Liberal member of Parliament Greg Fergus has been elected the House of Commons Speaker in a historic mid-session vote, becoming the first Black person to hold the position in Canada’s Parliament.
Fergus, 54, was first elected to represent the Quebec riding of Hull-Aylmer in 2015.
MPs gave him a standing ovation as he was announced the winner of the vote, and members of the Liberal, NDP and Bloc Québécois caucuses shook his hand and hugged him, as did a small number of Conservative MPs.
“The Speaker, to use the old hockey analogy, is nothing more than a referee,” Fergus said in his first speech from the chair.
“And if there’s one thing I know, it’s that nobody pays good money to go see the referee. They go to see the stars: you.”
Fergus said he wants to ensure there is decorum during the passionate, hard debates that are necessary in Parliament.
“I’m going to be working hard at this, and I need all of your help to make this happen,” he said, adding that he will be meeting with deputy Speakers Tuesday to discuss how to improve decorum.
As is tradition, the new Speaker was “dragged” to the chair in the House of Commons by the prime minister and Opposition leader after votes were counted Tuesday afternoon.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre gave speeches congratulating Fergus and thanking him for stepping up.
The election was triggered by the resignation of Anthony Rota, who stepped down last week amid international controversy over his actions during a recent visit by Ukraine’s president.
Rota invited a veteran who served in a Nazi unit in the Second World War to the House of Commons chamber, and asked parliamentarians and dignitaries to applaud the man as a hero.
Seven people had put their names forward to take his place.
Tuesday’s election was considered rare because it happened mid-sitting, rather than right after an election.
Liberal MPs gathered early in the morning for a caucus meeting with Trudeau to discuss the vote.
The Canadian Press