LP_468x60
ontario news watch
on-the-record-468x60-white
and-another-thing-468x60

This content is restricted to subscribers

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.


This content is restricted to subscribers

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.


This content is restricted to subscribers

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.


This content is restricted to subscribers

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.


This content is restricted to subscribers

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.


This content is restricted to subscribers

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.


Canada’s Speaker of the House, Greg Fergus, has been a huge embarrassment since he was first elected to this role last October. His most recent brouhaha serves as a clear indication that he should be removed as House Speaker immediately – and should have never been House Speaker to begin with.

On Tuesday, Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre was criticizing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government’s controversial drug policy in Parliament. He noted that 22 British Columbians had died of drug overdoses since the NDP had asked the Liberals to “reverse course on his – and formerly their – radical policy.”

Poilievre would go on to ask the following question, “When will we put an end to this whacko policy by this whacko Prime Minister?”

Fergus, who had already tossed out Conservative MP Rachel Thomas that day after she refused to apologize for describing his handling of question period as “disgraceful,” wasn’t going to give Poilievre a pass on his comment. He called the situation “unacceptable” and asked the Conservative leader to “withdraw that term, which is not considered parliamentary.”

Poilievre responded to Fergus in the following fashion. “Mister Speaker, I replace whacko with extremist.” Fergus refused to accept this replacement, and asked him again to withdraw the comment. Poilievre said, “I’ll replace it with radical. That’s his policy.” Fergus refused again, and asked him to withdraw rather than replace the term. Poilievre responded one more time, “Mister Speaker, I replaced the word whacko with extremist.”

Fergus then asked him “one last time, to please withdraw that comment and simply withdraw that comment.” Poilievre responded as follows, “I simply withdraw and replace with the aforementioned adjective.” The House Speaker ejected Poilievre from the House of Commons, who was followed out the door by the entire Conservative caucus.

This tete-a-tete was obviously unfortunate. Nevertheless, most political observers, if they were being honest with themselves, would have accepted this as a heat-of-the-moment exchange. Much in the same way Trudeau had been previously warned by Fergus for stating that Poilievre was “showing us exactly what shameful, spineless leadership looks like” and accused him of shaking hands with “white nationalists.” And Fergus’s previous warning to Poilievre for stating that Trudeau was “the guy who spent the first half of his adult life as a practising racist.”

These exchanges were worse than the Fergus-Poilievre exchange. Unless your definition of what type of language and terminology is parliamentary is, well, extremist and radical in nature.

No matter what you think of Poilievre’s original description of Trudeau, he clearly offered to replace the offending word with two different ones. The words “extremist” and  “radical” have been used in a certain context during previous House of Commons debates and proceedings. Hence, Poilievre’s concession would have been acceptable to most of our past House Speakers.

Other than a Liberal partisan like Fergus, that is.

Then again, should we really be surprised by this? Fergus has made numerous mistakes  and foolish decisions as a Liberal MP and House Speaker. He doesn’t seem to have learned any lessons from these controversies, either.

During a Jan. 25, 2021 appearance on CTV’s Power Play, Fergus, who was a backbench Liberal MP at the time, said more COVID-19 vaccine approvals were needed to meet a Sept. 2021 target. He confidently mentioned two vaccines on air, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. Neither of them had been approved in Canada at that point. CTV spoke with then-Liberal Procurement Minister Anita Anand, who confirmed Ottawa’s position hadn’t been adjusted. Fergus was forced to apologize.

Fergus was then found guilty of an ethics violation in Feb. 2023. He broke the Conflict of Interest Act as Trudeau’s parliamentary secretary by writing a letter of support to the CRTC for a television channel that had applied for mandatory carriage. Parliamentary rules restrict ministers and parliamentary secretaries from writing letters of support. Only MPs can do this. Fergus apologized again.

Fergus screwed up once more in Dec. 2023 when he appeared in a video tribute for outgoing interim Ontario Liberal leader John Fraser. He was dressed in his traditional Speaker’s robe, which is against the spirit and rules of impartiality his parliamentary role is supposed to represent. As Andrew Scheer, a former Conservative leader and House Speaker, said, “This conduct is simply unacceptable. It defies all long-standing traditions and expectations attached to the high office of Speaker.” Fergus apologized yet again.

Apologies seem to be the only thing that Fergus has been able to figure out (sort of) during his largely unimpressive career as a federal politician.

