Speaker Fergus asked former Liberal MP Glen Pearson to defend him in op-ed

Pearson mentioned the phone call he received from Fergus during a church service on Nov. 19 which caused him to subsequently write a piece in support of the new Speaker

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OTTAWA – Speaker of the House of Commons Greg Fergus asked former Liberal MP Glen Pearson to write an opinion piece about the Conservatives heckling him over his attempt to bring decorum and order in the chamber shortly after he took on the position.

Pearson mentioned the phone call he received from Fergus during a church service in London, Ont., on Nov. 19 which caused him to subsequently write a piece on the National Newswatch website in support of the new Speaker and blasting Conservatives for their behaviour.

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“The deplorable display of pettiness by the Conservatives last week at the Speaker’s opening remarks are a sign of more disruption to come,” he wrote on Oct. 23. “Nevertheless, three realities stand in their way: the middle-of-the-road sentiment of the Canadian people, the Parliament of Canada … and now Greg Fergus.”

Fergus has been facing calls to resign from the Conservatives and the Bloc Québécois over a video tribute to the outgoing interim leader of the Ontario Liberal Party leader John Fraser, at the party’s leadership convention on Dec. 2 while in his office and wearing the Speaker’s robe.

Fergus has since apologized for his behaviour and promised that such a mistake would not happen again. But last week, he flew off to Washington, D.C., for an official visit and paid tribute to another friend that he met during his time as a young Liberal.

A House of Commons committee report tabled on Thursday related to the video tribute to Fraser suggested that Fergus issue another apology stating that his behaviour was inappropriate, and reimburse a “suitable amount” for the misuse of parliamentary resources that were not related to the performance of his functions as Speaker.

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“Today, an expectation exists among members of the House, and the wider public, that the Speaker’s duties ought to be carried out with scrupulous impartiality and independence,” reads the report from the procedure and House affairs committee. “The Speaker must be fair and impartial.”

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While the report was approved by a majority of Liberal and NDP members, Conservatives and the Bloc issued dissenting opinions calling him once again to step down.

“To repair the tear in the fabric of our democratic institution, the Speaker must resign. The recommendations offered, instead, by the NDP-Liberal majority on the Procedure and House Affairs Committee are weak and meaningless,” reads the Conservatives’ analysis.

The Bloc for its part wrote that “no amount of financial penalty would remedy the error that was committed,” adding that “it would set a precedent whereby partisan actions and a lack of judgement can be committed by Speakers of the House, in return for payment of a fine.”

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Government House leader Karina Gould said in a press conference that her party did not feel Fergus’ actions were a “resignable offence,” but would look at the committee’s recommendations very carefully and would act in response.

She added that the Conservatives’ behaviour in the House would not change whoever the Speaker is.

“They have misbehaved in the Chamber whether it was Speaker (Geoff) Regan, whether it was Speaker (Anthony) Rota, and now, with Mr. Fergus. So, do I have great anticipation that if there was another speaker the Conservatives would all of a sudden behave better? No,” she said.

Moments later, Conservative House leader Andrew Scheer rose in the House to highlight that Fergus had once more engaged in partisan activity on Nov. 18 while participating in a cocktail for André Fortin, a Liberal member of the National Assembly of Quebec in the Gatineau area.

Pictures were shared by Quebec Liberal MP Sophie Chatel on her Instagram page.

“M. Fergus was in attendance at this free event at the British Hotel in Aylmer, which is in his riding. It is important to note that the federal riding of Hull-Aylmer and the provincial riding of Pontiac overlap,” said Mathieu Gravel, a spokesperson for the Speaker’s office, in an email.

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“The Speaker’s attendance at this event precedes the introduction of a rigorous new protocol which mandates consultation with the Clerk,” he added.

NDP House leader Peter Julian said this week that his party would be prepared to call for Fergus’ resignation formally through a motion of non-confidence in the House should he participate in another partisan incident, but was not moved by the proof brought forward by Scheer.

Julian noted that Scheer had himself participated in a partisan event, two months after becoming Speaker in 2011, with former Conservative Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

“I didn’t think it was acceptable for Andrew Scheer, I don’t think it’s acceptable for Mr. Fergus and we’re going to make these rules very clear that this is not an acceptable activity for any Speaker to be involved in,” Julian told reporters on Thursday.

He defended the report on the Speaker’s partisan activity, and said that Fergus was now on “probation” according to New Democrats.

“What we did in the report, what the NDP has been doing as adults in the House, is saying very clearly that there are disciplinary measures that need to be put in place. This cannot happen moving forward. From now on, you cannot have the Speaker engage in partisan activity,” he said.

“We’ve said very clearly if there is any derogation from that, in the weeks and months to come, that we have the ability to table in the House of Commons a motion of non-confidence.”

The Speaker’s office said Fergus will “fully comply with the recommendations of the report and all measures adopted by the House of Commons.”

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