The Race for Kingsmere: It all comes down to this …

Kady O’Malley liveblogs the election of the speaker

Peter Milliken

The Election of the Speaker – and of course ITQ will be liveblogging it. Wild horses with bees in their mouths couldn’t keep us away.

9:37:17 AM

Oh my goodness, y’all, Parliament is back! Okay, not *officially* — not until either later this morning, or tomorrow afternoon at 2pm, depending on when you start counting — and believe me, that question has been the source of no small amount of debate in the Hot Room. But when I rolled into Centre Block a few minutes ago, I was greeted by the peal of the bells, which brought on such a wave of nostalgia that I had to restrain myself from doing a little jig on the spot, which would have almost certainly gotten me flagged by security.

9:51:15 AM

I’m in the Chamber, by the way — which, at the moment, is offiically just a big room with drab drapery, since the Mace isn’t on the Table, and I don’t think the day has officially begun. That hasn’t stopped MPs from pouring in from the foyer – those that haven’t been trapped by reporters demanding to know who they plan to support, at least. From where I’m sitting, I can see Joe Comartin working the crowd – he’s shaking hands with someone I don’t recognize on the government side of the House – but he’s the only candidate in sight at the moment. Amongst the rest of the throng currently milling behind the curtains and in the centre aisle, there is much shaking of hands, patting of backs and what sound like entirely expressions of delight at seeing each other for the first time in months – at least, for some of them.

Oh, there’s Mauril Belanger, who just gave a Gallic but somehow humble shrug to an unseen person somewhere just outside of my viewing range. (I’m in the press gallery behind the Speaker’s Chair, to his right – so, closer to the government than the opposition.)

The room is really filling up now — and so are the galleries, but I should point out that there is a very important ritual that has to take place before the vote begins: the MPs have to flock down the hall, en masse, to the Senate to officially receive their marching orders from the Governor General, who will ask them to elect a Speaker before she can deliver the Speech from the Throne, whereupon they all walk back. It’s alternately known as the Running of the Bulls or the Herding of the Cats, depending on how exuberant and/or recalcitrant the Commonsers are on any given day.

10:01:37 AM

Oh, Gordon O’Connor. What an enigma your decision to run in the last election continues to be. Bob Rae is already in full Avuncular Uncle (But Don’t Push Him Because He’ll Destroy You In Debate) Mode. Scott Brison is being kissed – European-style, both cheeks – by a BQ MP, and Michael Ignatieff is looking shorter than I remember, which always happens when you’re away from them for a while, like preteen second cousins – except they get smaller, not bigger.

10:05:00 AM

Okay, the room is settling down, and the Clerk reads the Proclamation from the Governor General – actually, the GG’s secretary, but never mind that, and sits back down, at which point the Sgt-at-Arms – who seems to be worried that he’s forgotten how to do his ceremonial duty – opens the door for the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod – who really does look like a character out of Tenniel, I should note; a good pick for that very reason – who proceeds to invite the MPs “to attend the Governor General in the Chamber of the Senate” – like, nowish. Some burbling from the crowd, and the Table Officers get to put on their special goin’-to-Senate hats, and they’re off.

Man, I’ve missed this.

10:11:18 AM

And now, I shall tattle on the MPs who are just too *cool* to walk down the hall:

Ralph Goodale, David McGuinty, Andrew Scheer (okay, he has an excuse), a bunch of Bloc guys (who can claim to be doing it as a sign of unsolidarity with the crazy monarchists who surround them), Gerald Keddy, Mike Lake, Jim Abbott, Peter Van Loan, Vic Toews… Okay, and so many more that I’ve now noticed that I’m not going to list them all — must save finger strength! – but they know who they are, and should be very ashamed.

10:16:55 AM

Much snickering over the new seating plan, which has – among other delightful easter eggs for the gawkers above – Rae and Ignatieff sharing a seat at the far right corner of the Liberals’ turf. (Dominic LeBlanc, meanwhile, is three rows back from the front, behind Derek Lee and Jim Karygiannis.)

