Fergus apologized Monday for a video tribute he prepared in honor of outgoing interim Ontario Liberal leader John Fraser. The video was played at last weekend’s Ontario Liberal Party leadership convention.
Fergus claimed the tribute was “personal,” even though he appeared in the videos wearing his speaker’s robes and apparently in his House of Commons office. The Speaker said he believed the video’s play would be limited to “an intimate party for a long-standing friend who was retiring.”
Unlike the United States Speaker of the House, where partisanship is worn on the sleeve, the Canadian Speaker is expected to exhibit strict non--non-partisanship while he or she is in that office.
Both the Conservatives and Bloc Quebecois are calling for Fergus to resign. Official Opposition House Leader Andrew Scheer (CPC-Regina-Qu’Appelle) has been vociferous in his demand that Fergus go. Scheer is a former Speaker himself as well as a former leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.
After attempting to mend fences, Fergus left the country for Washington, DC in a highly unusual diplomatic trip.
“Following weeks of planning, Speaker Fergus will spend two days in Washington, D.C., carrying out the diplomatic portion of the Speaker’s role. He will be meeting with members of the diplomatic community and elected officials from both sides of the aisle,” Fergus’ spokesman, Mathieu Gravel, said Monday night in a statement.
While in Washington, Fergus continued to exhibit partisanship, recalling at one meeting how he was running for the leadership of the Young Liberals and had received encouragement from “Klaus” – apparently Klaus Schwab – who told him, “Greg, you’re going to win.”
The anecdote was welcomed by the audience with cheers and applause.
Scheer posted the video on his X site and noted: “The #1 job of the Speaker is to be non-partisan. Greg Fergus broke this rule. His highly partisan actions led to an unprecedented ruling today. Parliament is in session. Where’s he? In DC, caught on camera reliving his time as head of the Young Liberals. He must resign.”
Fergus was elected by his Parliamentary peers after former Speaker Anthony Rota resigned. Rota took the blame for inviting a former Waffen SS soldier to sit in the Parliamentary Gallery while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke to MPs and senators. Yaroslav Hunka received two standing ovations.
Prior to becoming Speaker, Fergus, a Quebec MP, was the parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. On February 14, 2023 Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion cited Fergus for violating ethics rules after he wrote a letter supporting a channel that was applying to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission for “mandatory carriage,” or being part of the basic cable package.
As Speaker, Fergus has had frequent arguments with the Conservative Party and its leader, Pierre Poilievre.
On Oct. 18, 2023, the Speaker refused to begin the daily House of Commons Question Period at the usual time of 2:15 pm and instead began reading a speech on Parliamentary decorum. As he told the House that there was too much heckling occurring, Conservative MPs asked the speaker when he intended to begin Question Period and how long his speech would last. Fergus refused to say.
In another instance, he lectured Poilievre for criticizing Trudeau’s chronic absence from Question Period, suggesting that the prime minister had a busy schedule and other priority duties to fulfill.
The Speaker’s job comes with some added perks: while Fergus continues to receive his annual salary $194,600 as an MP, as Speaker that income is supplemented by an additional $92,800 and a car allowance of $1,000 a year.
He also lives rent-free at an official residence called The Farm, located across the Quebec border in the town of Kingsmere.
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