The Conservatives and Bloc Québécois are calling on House Speaker Greg Fergus to resign after he appeared in a video message played at the recent Ontario Liberal leadership convention.
Fergus apologized in the House on Monday for appearing in a video message he said was meant to be a tribute to a personal friend, outgoing interim provincial Liberal leader John Fraser.
“I would like to reassure members that the principles of respect, impartiality and decorum are values I continue to prioritize for my Speaker’s tenure,” he said.
In the video, Fergus appears from the Speaker’s chamber and in the traditional robes of his role, speaking between segments recorded by former provincial Liberal leaders Kathleen Wynne and Dalton McGuinty.
Conservative House Leader Andrew Scheer — a former Speaker — rose in the House after question period and called on Fergus to step down.
“What would happen if an NHL referee appeared in a locker room for one of the teams, wearing his referee’s outfit and giving a bit of a pep talk?” Scheer said. “How long do we think that NHL referee would continue in that post?”
Earlier in the day, Scheer told the House that Fergus’s video was a “breach of the impartiality of the [Speaker’s] chair.”
“He was standing there in the full non-partisan trappings of his non-partisan office, paying a partisan tribute to a partisan friend at a partisan event,” he said. “This conduct is simply unacceptable. It defies all long standing traditions and expectations attached to the high office of speaker.”
Scheer said he plans to present a motion in the House calling for the matter to be referred to the House procedures committee.
Fergus maintains that his message was not meant to be partisan or political in any way. He said Fraser has been a personal friend for more than 30 years and that he was told the video would be played during an “intimate party.”
“Like all of you, I have deep and abiding relationships with people from all political backgrounds. It should not be seen as partisan to recognize our colleague’s departure. It is an act of friendship and respect,” Fergus told MPs.
‘Miscommunication’ over when video would be played
Fergus, who represents a Quebec riding, said he isn’t a member of the Ontario Liberal Party and doesn’t live in that province. Still, he said he would not let such an incident happen again.
Bloc Québécois House Leader Alain Therrien told the House that his party is also calling on Fergus to step down.
NDP House Leader Peter Julian said MPs were “dismayed” by the video. He said his party would support a study of the issue by the House procedures committee but didn’t indicate the NDP is calling on Fergus to resign.
Fergus has said he would recuse himself from overseeing any House debate regarding the video. He did not oversee Monday’s question period. A spokesperson for his office said he would not be commenting further now that the issue is before the House.
At Queen’s Park on Monday, Fraser told reporters there was a miscommunication with Fergus’s office over when the video would be played.
“That’s on us,” Fraser said Monday.
“I just deeply appreciated what Greg did and what I would suggest to anybody who’s being critical of the Speaker — watch the video,” he added, defending the message Fergus gave as personal and non-partisan.
In reply to a request for comment from CBC News, a spokesperson for the Ontario Liberals said they had nothing to add to Fraser’s message.
Fergus was elected Speaker in early October after his predecessor, Liberal MP Anthony Rota, stepped down amid controversy.
During Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s visit to Ottawa in September, Rota had recognized in the House of Commons a man who had served in a voluntary unit created by the Nazis to help fight the Soviet Union during the Second World War.
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