House Speaker survives resignation call, asked to pay a fine and apologize for partisan activity

Liberal MP Greg Fergus will retain his role as House Speaker following an "inappropriate" partisan tribute to a long-time Liberal friend. He will pay an undisclosed fine for his indiscretion, after issuing his fourteenth apology for the impartiality breach.

House Speaker survives resignation call, asked to pay a fine and apologize for partisan activity
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
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Liberal MP Greg Fergus will retain his role as House Speaker amid concern over an "inappropriate" partisan tribute to a long-time Liberal friend.

"We had a lot of fun together through the Ottawa South Liberal Association, through Liberal Party politics," said Fergus in his tribute to outgoing interim Ontario Liberal leader John Fraser.

On Thursday, the Commons House Affairs Committee rejected calls for his removal from 149 Conservative and Bloc Québécois MPs, reported Blacklock’s Reporter.

But all MPs agreed that Fergus made a bad judgment call by filming a video for a partisan event that recognized Fraser at the most recent Ontario Liberal convention.

"For us in the Liberal Party he made a mistake, he apologized," Government House Leader Karina Gould told reporters. "That usually in the House of Commons is sufficient to move on."

"The government has made it quite clear that, you know, this was a mistake he made," she added. "However, we do not feel this is a resignable offence."

Instead, the committee ordered Fergus to apologize for the fourteenth time in as many weeks for the impartiality breach on December 2, according to Blacklock’s Reporter.

The House Speaker repeatedly vowed never to repeat his mistake and to accept the committee’s recommendations on his conduct.

"I made the wrong decision," said Fergus. "I am here today to say that I will do better […] I will set up a more rigorous protocol to make sure that it never happens again," he added.

The report tabled to house affairs urged the Commons to make it more clear for incoming Speakers what constitutes "impartiality" and "non-partisanship." Fergus is also required to pay an undisclosed fine for the indiscretion, it reads.

The Commons Procedure And Practice guide forbids partisan activity by the Speaker, according to Blacklock's Reporter. "The Speaker must always show and be seen to show the impartiality required to maintain the trust and goodwill of the House," said the guide.

A spokesperson to the Speaker’s office told CTV News on Thursday that his partisan tribute preceded "the introduction of a new protocol which mandates consultation with the clerk."

New Democrat House Leader Peter Julian made it clear Fergus cannot engage in further partisan activity. "I'm not just concerned about the current Speaker Mr. Fergus, I'm concerned about all future Speakers," he said.

Conservative MPs in a Dissenting Opinion dismissed the sanctions as "weak and meaningless" and said a new Speaker should be elected. 

"His judgment is questionable," wrote the Opposition. "To repair the tear in the fabric of our democratic institutions the Speaker must resign."

Bloc Québécois MPs concurred with the Conservatives that Fergus should not remain Speaker. "Just like a referee, the Speaker must embody impartiality, fairness and judgment," wrote the Bloc. "These qualities are essential."

"How can he continue?" asked a reporter. "Well, we do operate as a majority here in the House of Commons," replied Gould.

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