive less than 5% of the vote are removed from the ballot. If no candidate received less than 5% of the vote then the MP with the fewest vote drops off. This continues, with a one hour break between ballots, until one candidate receives more than 50% of the vote.

The winner is escorted to the Speaker's chair by the Prime Minister and Leader of the Official Opposition. The newly elected Speaker, by tradition, feigns reluctance as he or she is "dragged" to the chair in a practice dating from the days when British Speakers risked execution if the news they reported to the King was displeasing.

There were three candidates for the position at the beginning of the current parliament, Milliken who was seeking re-election and Liberal MPs Marcel Proulx and Diane Marleau [http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20060324.SPEAKER24/TPStory/National] . Milliken won on the first ballot.

British Tradition

Speaker Lucien Lamoureux decided to follow the custom of the Speaker of the British House of Commons and stood in the 1968 election as an Independent. Both the Liberal Party and the Progressive Conservative Party agreed not to run candidates against him. The New Democratic Party, however, declined to withdraw their candidate. Lamoureux was re-elected and continued to serve as Speaker. However, in the 1972 election, the opposition parties did not come to an agreement and ran candidates against him. Lamoureux was again returned but future Speakers would not repeat his attempt to run as an Independent. As the election produced a minority government for the Liberals who had only two more seats than the Conservatives, the closeness of it was perhaps the reason why the opposition parties would choose not to follow such a precedent.

Opposition Speakers

The Speaker usually comes from among MPs of the governing party. However, when there has been a minority government Speakers have occasionally been members of opposition parties such as during the 1926 tenure of Arthur Meighen's Conservative ministry, during the 1979 ministry of Progressive Conservative Joe Clark. In the present 39th Parliament of Conservative Stephen Harper, three opposition members, Peter Milliken, Diane Marleau and Marcel Proulx, ran for Speaker. So far, every Speaker from an opposition party has been a Liberal.

The speaker, according to the constitution, cannot vote unless his or her vote would break a tie, in which case convention dictates that he or she must vote so as to maintain the status quo. Because of this, the minority government can slightly weaken the opposition's power by electing an opposition speaker. In 1957, when John George Diefenbaker took power with a minority Progressive Conservative government, he offered the Speaker's chair to Stanley Knowles of the opposition Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (the precursor to the NDP), who declined the appointment.

Deputy Speaker

In addition to the Speaker, Deputy Speakers are nominated to act on behalf of the Speaker when he or she is unavailable. From the Speaker of the House of Commons website:

"The primary roles of the Deputy Speaker and the other Presiding Officers are to support the Speaker in the Chamber in presiding over the business of the House, to take the Chair when the House sits as a Committee of the Whole and, on occasion, to chair legislative committees. In addition, the Deputy Speaker has certain administrative responsibilities. The Deputy Speaker usually serves on the Board of Internal Economy and is a member of the Executive Committee. When the House forms itself into a Committee of the Whole, it is the duty of the Chairman of Committees of the Whole to take the Chair." [http://www.parl.gc.ca/information/about/people/House/Speaker/deputy_speakers/index_e.html]

The Deputy Speaker in the 39th Parliament is Bill Blaikie (NDP), and the other two presiding officers are Royal Galipeau (Conservative) and Andrew Scheer (Conservative).

The Deputy Speaker is named for the duration of a parliament, while the other presiding officers are named for the duration of a session only.

Other deputy speakers include:

* Armand Renaud Lavergne 1930-1935 Conservative

List of Speakers of the House of Commons

# James Cockburn - November 6, 1867 - March 5, 1874 Conservative
# Timothy Warren Anglin - March 26, 1874 - February 12, 1879 Liberal
# Joseph Godéric Blanchet - February 13, 1879 - February 7, 1883 Liberal-Conservative
# George Airey Kirkpatrick - February 8, 1883 - July 12, 1887 Conservative
# Joseph-Aldéric Ouimet - July 13, 1887 - July 28, 1891 Conservative
# Peter White - July 29, 1891 - August 18, 1896 Conservative
# James David Edgar - August 19, 1896 - July 31, 1899 Liberal
# Thomas Bain - August 1, 1899 - February 5, 1901 Liberal
# Louis Philippe Brodeur - February 6, 1901 - January 18, 1904 Liberal
# Napoléon Antoine Belcourt - March 10, 1904 - January 10, 1905 Liberal
# Robert Franklin Sutherland - January 11, 1905 - January 19, 1909 Liberal
# Charles Marcil - January 20, 1909 - November 14, 1911 Liberal
# Thomas Simpson Sproule - November 15, 1911 - December 2, 1915 Conservative
# Albert Sévigny - January 12, 1916 - January 7, 1917 Conservative
# Edgar Nelson Rhodes - January 18, 1917 - March 5, 1922 Conservative
# Rodolphe Lemieux - March 8, 1922 - June 2, 1930 Liberal
# George Black - September 8, 1930 - January 16, 1935 Conservative
# James Langstaff Bowman - January 17, 1935 - February 5, 1936 Conservative
# Pierre-François Casgrain - February 6, 1936 - May 10, 1940 Liberal
# James Allison Glen - May 16, 1940 - September 5, 1945 Liberal
# Gaspard Fauteux - September 6, 1945 - September 14, 1949 Liberal
# William Ross Macdonald - September 15, 1949 - June 11, 1953 Liberal
# Louis-René Beaudoin - November 12, 1953 - October 13, 1957 Liberal
# Roland Michener - October 14, 1957 - September 26, 1962 Progressive Conservative
# Marcel Lambert - September 27, 1962 - May 15, 1963 Progressive Conservative
# Alan Macnaughton - May 16, 1963 - January 17, 1966 Liberal
# Lucien Lamoureux - January 18, 1966 - September 29, 1974 Liberal/Independent++
# James Alexander Jerome - September 30, 1974 - December 14, 1979 Liberal
# Jeanne Sauvé - April 14, 1980 - January 15, 1984 Liberal
# Cyril Lloyd Francis - January 16, 1984 - November 4, 1984 Liberal
# John William Bosley - November 5, 1984 - September 29, 1986 Progressive Conservative
# John Allen Fraser - September 30, 1986 - January 16, 1994 Progressive Conservative
# Gilbert Parent - January 17, 1994 - January 28, 2001 Liberal
# Peter Milliken - January 29, 2001 - present Liberal

++Lamoureaux emulated the tradition of the Speaker of the British House of Commons and ran for re-election as an Independent MP in the 1968 and 1972 general elections.


The Speaker's counterpart in the upper house is the Speaker of the Canadian Senate. Canadian provincial and territorial legislatures also have Speakers with much the same roles.

Tie-Breaking Votes

On Thursday, May 19, 2005, the Speaker was required to cast the tie-breaking vote during a confidence measure for the first time in Canadian history. Faced with the defeat of Paul Martin's minority government, Milliken voted in favour of the NDP budget amendment. Despite popular belief that the speaker, as a Liberal MP, would automatically support the government, his vote was pre-determined by other factors. As speaker, Milliken's vote must be cast to allow the continuation of debate, or to maintain the status-quo. Thus, the Speaker voted in favour of second reading, "to allow the House time for further debate so that it can make its own decision at some future time." The bill would later pass third reading without the need for Milliken's vote.

External links

* [http://www.parl.gc.ca/information/about/people/key/SP-BL/hoc-cdc/sp_hoc-e.htm Parliamentary Library of Canada] - contains biographies of all of Canada's speakers and information on the historical development and current role of the position.

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