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Déjà vu all over again as Opposition calls for Speaker to resign

New York Yankees great Yogi Berra was famous for his Yogi-isms; nonsensical sayings that somehow always seemed to make sense when he said them. In the early 1960’s, after watching his teammates Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris hit back-to-back homeruns, Berra is reported to have given one of his most famous Yogi-isms: “it’s déjà vu all over again”.

That’s how it feels in the House of Commons this week. Déjà vu. But unlike the juggernaut of the 1960’s Yankees, this déjà vu is the result of two successive House Speakers significantly dropping the ball.

On Monday, the Conservatives and Bloc Quebecois called on newly elected House Speaker Greg Fergus to resign.

It was only two months ago Speaker Anthony Rota was forced to resign after inviting and paying tribute to a man who formerly served in an SS unit during WWII during an official visit and address by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. This matter caused significant international embarrassment to Canada.

Speaker Rota’s resignation led to the election of new Speaker Greg Fergus.

I will be the first to admit, I was not thrilled with Mr. Fergus’s election. Nor were my Conservative colleagues. While his election was, in one sense, historic, the optics did not make up for the longstanding reality of Mr. Fergus’s fierce partisanship and ethical lapses as a Member of Parliament.

I am under no illusion that we aren’t all partisan as MPs. That’s the nature of our business. And, like professional athletes or lawyers we all want to win. However, like athletes and lawyers there are those who play by the rules and those who constantly seek to give their team an edge by flouting the rules.

Time and time again, Greg Fergus has helped this Prime Minister cover up his scandals.

He was, himself, implicated in two scandals, one where he was found guilty of breaking ethics laws and another, helping the Prime Minister mislead parliament about his lavish vacation spending, still pending—being blocked by Liberal and NDP members in the Ethics Committee.

So, it was a stretch for many MPs to trust that Mr. Fergus could execute the role of Speaker with the impartiality it demands.

That said, we gave him the benefit of the doubt and a fair shot. Sadly, this past weekend he let us down.

Mr. Fergus delivered a partisan speech to the Ontario Liberal Party, in his full Speaker’s regalia from the Speakers office. A clear breach of the political neutrality and impartiality he committed to when he ran for that office.

For MPs this was the equivalent of a hockey referee appearing in the opposing dressing room, in uniform, giving the other team a pep talk before the game. Or a defendant in a court case seeing the judge attending a social function thrown by the prosecutor. That official may be able to have those interactions and still maintain impartiality but the trust that he can do so is demolished. Those images will always be there causing doubt. 

As such, having broken the (already fragile) trust of Opposition MPs, the Speaker has no choice but to resign.

Anthony Rota is a kind and decent man. Greg Fergus is likewise a very committed, friendly, and approachable individual. Both are human and both made poor choices, as we all do from time to time. However, in both cases, the Speakers failed because they ignored the need to do due diligence and think about the potential consequences of their actions. This flouting of protocol and procedure is regularly a symptom when there is a lack of accountability. Both men are, in a larger sense, victims of the culture of arrogance and corruption that pervades and has come to characterize the Liberal Party of Canada under this Prime Minister. 

If the Speaker does not resign, the matter will go to the Procedure and House affairs Committee. Whatever the eventual result, this is just another Liberal scandal that stalls parliament and keeps parliamentarians from moving forward with the business of the nation.

Canadians deserve better.