Role of the Speaker
The Speaker of the Senate is a senator who has many responsibilities inside and outside of the chamber:
- Maintain order and decorum: The Speaker ensures that the rules and traditions of the Senate Chamber are respected. Senators address each other directly during debates and the Speaker manages the speaking order and the length of time each senator speaks during debates.
- Make rulings: The Speaker makes decisions on points of order (questions about chamber rules) and questions of privilege (the rights, powers and immunities of Parliament and parliamentarians). Senators can appeal these rulings if they disagree.
- Act as a diplomat: The Speaker of the Senate plays a diplomatic role at Parliament. The Speaker often greets foreign leaders, diplomats and other parliamentary officials, and represents the Senate at events and in foreign legislatures.
- Debate and vote: As a representative of a province or territory, the Speaker can participate in debate, but usually refrains from doing so. Speakers leave the Speaker’s Chair when participating in a debate and speak from their assigned seat in the chamber. Senate Speakers may also vote – however, unlike in the House of Commons, the Speaker cannot cast a tie-breaking vote. Speakers who want to vote must cast their vote before any other senator.
Appointment of the Speaker
The Speaker of the Senate is appointed by the Governor General on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. The Speaker serves until a new Speaker is appointed.
Photo credit: Jean-Marc Carisse
The Current Speaker
The Honourable George J. Furey, Q.C. was appointed as the 45th Speaker of the Senate on December 3, 2015.
History of the Role
The role of the Speaker of the Senate is referred to in the original British North America Act of 1867 (now the Constitution Act, 1982). Like many other traditional elements in Canada’s Parliament, the Speaker’s role was modelled, in certain aspects, on the British Parliament. The British equivalent of the Speaker of the Senate was the position of Lord Chancellor, the person who presides over the House of Lords.
The Speaker represents many traditions in the Senate. The Speaker is the only senator who still wears the traditional British court uniform of black robes, a white tab collar and a tricorn hat. Senators still nod or bow to the Speaker’s Chair when they enter or leave the room as a sign of respect.