10:18:43 AM

And the MPs are back from their brief trip to the bar of the Senate – no, not that kind of bar; speaking of which, is it true there are more than a dozen bars within the Palace of Westminster? Including one reserved for the press? We couldn’t even keep our *beer machine* after the Reformers showed up in 1993. Anyway, that, of course, means *more* milling about on the way back to their seats.

10:22:45 AM

Joe Volpe and Maurizio Bevilacqua just discovered that they’re wearing identical ties.

Oh, look, there’s possible-future-speaker-in-my-worst-nightmares David Tilson! He looks – well, let’s assume cranky. I can only see him from the side.

10:24:51 AM

The Deputy Clerk is trying desperately to be heard over the buzz of parliamentary chatter, and keeps repeating, in increasingly pointed terms, “Persuant to standing order three.” There we go, finally they listen, and she invites the Dean of the House, Louis Plamandon – yes, a Blocquiste, stop and savour the irony – to take the Chair, which he does, to a standing ovation. He thanks them all for the glowing welcome, and congratulates all and sundry on having made their way back to Ottawa.

10:27:47 AM

The majority of this ceremony, he says, will take place in French – because it’s the language in which he’s most comfortable, and – he says with a ghost of a smile – if he were to attempt to do it in English, he’d need simulataneous translation.

10:29:02 AM

First order of business – asking if everyone still on the list really wants to be there. Speak now or forever hold your – oh, thank goodness, there goes Dean Del Mastro, a random Bloc, Alan Tonks (boo!), Joy Smith, James Lunney, David Tilson (insert huge sigh of relief here), Rob Anders, Rodney Weston and – I think that’s it.

10:32:54 AM

And now, speeches! Yes, there are speeches. You didn’t know? Well, surprise! Each candidate gets five minutes to make his case, starting with Mauril Belanger. Let’s listen!

Mauril starts out by congratulating everyone for winning their seat – yeah, yeah, you’re all champions, let’s move on, shall we? – and makes the predictable pitch for decorum. He’s not saying that they have to agree on everything – “this is a partisan house,” he admits – but it doesn’t have to be *that* acrimonious. If he was a teacher, he wouldn’t want to bring his high school students, blah blah etc oh, who knows, maybe it’d be good for the little blighters.

Ooh! Controversy! He just brought up ten percenters, which produced a rousing round of applause from the Liberal benches and a few NDPers, but sullen silence from the government. .

10:38:37 AM

Mauril gets a polite – not scattered, but not wild – sendoff, and now Joe Comartin is up, and he starts off on a fairly sedate note. So sedate that a few of us in the gallery managed to be totally distracted by the fact that the NDP are now on the other side of the House – beside the Bloc Quebecois, not on the end of the Conservative bench. Well, mostly – there is a tiny orange beachhead across the way, including Olivia Chow, Pat Martin.

10:42:03 AM

Joe Comartin doesn’t think anyone out there believes that decorum hasn’t degenerated in the Chamber, and he’s probably right. But it’s not like anyone out there is running on the “Hecklers and shriekers want to be free!” ticket.

10:45:01 AM

Okay, that’s it for Joe’s pitch, and I’m sorry, but that was a dull, dull speech, even by speaker election standards. Not that this means he wouldn’t make a fine Speaker, of course.

10:45:42 AM

Hey, as it turns out, Barry Devolin *can* speak French! Well, that’s a bit of a surprise – for some reason, I was under the impression that he wasn’t. Colour me rueful. Also, he’s lived in Europe. I’m learning so much about this strange soul in our midst.

10:47:43 AM

Okay, I’ve decided that being embarrassed by the idea of school children watching Question Period is the parliamentary equivalent of Godwin’s Law.

10:50:43 AM

Royal Galipeau, everybody! If this was happening later in the day, I’d add a “drink!” every time someone said “decorum”, but right now, I’m just longing for breakfast. As Galipeau deplores the lack of civilized debate, David Akin reminds us of the day that he was caught on video scampering across the floor to menace David McGuinty into behaving himself, which is exactly the kind of hands-on speaker some people want!

