Liberal MP Greg Fergus has made history by becoming the first Black Speaker of the House of Commons, following a secret ranked-ballot vote by his peers.
Representing the Quebec riding of Hull-Aylmer, Fergus has expressed a profound admiration for Canada’s Parliament throughout his life, even having the Hansard, the official record of debates, delivered to his home as a youth. In a twist of fate, Fergus, who once served as a parliamentary page in 1988, is now the individual overseeing the decorum and order of the chamber.
Fergus’s election to the prestigious role comes after the Yaroslav Hunka incident that saw the former Speaker, Anthony Rota, cause international controversy by inviting and praising a World War II veteran associated with a Nazi unit.
On his election, Fergus emphasized the importance of respect in the chamber. “Respect and decorum — I’m going to be working hard on this and I need all your help to make this happen,” he said. The Speaker’s role, crucial in maintaining the procedural integrity of Parliament, also carries with it ceremonial duties and communication responsibilities between the Senate and the Crown.
Though the importance of Fergus’s election as the first Black Speaker isn’t lost on him, he noted that he wishes to be seen first for his capabilities. “I’m asking them to vote for me because I’m the best candidate and that I’m the person who can apply the rules, fairly, firmly, and consistently,” he told reporters.
Having held significant roles within the Liberal party, including serving as the national director and as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s parliamentary secretary, Fergus’s close relationship with the current head of government was evident. Trudeau and his cabinet gave a standing ovation as Fergus assumed his new position.
The Prime Minister further underscored the importance of the Speaker’s role, stating its significance in ensuring parliamentary debates remain civil and respectful, reflecting the expectations of Canadians.
Fergus’s election has been met with overall support and admiration from other parliamentary members, with NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh acknowledging the significance of Fergus’s position for many Canadians. “There’s kids who have maybe come here and have not seen themselves on the walls. And that’s going to change now,” Singh commented.