Elizabeth May: The Speaker must retake authority in the house

Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands)
2021-11-22 14:02

Mr. Chair, thank you for giving me the floor today. It is an honour.

I want to start by acknowledging that we are on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin peoples and the Anishinabeg nation.

Like the rest of my colleagues, I too would like to congratulate everyone, including both newly elected and re-elected members. It is a great honour for us all.
I would like to say that we make up a community, a small political village. We must therefore work together respectfully.

We all know this, and we work together, I think, quite well. I agree with some of the comments my other colleagues have made.

I also want to thank the constituents of Saanich—Gulf Islands for their extraordinary generosity and support. That I take my place here after a fourth election is extraordinary, but I also want to share, as my hon. colleague did earlier, what we have been through in British Columbia recently. They are so far away, but I see my hon. friend from Abbotsford, the member for Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola and my friend from Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon. Those are the ridings that have taken the biggest wallop. Those are the ridings for which our hearts break, where people have lost their farms and others are still missing. Yes, we have to work together and we have to do it better. I extend condolences to everyone touched by the tragedies.

I am especially grateful to the member for Nipissing—Timiskaming. I have complete faith in his abilities. He has done great work, and his performance during the pandemic was excellent.

I think the hon. member for Nipissing—Timiskaming would have my vote if I were not running, and may have my vote anyway, because I do not stand here to ask members for their votes, but for their attention. This Parliament has suffered for many decades from a mistake, a mistake that was made in 1980 when the wonderful then speaker of the House, the Right Hon. Jeanne Sauvé, said she could not really see across the chamber well enough to know who was rising to speak. As a simple favour, she asked if the party whips would prepare a list for her so she could follow that.

Do members know that we are the only Parliament in the Westminster parliamentary system of dozens of countries around the world where the Speaker has voluntarily given authority over to backroom political people? Every one of the members had their face in front of the voters and every one of the members answered questions from electors, yet the running of this House is increasingly threatened by backroom political people who make key decisions about our day-to-day lives.

I think the power wielded by major political parties is a threat to our parliamentary democracy.

Members of Parliament have complained of this in the past. I think of our friend the late Mark Warawa, member of Parliament for Langley-Aldergrove. He was denied the right to make a 60-second statement under Standing Order 31 by his party whip, who said he could not say those things. He was brave enough to complain of it to our friend who was Speaker at the time, the hon. member for Regina—Qu’Appelle.

The decision of the Speaker at the time was that it would be a violation if a party whip stopped someone from speaking, but the Speaker, the hon. member for Regina—Qu’Appelle, said that he did not attempt to pursue his rights; he did not stand to attempt to catch the Speaker’s eye.

Whoever takes the chair in this place to become Speaker, I beg us all to support that Speaker in regaining the authorities and powers a Speaker must have. In the parliament of Westminster last week, it was a beautiful thing to see, when Sir Lindsay Hoyle took the Prime Minister of the U.K., the Right Honourable Boris Johnson, apart limb from limb for breaking the rules of the House. The Speaker said to the Prime Minister, “I am in charge in this place and you are not following our rules.”

In closing, I just want to say that democracy is sacred. We must protect the rights of smaller parties and every single member. That is the Speaker’s duty and reason for being.
We have challenges ahead of us in this minority Parliament.

I am referring to climate change and the pandemic, among others. We must work together, and we need a Speaker who will protect our rights.