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Truth be told, Greg Fergus should never have been Speaker of the House of Commons in the first place

Michael TaubeAnthony Rota, a longtime Liberal MP, resigned as Canada’s Speaker of the House on Sept. 26. This was after he had invited a Nazi to be honoured in Parliament – which was unintentional but an enormous domestic and international embarrassment. Rota was replaced on an interim basis by Bloc Quebecois MP Louis Plamondon and then permanently by Liberal MP Greg Fergus on Oct. 3.

Many Liberal MPs were upbeat after the result was announced. They had voted in Canada’s first black House Speaker, a unique moment in our country’s history. They also felt the page had finally been turned with respect to the recent political turmoil.

Little did they know a new chapter of a different book about political turmoil was about to be written.

Fergus’s political skills have been highly suspect for years. During a Jan. 25, 2021 appearance on CTV’s Power Play, the then-backbench MP said more COVID-19 vaccine approvals were needed to meet a Sept. 2021 target – and confidently mentioned two vaccines, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. Neither of them had been approved in Canada at that point. CTV got in touch with then-Liberal Procurement Minister Anita Anand. She confirmed Ottawa’s position hadn’t changed. Fergus quickly apologized.

greg fergus speaker house of commons
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That was an embarrassing moment. A worse one occurred two years later.

Fergus was found guilty of an ethics violation this February. He broke the Conflict of Interest Act as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s parliamentary secretary after writing a letter of support to the CRTC for a television channel that had applied for mandatory carriage. Parliamentary rules restrict ministers and parliamentary secretaries from writing letters of support. Only MPs can do this.

Another mistake by Fergus, and another apology.

To quote Kevin Bacon’s famous line from the 1978 movie Animal House, “Thank you sir, may I have another?”

Want to guess what recently happened? No need – I’ll fill you in.

Fergus blundered for the third time when he appeared in a video tribute for outgoing interim Ontario Liberal leader John Fraser. He was dressed in his traditional Speaker’s robe, which is completely against the spirit and rules of impartiality his parliamentary role is supposed to represent.

Several MPs spoke out. The most notable was Andrew Scheer, a former Conservative leader and House Speaker. “This conduct is simply unacceptable,” he said. “It defies all long-standing traditions and expectations attached to the high office of Speaker.”

He’s right. If Fergus had appeared in the video wearing a suit or casual clothing to say a few words about Fraser, that would have been fine. The fact that he wore his formal robe shows he doesn’t know or understand parliamentary rules – and where to draw the line between partisan and nonpartisan issues and events.

Parliament voted unanimously in support of Scheer’s privilege motion to investigate this controversy. The Procedure and House Affairs Committee would ultimately decide Fergus’s political fate.

The Speaker apologized yet again. “Let me apologize to all of you here, to all of our colleagues in the House and indeed, to all Canadians, I am sorry,” Fergus told committee members on Monday. “I recorded a video message to John Fraser, a longtime friend. Despite assurances to the contrary, it was shown at a public partisan gathering. Regardless of it being aired privately or publicly, I should never have recorded it.”

Moreover, he recognized that he had “messed up.”

Fergus also mentioned his possible departure as Speaker during the two-hour testimony. “I am a servant of the House of Commons. I truly wish to rectify the problem and to regain the trust of the House of Commons, but if the House decides that this isn’t possible, that the issue can’t be remedied, of course, I will leave.”

How likely is this?

It’s doubtful that Fergus will leave on his own. However, Parliamentarians on the left and right are fed up with him. Conservative and Bloc MPs have called on him to quit, and some NDP MPs have reportedly lost faith in his ability to serve in this role. If there’s enough opposition support to remove Fergus as Speaker, it could very well happen.

Truth be told, Fergus shouldn’t have ever been Speaker in the first place. He’s made far too many poor decisions in his political career, and shown a complete lack of personal judgment in different capacities.

The sooner he leaves, the better.

Marco Navarro-Génie, Troy Media contributor, author and president of the Haultain Research Institute, made this amusing post on Dec. 5, “I didn’t expect a new Speaker to be as bad. I miss Anthony Rota already.”

Navarro-Génie was obviously joking. Most Canadians wouldn’t support Rota returning as Speaker, even if they had a good laugh in private. That being said, it does show how ridiculous things have become – and still are – with the important role of Speaker of the House.

Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and Washington Times contributor, was a speechwriter for former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics.

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The opinions expressed by our columnists and contributors are theirs alone and do not inherently or expressly reflect the views of our publication.

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