Maybe it’s best that Greg Fergus is travelling and away from Ottawa this week, but really, maybe it’s best if he just resigns as Speaker of the House of Commons. Fergus is showing, once again, that he’s not cut out for the job because he can’t leave partisan politics at the door – which is one of the key features of the speaker’s role.
At a time when Fergus is under fire for acting in a partisan manner – something speakers in Canada aren’t supposed to do – he is in Washington acting in a partisan manner.
This all started with Fergus offering up video greetings which were played at the Ontario Liberal Party leadership convention last weekend. Fergus sang the praises of his longtime friend and the interim leader of the Ontario Liberal Party, John Fraser.
The video was recorded by Fergus wearing his speaker’s robes and recorded in the speaker’s office, making it an official video greeting. Yet in the video, Fergus spoke of the fun he had working on partisan efforts with Fraser.
“We had a lot of fun together, through the Ottawa South Liberal Association, getting Dalton McGuinty elected,” Fergus said in the video.
The message, the robes, the location of the recording were enough for both the Conservatives and the Bloc Quebecois to say that Fergus should resign as speaker and quite frankly, they are right. Fergus has breached the idea that speakers are impartial.
“It was a non-political message to a personal friend,” Fergus said Monday.
Fergus has shown he’s not impartial
That would be understandable if it weren’t for the rest of Fergus’ record as speaker. Since becoming speaker, Fergus has adopted his own set of rules on applause for questions and answers but applied them differently for Liberals and Conservatives.
At times, Fergus has cut the microphones within four to five seconds of Conservatives applauding a question but then let the Liberal applause go on more than twice as long in response to those same questions. He even gave a speech on decorum in the House of Commons which the Conservatives saw Fergus coming after them, something no speaker should ever do.
Now, in response to his video for his close friend, the former Ontario Liberal Leader, Fergus is asking for forgiveness for being clearly partisan when he shouldn’t have been. Too bad that he immediately went to Washington, D.C. and continued to act in a partisan manner.
While giving a speech on cross border relations, Fergus related the story of running to be president of the Young Liberals when he was in his youth.
“Following weeks of planning, Speaker Fergus will spend two days in Washington, D.C., carrying out the diplomatic portion of the Speaker’s role. He will be meeting with members of the diplomatic community and elected officials from both sides of the aisle,” Mathieu Gravel, a spokesman for Fergus told Postmedia.
Both sides of the aisle appear to mean Democrats and Liberals.
There are photos of Fergus meeting with Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat and the former Speaker of the House of Representatives but none of Fergus meeting with Republicans, like Mike Johnson, the current speaker. Gravel says Fergus will be meeting with Republican members of Congress but didn’t mention the current speaker, an odd, and potentially partisan, omission.
All of this is window dressing to the larger issue, which is that Fergus is not truly independent on his party and the prime minister’s office. Anthony Rota, the former speaker, who was also a Liberal definitely was independent and that irked the Liberals so when they had the chance to remove him, they did so and backed Fergus for the job.
He has cracked down on the Conservatives in Question Period just as Trudeau and his team wanted him to but it hasn’t gone unnoticed. Being speaker requires one to be impartial, to treat all parties the same.
Fergus has failed at that.