Role of the Speaker
- Maintain order and decorum: The Speaker ensures that the rules and traditions of the chamber are respected. The Speaker presides over debate in the chamber by recognizing MPs who wish to speak and ensuring that speeches stay within the rules and practices of the House.
- Make rulings: The Speaker makes decisions (rulings) about questions arising from business conducted in the chamber. These decisions are final and cannot be challenged. Decisions are made by the Speaker on points of order (questions raised by MPs about adherence to chamber rules) and questions of privilege (the rights, powers and immunities of Parliament and parliamentarians).
- Neutrality: The Speaker must be fair and impartial, enforcing the same rules for the Prime Minister as for any member of the opposition. Although the Speaker is also an MP, the Speaker does not participate in debate or vote unless there is a tie, in which case the Speaker generally votes to maintain the status quo.
- Host visitors: The Speaker hosts visitors such as country leaders, foreign dignitaries and Speakers from other legislatures. At Parliament, the Speaker receives these guests in the Speaker’s official quarters.
- Act as spokesperson: The Speaker often represents the House of Commons at international events and conferences.
- Manage internal affairs: The Speaker oversees the management of the internal operations and security of the House of Commons and its services. The Speaker is the Chair of the Board of Internal Economy of the House of Commons, similar to a board of directors, which includes members of all political parties and directs the budget for the House of Commons and its employees.
Election of the Speaker
The Speaker of the House of Commons is elected by all other MPs in the House of Commons after each general election or when a vacancy arises. Any MP, except ministers and party leaders, may stand for election as Speaker. The election is overseen by the Dean of the House, the MP with the longest unbroken record of service who is not a minister nor the holder of any office within the House. The Speaker is elected by a written secret ballot.
Once elected, the Speaker is brought to the Speaker’s Chair at the front of the chamber. The Speaker’s Chair is an important symbol of the Speaker’s role and responsibilities as the chair of the chamber meetings.
Photo credit: Ed Regan
The Current Speaker
The Honourable Anthony Rota was elected as the 37th Speaker of the House of Commons on December 5, 2019, and re-elected to the position on November 22, 2021.
History of the Role
The role of Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons has its origins in British parliamentary history, but has evolved as a distinctly Canadian institution. Back as early as the 12th century in England, the House chose a Speaker to act as a spokesperson between the newly established House of Commons and the Monarch (the King or Queen).
Speakers were a part of early Canadian colonial legislatures. During this period, the Speakers of British North American legislative assemblies strengthened the independence, impartiality and non-partisan nature of their positions.