It’s highly unlikely Fergus will apologize for his recent exchange with Poilievre. He should apologize to his fellow parliamentarians for assuming the role of House Speaker, however. He’s barely equipped to handle the duties of being a backbench MP and parliamentary secretary, let alone being the presiding officer of Canada’s House of Commons.

It would be best for everyone if Fergus stepped down as House Speaker. At the very least, he should be removed from this role. Alas, the chances of any of this happening before his next apology are pretty slim.

Michael Taube, a long-time newspaper columnist and political commentator, was a speechwriter for former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.


This content is restricted to subscribers

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.


This content is restricted to subscribers

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.


The “Brampton Bill” Davis who may have been the last real Progressive Conservative Premier of Ontario, 1971–1985, urged that Toronto, Canada should be compared to San Francisco in the United States, not New York City (or Chicago).

David Miller, Mayor of Toronto 2003–2010, was born in San Francisco. (Though he was living in Canada by his 10th birthday.)

More recently both former politicians might have entertained second thoughts about the striking geography of the San Francisco Bay Area in Northern California.

Last year a Toronto conservative journalist worried that a Mayor Olivia Chow would turn Ontario’s capital city “into a Canadian version of San Francisco, Chicago or Portland, left-wing cities burdened by drugs, crime, finances and camps of the homeless.”

Most recently perceptions have begun to change. And the shift has been noticed in two magazines based in the United Kingdom.

The 8 February 2024 issue of the London Review of Books included some 6,000 words on “In the Shadow of Silicon Valley” by the American writer Rebecca Solnit, who has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1980.

Ms Solnit is not altogether happy about what the City of San Francisco has become. But she quietly urges that it is still “a laboratory for new ideas,” even if no longer “the left edge of America” it used to be.

On February 12, 2024 The Economist published a shorter piece headlined “How San Francisco staged a surprising comeback … Forget the controversy. America’s tech capital is building the future.”

This spells out and celebrates what Rebecca Solnit calls the annexation of San Francisco by the new high-tech Silicon Valley — which started out somewhat further south, around San Jose.

The underlying message of both publications can be confirmed by a week spent in the San Francisco Bay Area in early February 2024.

There are, as Rebecca Solnit underlines, a few exceptions. But the overwhelming impression down on the ground is almost endless signs of vast material wealth and economic success. There is a lot of money in America’s tech capital today.

Doubts will linger in some minds — and not just about the Bay Area of Northern California. On February 13, 2024 the Los Angeles Times published a story headlined “LAT survey: Half of Republicans believe California ‘not really American’”

The survey for the LA Times was done “by the Canadian firm Leger.” And there are many such connections between Canada and California.

They are reflected in the warm meeting of PM Justin Trudeau and California Governor Gavin Newsom in San Francisco this past November, and in “the Climate action and nature protection: Memorandum of co-operation between Canada and California, signed in 2022.”

At the same time, the depth of the economic dynamism fuelled by the new tech capital peers out from the stark statistic that while Canada currently has somewhat more people, “California’s GDP was 1.7 times higher than Canada’s in 2022.”

Both San Francisco and Toronto have financial sectors traditionally based on mining and  resource industries. San Francisco has now blossomed further as the financial centre for a US tech sector that is (as The Economist explains) “building the future” around much of the globe.

Whatever else, there are economic benefits for such places as Calgary, Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Alberta, BC, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, and all other provinces and territories, in the larger Canada’s current alignment with Gavin Newsom’s high-tech (and green) California, that is doing so much to build the global future.

There are competitive advantages in underlining that Canada is a working part of this particular prosperous new future, right from the start.

Yet (not unlike Republicans in the USA?), the Trudeau-Newsom Canada-California special relationship is not something that a Pierre Poilievre Conservative government in Ottawa seems at all likely to hang onto.

Premier Ford in Ontario, for example, has already abandoned the Green agreements signed earlier by California, Ontario, and Quebec. (Though the Ford Nation has apparently now discovered muscular electric cars, rampant throughout the Bay Area.)

Right now there is one deep political certainty about the Golden State. Despite some Republican strength further east of the seriously beautiful Pacific coast, the people of California will not in their great majority be voting for Donald Trump in the fateful US presidential election on November 5, 2024.

And, as if to anticipate some ongoing Canada-California special relationship, a noted Canadian historian suggested long ago that Canadians too usually “vote Democratic in American elections.”

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.