10:54:00 AM

Roger Galipeau seems to be under the impression that he was *elected* to the position of deputy speaker last time around, which — I don’t think is actually the case. Oh well, details, details.

10:56:25 AM

Peter Milliken is up now, and he stresses the need to have expertise in the procedural arena, not just the ability to talk about the decline and fall of civilized, constructive, decourous debate, although I may have sort of paraphrased that last part. He does note that, while nobody would deny that there has been a drop in decorum, that isn’t unusual in a minority parliament, and he sticks to his contention that it is not the job of the Speaker to intervene.

10:59:43 AM

Very generous applause for Peter Milliken – which doesn’t actually mean anything; it could be a bittersweet, “Sorry about this – nothing personal” parting clap.

11:00:24 AM

And now, Andrew Scheer is up – obligatory congratulations to the incoming MPs, new and old, and a very sweet thank you to Milliken for showing him the ropes, as far as the workings of the House. (Note to Radwanski: See, he isn’t a clone of Milliken – he didn’t subscribe to Hansard in highschool.) He then completely wins ITQ’s heart forever with a story about the Speaker who stood up to King James, and notes that this is the true role of the Speaker – the servant of the House, the protector of privilege, and the guardian of democracy. Again, I may have imagined that last part. Anyway, it’s a great speech, even if he does come very close to mentioning school children. Enough with the school children, y’all! A little political theatre never hurt anyone — it builds character.

11:05:21 AM

Okay, I’m biased, but I think he gave the best speech by far. Unless Merv Tweed blows him away, that is – and so far, that’s not happening. Decorum, working together, probably schoolchildren although I admit I kind of tuned out for a second there, respect for each other, and being accessible to all. “I’ll be everyone’s speaker, regardless of affiliation,” he promises. Or, more likely, nobody’s speaker.

11:09:22 AM

And that’s it for the speeches – the MPs now have an hour to vote, and then we’re back to find out if we’re going to a second ballot. I think we will – and I bet Scheer, Milliken and Comartin will be on it, based on the buzz up here in the gallery. I’ll report back before the hour is up with the word from the foyer.

11:40:58 AM

This is ITQ reporting live from the foyer, where Ralph Goodale has been scrumming for approximately eighteen years, and everyone else is trying to figure out whether this will go to a second ballot. I’m not sure who are the hostages – the MPs, who are wandering unprotected through a hungry media throng, or the reporters who the braver amongst them won’t hesitate to buttonhole and share their thoughts.

12:01:03 PM

I’m back in the gallery, where I fear I just commited a grievous parliamentary crime — I accidentally – albeit momentarily – kept my outside hat on when I came into the Chamber, which I’m pretty sure is subject to imprisonment and/or death by mace. Sorry, all. Now I have hathead, and a sense of shame.

Most of the MPs are still outside or in the lobbies, but there was a lovely tableau just a few moments ago: Mauril Belanger, Royal Galipeau and Andrew Scheer, standing rapt in conversation in the centre aisle. Perhaps Galipeau was sharing his unique interpretation of the rules of the House that he claims makes it illegal to *campaign* for the Speaker’s job, which is why he never sent out one of those letters of introduction.

12:07:56 PM

Hey, there’s the Prime Minister! I wonder how he’s voting. Any guesses?

12:13:54 PM

Okay, I think most of the kids are back, and as one of my colleagues just noted, there is a distinct aroma of pizza wafting up to the rafters. Wish I’d thought of that.

12:21:17 PM

And here we go again – a small army of clerks has just appeared out of the background to reverently place the wooden voting booths – which are darling, incidentally – on the Table. I’m not sure how we’re supposed to know who made the cut as far as the official ballot, but right now I’m too amused by the teasing of Rob Nicholson, who apparently tried to cut in line. “You’re the Justice Minister!” One of his colleagues reminds him.

12:25:04 PM

Alright, as I have just realized – and have been corrected by email – this is the *first* official ballot, the last one was just to pick off the names of the people who forgot to unnominate themselves. Wow, this really is going to be a long afternoon.

