Speaker

The Speaker is the presiding officer of the HOUSE OF COMMONS, elected by fellow members at the beginning of each new parliament. Until 1986 the Speaker had been nominated by the prime minister, usually after consultation with the LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION. As of 30 September 1986 the members have selected a new Speaker by secret ballot from among several candidates. His or her authority over the Commons derives from the fact that the Speaker is accepted as the presiding officer of the House. The Speaker represents the House and speaks for it. The permission of the Speaker is required for police to execute a search warrant on Parliament Hill.

At the opening of each PARLIAMENT the Speaker requests confirmation of the privileges of the Commons, and at royal assent presents appropriation bills on its behalf. To be disrespectful of the Speaker is to be disrespectful of the House. The Speaker, who is responsible, as chairman, umpire and manager, for House proceedings, is expected to be fair, patient and understanding, but also to prevent obstructive members from frustrating the House. The Speaker receives sessional and expense allowances equivalent to those of the Leader of the Opposition, a car and driver, a country home at Kingsmere in the Gatineau Hills, and private quarters in the Centre Block of Parliament Hill.

With the four other Commissioners of Internal Economy, the Speaker applies to the CROWN for money to pay the indemnities of members, expenses for summoned witnesses, and salaries for pages, cooks and secretaries. He or she appoints HANSARD staff, constables, etc. After being forced to the Chair - nominees feign resistance out of modesty - the Speaker severs party ties. All recent Speakers have been bilingual.

In 1963 Prime Minister John DIEFENBAKER appointed the Honourable Marcel Lambert, the 1962-63 Speaker, to the Cabinet. In 1980 Prime Minister Pierre TRUDEAU moved the Honourable Jeanne SAUVÉ from the Cabinet to the Chair and in 1984 from the speakership to the post of GOVERNOR GENERAL. Such moves have been criticized by those favouring a strong, independent Speaker.

Speakers have normally held office for the duration of a single Parliament. Those with the shortest and longest tenure of office were, respectively, Marcel Lambert in 1962-63 (9 months) and Lucien Lamoureux in 1966-74 (8 years, 9 months). Speaker Lamoureaux, elected first as a Liberal, remains the only Canadian Speaker to date to have emulated the tradition in the British House of Commons of running in subsequent elections as an "Independent" candidate.

Occasionally the Speaker has been chosen from the ranks of an opposition party. When that has happened it has always been during a minority Parliament, the government being keen to retain as many of its members and to reduce the Opposition ranks by one member for critical votes.

Speakers vote only to break a tie and then not according to their views but so as to leave the substance of the question to be decided later by the House. In Britain, the House of Lords has no Speaker, and a minister, the Lord Chancellor, presides, but at Ottawa the Senate has a "Speaker," appointed by the Crown and permitted to vote. The Speakers of provincial assemblies follow the pattern of the Commons Speaker.