Opinion Column

The Speaker shouldn’t play partisan games

 Ashli Barrett/Lacombe Globe

Changes might be needed within the House of Commons.

 

I’m not talking about a new government (although perhaps that’s needed, too) but perhaps a new Speaker of the House after an incident that saw Speaker Geoff Regan cut off NDP MP Daniel Blaikie, who was speaking on a point of order.

Blaikie was making procedural arguments against the government over the desire to approve $7-billion in spending (Vote 40) which the government says will be used on fulfilling budget promises, despite failing to provide details as to what the spending will actually be used on. After about 15 minutes, Regan said he’d heard “enough” on the topic and moved on.

Conservative House Leader Candice Bergen and Conservative Finance Critic Pierre Poilievre then spoke to back Blaikie and support continuation of his arguments, however, they, too, were cut off by Regan, who began moving into Orders of the Day.

The result was thundering noise from NDP and Conservative MPs, yelling, thumping their desks and many, including Blaikie, yelling “point of order” in a steady rhythm. The noise was maintained for about eight minutes, to the point where CPAC translators had to disclose what the Speaker was saying was inaudible.

Eventually, after ignoring points of orders – which are supposed to be acknowledged as they are made – Regan finally he said he’d consider Blaikie’s side and get back to the House on the matter.

On Tuesday, he maintained Blaikie’s point of order was out of order – saying the topic was before a committee, and suggesting it wasn’t a procedural issue, but a policy disagreement with the government.

On Friday, Liberal House Leader Bardish Chagger told the National Post that the uproar was nothing more than games being played by the opposition, and “utter disrespect for the speaker.”

Nevermind the topic of the point of order – I’d argue that Canadians saw another stroke of the current Liberal government’s arrogance – the same kind of arrogance they still criticize the Harper Conservatives over to this day.

I’d also say we saw the speaker show disrespect for democracy in favour of a brush with partisanship.

Let’s remember Regan might be the Speaker, but he’s also a Liberal MP. It’s not the first time I’ve watched CPAC and seen him act this way, but the first there’s been this kind of push back.

Blaikie called Regan’s actions a breach of privilege, and I’m inclined to agree. He has to acknowledge points of order as they happen. In terms of how the government is bringing the funding forward, I’d also agree it’s not right to ask funding to be approved by Parliament without detailed information about it.

Still, on Tuesday, Regan said there were “no grounds” to rule Vote 40 out of order.

Fortunately – or perhaps unfortunately – opposition parties have much bigger issues to deal with than the Speaker, who should be fair to all parties and not just his own, stepping out of line.

Hopefully the incident will signal to Regan he should be more careful about his brushes with partisanship, and allow opposition members to voice their concerns without telling them “I’ve heard enough of this subject.”

If not, maybe we’ve heard enough of him. 



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