Also, Merv Tweed had a *hospitality suite* in the lobby during the break. With coffee.

12:28:09 PM

Okay, as longtime ITQ readers are already well aware, I *love* watching votes, and this one is unique – it’s the only one in Parliament that is done by secret ballot. There are lines on either side, snaking back behind the curtains, segregated by party.

12:31:10 PM

A public service note for CPAC viewers: Despite what you may see on your screen right now, Rob Anders is *not* in the running for Speaker — he took himself off the list this morning.

12:40:03 PM

Update to that update: Apparently, he *is* still on the ballot! He wasn’t here this morning, and just showed up within the last few minutes, half asleep but about to be shocked awake by the fact that he’s in the running for Speaker.

12:46:51 PM

The voting is officially over, which means the House breaks for an hour while the ballots are counted. “Back to Merv’s hospitality suite,” says one of my colleagues as he disappears down the hall. I wonder if he has datesquares. I think ITQ readers deserve to know the answer to that question.

12:58:58 PM

Okay, one datesquare later and I’m feeling significantly less frantic; food is, I should note, becoming an issue for those of us camped out in the gallery. Nobody knows if they’ll have time to race upstairs to the cafeteria, grab a sandwich, gobble it down and make it back in time to find out if we’re going another round.

1:09:38 PM

So it turns out that it *does* take a while to count 300 ballots! Longer than I think any of us expected.

1:12:01 PM

The bells have begun to ring, which is the official five minute warning, and a clerk just carried the now-empty ballot box back into the House, which we think makes it all but official that they’re going to a second ballot.

1:15:55 PM

Aw, Andrew Scheer looks so nervous. It’s kind of adorable. I really hope he makes it onto the next ballot at the very least. Milliken looks strange in a suit instead of his robes,

1:17:11 PM Second ballot: Belanger, Comartin, Devolin, Milliken, Scheer, Tweed. A

1:25:53 PM

Voting underway. Whee! We should have results by 2pm or so at the latest; I’ll go check out the foyer and report back on the latest developments. Stay tuned!

1:59:11 PM

Well, the buzz downstairs is that Milliken simply can’t win, although that’s as far as the unanimity (with a few possibly prescient exceptions) goes. Joe Comartin – who must have walked past me up and down the hall a dozen times while I was hanging out by the mic stand – has a vocal support base, mostly made up of his fellow New Democrats, but other than that, it’s difficult to figure out the frontrunner – and this ballot may not tell us much, since the two drop-offs – Anders, who didn’t even for for himself — or so ITQ overheard him say as he was walking back into the House – and Galipeau can’t have gotten more than 16 votes total, which means that unless there is a massive wave of votesplitting, these results likely won’t be much different than the first ballot.

2:06:37 PM

Joe Comartin, Barry Devolin, Andrew Scheer, Merv Tweed. So Mauril Belanger is off the ballot – leaving Milliken as the only Liberal on the ballot.

2:09:08 PM

So where are Belanger’s now released delegates – I know, I know, just go with it – most likely to go? Logically, you’d think that they’d be more likely to support Milliken, but there *is* this anti-incumbent sentiment that seems to be entirely independent of party affiliation. Even if they did move to Milliken en masse, that wouldn’t necessarily be enough to push him over the edge, and why am I suddenly picturing a surprised – but not undelighted – Stephane Dion taking the Chair?

2:27:54 PM

Okay, they’ve finished voting – which has inspired another round of the suddenly popular parlour question: “Seriously, how long does it take to count three hundred ballots?” The ballot booths go back under the Table, and the box is carried out back for the count. This is kind of metademocracy, isn’t it?

2:50:13 PM

Five minute warning! I know, it feels like just a few minutes ago that I said that the last time, but I have a good feeling about this vote

That’s a huge lie: I don’t think anyone believes it will be decided on this ballot.

And — it won’t.

Next ballot: Joe Comartin, Peter Milliken, Andrew Scheer, Merv Tweed. Sorry, Barry. Maybe next time.

