Conservatives decry Speaker's pitch for decorum that delayed question period

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OTTAWA — Newly elected House of Commons Speaker Greg Fergus made a pitch for decorum in the chamber Wednesday, as the Conservatives heckled over the delay it caused.

Fergus opened question period with a statement on decorum saying the atmosphere in the House of Commons has declined considerably and he is not willing to accept that social media is fuelling the behaviour or making it acceptable.

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“I have noticed a deterioration in the collective decorum in this place. It is important to note that this deterioration was not inevitable,” he said.

When he was running to be Speaker, Fergus said MPs frequently brought up their concerns that the heckling and shouting was getting out of hand.

“Decorum and disorder was the one issue that was most often mentioned to me in the one on one exchanges that I had, and not just in passing,” he said.

Heckling in question period is commonplace and inside the chamber it is often difficult to hear ministers respond. Much of the heckling comes from the Conservative benches, but all parties engage in it. Fergus and his predecessor regularly had to stop the proceedings and have ministers repeat themselves so they could be heard.

Fergus was heckled during his speech on decorum and the Conservatives objected to his address because it delayed question period. Conservative MP Andrew Scheer, a former Speaker himself, said any delay was unacceptable and against the standing orders of the House.

“These standing orders are the property of the House. It’s up to the House to decide when we’re not going to follow a rule or when we’re going to change the rule,” he said. “This is a standing order that the House has adopted. You are a servant of the House. You should follow the standing order.”

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The standing orders do indicate that question period should begin at 2:15 p.m., but it often begins later. Fergus said he has the latitude to delay the period for a statement and read it over Scheer’s objections.

He said heckling has always been part of the chamber, but it has become too commonplace and isn’t adding to the debate.

“Far too often, heckling is boring and rude, designed to intimidate, insult or drown out others,” he said.

In addition to heckling, Fergus said he would be cracking down on other breaches of Parliament’s rules. MPs are not allowed to point out or mention when an MP is absent from the chamber and are not allowed to call fellow MPs liars. They also have to address all their comments through the Speaker.

Fergus said he would continue to focus on the issue in the weeks ahead and would use all tools at his disposal. Those tools include not calling on MPs who behave poorly and even asking them to leave the chamber.

Twitter: RyanTumilty
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Originally posted 2023-10-18 20:50:14.