Bruce Stanton doesn’t mind jumping into the fire.
In fact, the Simcoe North MP relishes the idea of becoming Canada’s next Speaker of the House of Commons when Parliament resumes in earnest this week.
“I think I have something to contribute to the order and workings of the House,” said Stanton, who served as Deputy Speaker in the last Parliament.
“I can share a little bit more across party lines and find some way for members across party lines to work together.”
Stanton’s calm approach and consensus-building demeanour are easily evident to anyone who’s followed the MP’s handling of delicate situations over the years, including his unwavering composure during all-candidates’ debates.
And while he served as Deputy Speaker during the previous Parliament, Stanton strongly believes he has what it takes to guide the divided entity created by October’s federal election that saw the Liberals win a minority government.
“There will always be disagreement, but there’s a way to be a consensus builder,” he said, pointing out that, for the most part, his colleagues of all party colours know that he’s not an overt partisan and will listen to other parties’ ideas if he feels they will improve the country.
“Sometimes you have to be very definitive," Stanton added. "There are certain rules and conventions that are unassailable.”
Like other countries such as Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, Canada’s Parliament generally follows the British Westminster system for its parliamentary rules and conventions.
“While we do have some commonalities (with the United Kingdom), the House has the ability to change some of the rules,” Stanton said, adding a rule or convention that works in Britain might not be as tangible on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.
Choosing the speaker is a lot like an election, albeit with low-key campaigning. And a lot like a negative billing option, MPs must ask to be removed from being considered for Speaker since only ministers are removed from the voter’s list.
Besides Stanton, five other MPs are vying to sit in the Speaker’s chair.
“You have a fixed pool of voters,” he said, noting candidates will be trying to best outline how they would handle the undoubted challenges that a minority government will bring while also ensuring decorum and respect remain intact.
“The climate of the House of Commons has the potential to be fractious,” he said. “The Speaker tries to keep that elevated aspect down to ensure it’s orderly and functioning.”
Since arriving back in Ottawa last week, Stanton has reached out to his fellow MPs through phone calls and emails outlining what he can bring to the position. He also plans to host a meet-and-greet that he hopes will attract some of the 98 new MPs Wednesday ahead of Thursday’s vote.
“It’s harder for new MPs to assess the Speakers’ candidates,” he said.
Prior to the vote that’s overseen by the Bloc Québécois Louis Plamondon (Parliament’s longest-serving MP), each candidate will have five minutes to address the House with members voting via secret ballot soon after.
And since it’s a preferential ballot, voters list their choices from first to last, making the task of tallying the ballots a little longer than during a regular election.
“The result is, essentially, you need 50 per cent of the ballots plus one,” Stanton said.
Whoever gets the Speaker’s job consults with party leaders, who can propose members for deputy speaker or the two assistant deputy speaker positions.