3:01:01 PM

Merv Tweed just sent up another round of invites to his hospitality suite. You’d think one of the other candidates would have figured out a way to compete by now – that is, if they can withstand the glowering of Royal Galipeau, who thought that even announcing their candidacy was grossly unparliamentary.

3:18:52 PM

Back in the Chamber, where there are a surprising number of MPs sitting quietly in the Chamber, looking rather like Air Canada passengers who have just found out that their flight is late, but not *too* late. No rage, more like grudging acceptance.

3:23:18 PM

Apparently, Merv Tweed’s hospitality suite is packed — and some people are starting to say the words “Speaker Tweed” without snickering.

3:26:30 PM

Meanwhile, Andrew Scheer is deep in Liberal territory, and the PM — have I mentioned the PM? He has spent the entire day doing paperwork at his desk. Every now and then an MP dares to approach him for a convival chat, but other than that, it’s like he’s alone in his office.

3:33:48 PM

I have to say that it’s nice seeing all the kids back together again. Although at the moment, I wouldn’t mind seeing them leave.

3:34:15 PM

Here we go:

Milliken, Scheer, Tweed. Wow. Comartin off the balllot.

3:36:32 PM

So where does the NDP go now? To Milliken – or Scheer? And more importantly – what about the Bloc Quebecois? They were locked into Comartin – but now they’re free agents, as it were. I swear, this is way more exciting than the eventual Liberal leadership will be.

4:11:58 PM

MPs are, as my colleague so poetically puts it “trickling in” – there’s some dispute over whether this will soon be over. Lots of theorizing during the break – will the Bloc break for Milliken? Will the Dippers go for Merv? We should know fairly soon.

4:14:56 PM

The ballot box is back at the end of the Table, I should note. I’m not sure if that actually means that it will be put to use once again, but —

Hey! A Speaker has been elected! And it is — Peter Milliken. Wait, really? Really. Wow.

4:17:08 PM

The PM smiles for the first time today as he and Stephane Dion – who seems a little like a ghost, or like Bayliss during the second last season of Homicide – “drag” Milliken to the Chair. Which, after four – or was it five? – ballots is more than a little ridiculous.

“It’s a pleaure to be back,” he says, slipping right back into his familiar style.

4:20:11 PM

Some impassive faces on all sides of the House as Milliken describes his hope that MPs from all parties will work together to restrain their more spirited colleagues, and – oh, his whole family is here. That would have been awkward if he’d lost, wouldn’t it?

4:22:24 PM

With that, the Mace is lifted back onto the Table where it belongs, and suddenly, it feels like home again.

The PM gives a surprisingly jovial speech – he even makes a joke; a sarcastic one, so you know it’s probably off the cuff – and promises that all members – or at least, the government – will do its best to make his job easier.

4:26:24 PM

Stephane Dion assures him that “Canadians will have the House they deserve” – I’m sure he didn’t mean that as a threat – and then Gilles Duceppe speaks, and promises that his party will introduce “a number of procedures” to make the House more amenable, including something about the voting procedure, and I don’t like the sound of that at all.

Finally, Jack Layton, who offers congratulations to Milliken and “hearty congratulations” to everyone who put their names forward. He then shamelessly namedrops Bill Blaikie and Ed Broadbent – who were mentioned during the initial speeches, lo those many years ago when today began – and notes that they were “both New Democrats” – and seriously, none of the *other* leaders went into partisan mode; this isn’t about you – or your party – Jack.

4:32:46 PM

All the leaders having now spoken, Peter Milliken – or, as he will now be known on ITQ. The Speaker – informs the House that the GG will be here tomorrow at 1:30 for the Speech from the Throne, and adjourns the House, and – more importantly – the liveblogger.

4:39:04 PM
It’s official – the House is closed for the night; I was just hustled out of the gallery by a patient but relentless security guard, and am going to take that as a sign that it’s time to wrap up. Have a great night, all! See you tomorrow – same time, same place – for the Speech from the Throne, which won’t be nearly as dramatic, but still deserves to be liveblogged.