Speaker and Other Presiding Officers
The Speaker is the Member elected by the Members of the House of Commons to preside over proceedings in the Chamber. He or she is responsible for maintaining order and decorum in the Chamber. The Speaker also oversees the administration of the House and is the spokesperson and representative of the House of Commons.
The Speaker represents the Commons in all its powers, proceedings and dignity and is the guardian of the rights and privileges of the House. The Speaker represents the House in its relations with the Senate, the Crown and other bodies outside the House of Commons. Messages, correspondence and documents addressed to the House of Commons are communicated to it through the Speaker.
The Speaker’s authority and responsibilities as Presiding Officer in the House of Commons flow in large part from the Constitution Act, 1867 and from the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, the written rules of the House. The Speaker may exercise only those powers conferred by the House, within the limits established by the House itself.
The Speaker is responsible for regulating debate and preserving order in accordance with the rules of the House and for deciding any matters of procedure that may arise.
The Speaker must at all times show, and be seen to show, the impartiality required to maintain the trust and goodwill of the House; he or she does not vote except in the case of a tie. The actions of the Speaker may not be criticized in debate or by any means except by way of a motion put before the House. As well, the Standing Orders prohibit any debate on decisions of the Speaker and prohibit any appeal of a Speaker’s decision to the House.
The Speaker is the head of the House of Commons administration and is responsible for its overall direction and management. The Parliament of Canada Act provides that all matters of administrative and financial policy affecting the House be overseen by the Board of Internal Economy, which is composed of Members from all recognized parties in the House (i.e., those with 12 or more Members) and chaired by the Speaker.
Election of the Speaker of the House
The Constitution Act, 1867 requires the election of the Speaker at the beginning of a Parliament and again any time a vacancy occurs. At the beginning of a new Parliament, the Speech from the Throne is read only after the Speaker has been elected. No other business can come before the House until the election has taken place and the Speaker has taken the Chair.
The process for the election of the Speaker, which takes place by secret ballot, is laid out in the Standing Orders. The rules for the Speaker’s election provide for an optional preferential ballot among all eligible candidates for Speaker.
The House also elects a Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole at the commencement of every Parliament or from time to time as required. The Deputy Speaker serves in that capacity until the end of a Parliament.
The Deputy Speaker is not elected by secret ballot. Instead, the Speaker, after consultation with the leaders of each of the officially recognized parties, announces the name of a Member he or she considers to be qualified for the position. The motion is deemed to have been moved and seconded and the question is put without debate or amendment.
The Deputy Speaker replaces the Speaker when the latter is unavoidably absent. The Deputy Speaker also takes the Chair when the House sits as a Committee of the Whole and, on occasion, chairs legislative committees.
The Member chosen as Deputy Speaker usually has full and practical knowledge of the official language that is not that of the current Speaker of the House.
Assistant Deputy Speaker and Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole and Assistant Deputy Speaker and Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole
At the beginning of every session, and from time to time as necessary, the House elects, by motion, an Assistant Deputy Speaker and Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole and an Assistant Deputy Speaker and Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole, either of whom may replace the Deputy Speaker in the Chair during his or her absence.
These two presiding officers also serve as members of the Panel of Chairs for legislative committees.
More information-Speaker and Other Presiding Officers
- House of Commons Procedure and Practice , Second Edition, 2009
- Standing Orders of the House of Commons
- Speaker of the House of Commons, House of Commons website