Bloc asks Speaker to resign over tribute to interim Ontario Liberal Party leader

Greg Fergus apologized for his video message to John Fraser at the party’s leadership convention

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OTTAWA – The new Speaker of the House of Commons is already facing calls to resign from at least one party almost exactly two months after being appointed to the role.

Greg Fergus apologized on Monday morning for recording a video tribute honouring the outgoing interim Ontario Liberal Party leader John Fraser, which he described as a longtime friend and almost as “family,” at the party’s leadership convention this past weekend.

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Fergus told MPs he was told that his “non-political message” was intended for an “intimate gathering” for Fraser, but was not aware that it would be broadcasted at the convention.

“However, I recognize how this may have been interpreted. I wish to apologize and to reassure members that such an event will not happen again,” he said.

Bloc Québécois House leader Alain Therrien said his party was willing to give Fergus the benefit of the doubt in the impartial role as Speaker, having recently served in several partisan roles including Justin Trudeau’s parliamentary secretary, but that this video was the last straw.

“To act as Speaker, one needs to possess two essential qualities: impartiality and flawless judgment. Unfortunately, the current Speaker has demonstrated that he has neither of those two essential qualities. That was clear after what occurred this weekend,” said Therrien.

“That is why the Bloc is calling on the Speaker to resign as soon as possible.”

The Conservatives did not call for Fergus’ resignation, opting instead to take the procedural route as they multiplied points of privilege to drag on the debate on Monday.

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Conservative House leader and former Speaker Andrew Scheer argued that the events of the past weekend amounted to a breach of the impartiality of the chair, and called on a parliamentary committee to investigate the matter and decide on the next steps.

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Scheer took issue with the fact that Fergus not only participated in a partisan tribute, but did it from the Speaker’s office while wearing the Speaker’s robe.

“As bad as it would have been to appear at a party convention at all, it might have at least been a little bit different if he’d been introduced as a member of Hull-Aylmer in a suit or sweater while standing in front of a scenic backdrop in his riding. It wasn’t,” he said.

“He was standing there in the full non-partisan trapping of his non-partisan office, paying a partisan tribute to a partisan friend at a partisan event,” added Scheer.

Deputy Speaker Chris d’Entremont will be in charge of determining whether or not the Speakers actions were a breach of privilege, Fergus having already said he would recuse himself from the debate.

In his statement, Fergus attempted to distance himself from the accusations of partisanship by saying that he was not and cannot become a member of the Ontario Liberal Party since he lives in Quebec, and that Fraser has been a personal friend for more than 30 years.

He said that Fraser and his wife played a significant role in his life when he moved to the Ottawa-Gatineau region, met his own spouse and started his family.

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“In a region where we had no ties, they were our family,” said Fergus.

On X (formerly Twitter), Fraser thanked his “dear friend” for his video tribute last weekend and apologized for not clearly communicating to his office “where and when it would be used.”

“Our family deeply appreciated your very kind gesture,” he wrote on X.

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Fergus also made the argument that politicians are also “people.”

“Like all of you, I have deep and abiding relationships with people of all political backgrounds. It should not be seen as partisan to recognize a colleague’s departure. It is an act of friendship and respect,” he said.

But the Speaker gained no sympathy from Scheer, who served in the role from 2011 to 2015.

“Having served in the chair, I wholeheartedly appreciate that Speakers do not arrive here through some form of Immaculate Conception,” he said. “Speakers have all been politicians before being elected to the chair.”

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Fergus is no stranger to controversy. He came to Trudeau’s defence on many occasions, including during the “elbowgate” incident in 2016 in which Trudeau elbowed a female MP in the chest, as well as during Trudeau’s “blackface” scandal in 2019.

More recently, Fergus was found to have violated the Conflict of Interest Act by writing a letter of support for a multicultural television channel in its application to the CRTC for mandatory carriage while also acting as parliamentary secretary for the prime minister.

Fergus became Speaker after his predecessor, Anthony Rota, was forced to resign for honouring a man who fought for a Nazi unit during the Second World War.

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