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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.

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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.