One-on-one with House of Commons Speaker Greg Fergus



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Over a month since liberal MP Greg Fergus made history by becoming the first black Speaker of the House Fergus was elected to the job back in October in a rare mids session election to replace Anthony Roa who resigned after honoring a Nazi war veteran in the house since fergus’s appointment He’s focused

On decorum or restoring it in the House of Commons it is so important colleages down hello I spoke with the speaker in his office have a listen to our conversation hi Mr Speaker good to see you pleasure to be here with you I appreciate you making the time to

Do this uh here in your beautiful office thank you uh you’ve been in the job now an entire just over an entire month still the new be yes still the new but but you have been involved in politics for a long time you’ve studied Parliament for a an even longer time is

It what you expected it’s even better uh to have the opportunity to uh be elected by one’s peers and to uh help them uh promote the Privileges that they have uh to be a Chief Diplomat to be the administrator of the House of Commons it’s even better than I thought what

Makes it so good the people uh really you really see um you see have to understand being a member of parliament is is probably the greatest privilege that I’ve had in my life but also the ability to then now uh help them uh promote the Parliamentary Traditions

That we have uh and to be their impartial Arbiter um it’s it’s an amazing thing you get to see them you appreciate them from a different perspective when you’re sitting in that chair as opposed to sitting on to one one side of the house have you found it

Difficult at all to strip yourself of the bias that you came with to the job with people ask me that all the time right I find over the years it’s been actually really easy and and I’m wondering if you feeling if you’re finding the same thing it took all of

One minute really it really it really does I mean it’s just a different role that you play and uh to make Parliament work you know that you need to have a speaker that’s impartial uh a speaker that uh is looking to listening to the questions and listening to the answers making sure

That the debate is going on in the way that it should go on so no it took all of uh all of 60 seconds when you were elected the opposition uh you know when I was talking to members of the opposition they were largely actually pretty supportive but some of them had

Reservations given their experience in two aspects right and and we know this and our audience knows this often will do MP panels let’s say and you would be the person the government wants to put up because they felt like you could defend their position and be dogmatic I

Wish I wish it was always that case sometimes I think it’s just I’m the only person who was available at that time I don’t know about that because it happened a lot but at the same also you know they pointed to some committees for example where you were part of efforts

To fill a buster because you you felt for whatever reason that what the opposition was doing was wrong but the way in which you did it was something that you kind of pan now right this idea of you know you were speaking Latin you were going on and on you were kind of

You know operating still within the rules but a bit flagrant about them do you regret any of that now that you’re in this position and I’ll ask you again has that been hard to shed it hasn’t been hard to shed for of all I don’t speak all that often as speaker um funny

Name uh but with regard to what I did in the past as a member of parliament on a particular team that was my role but my reason why my colleagues elected me and it was uh you know a secret ballot and it you know even if you want to say that

It was partisan games the Liberals were are not majority um it was a minority it had to reflect the support that I had to have had to come from all member all sectors of the house if you’re looking for someone who’s imperfect but who has if you take

A look at the positive and the negative and you add up the uh the balance sheet and you think it tilts more towards the positive well then I’m your guy uh and I can do that but if you’re looking for Perfection uh you know I I’ve made

Mistakes like everybody else has and I will make mistakes in the future too but I’m just hoping that I’ll make new ones Innovative ones not repeat the old ones in the past we all hope that right you came to the job as well with a very specific message about improving uh the

Sense of decorum respect and tone in the House of Commons I wondered in the last month if you can share with Canadians who are watching today beyond what they’ve seen on TV or in question period what you have been doing behind the scenes to work towards those goals well

Very much I try to work with the uh house leadership of all parties to encourage them to making sure that I’m sharing information with them that I’m listening to their feedback in terms of ways that I could improve the role that I play as as a speaker some of their

Suggestions are extraordinarily helpful uh some of them I might we might just agree to disagree on but the idea is as I told told everyone I’m going to be transparent about what I want to do I’ll be working with my chair occupants the other people the deputy speaker as well

As the two assistant Deputy speakers we’re forming one team we’ve agreed that what we’re going to do is making sure that we’re applying the rules consistently across the board so no one feels that they’re getting a rough ride by one chair occupant as opposed to another um we are coordinating our our

Our our enforcement of the rules and we’re trying to of course the best way to get people to follow the rules is get them to really adopt and see the benefit of it so Mr Speaker on the way here I was thinking about the issue of decorum and whether it’s that that is

Contributing to you know a more negative view of the House of Commons or of politics for for Canadians I think you know instinctively I think there needs to be a level of partisanship I’m not sort of you know too fragile about what happens in here I think there needs to

Be back and forth but what there is a lot of that maybe contributes to it is that it’s so scripted do you think the level of scriptedness is a problem so I agree with you I think that partisanship is important and having distinction and tough debates that’s

Really key but you’re right I think as well in terms of scriptedness we are probably the the scripted nature of of some of the debates that we have in the House of Commons I think leads to the impression that we’re much further apart than we actually are it’s sort of a

Debate over small differences but we we’ve blown them up um if we were less scripted if we were more off the cuff if we had rules like they if we adopted the practices I should say um like they have in the UK where you can’t walk in with

With speaking notes you can have just I mean you could have a couple of notes jotted down but you can’t come in with with written speeches and read off a text I think then maybe we would have uh a more authentic debate and one which Canadians will discover that although

There are differences they might not be as sharp as we present them to be when we you when we write down every single word just before I let you go you you talked about being a kid and the impression that you had of this place and and of politics you are the first

Black Canadian to be Speaker of the House of Commons how do you hope that impacts kids I hope they hope their their Horizons have just expanded I hope that they sometimes you got to see something to believe it and I hope that they see that a it wasn’t hard to do uh

To become Speaker of the House of Commons you just need to you know need to get elected have the support of your peers and respect of your peers to get there but it wasn’t the barrier it wasn’t on anybody’s mind I think as they were casting the ballot uh that you know

They could vote for or against me because of that issue that’s the beauty of this country so I hope that people will feel a they will not self-censor that they could see themselves if they want to be speaker they want to be prime minister they want to be a professor

They want to be a doctor they can they can do it and secondly I think it helps people who are not part of those communities also see once again uh that that’s not the issue uh the issue is what you have between your ears and not

The color of your skin I’ll leave it on that note Mr speaker thank you so much for your time today thank you

Newly elected Speaker of the House of Commons Greg Fergus breaks down his first few weeks on the job.

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