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A Statement on Decorum From the Speaker of the House

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As the House prepares to adjourn for the Christmas holidays, the Chair would like to make a short statement about order and decorum.

In recent months, for a variety of reasons, the atmosphere in the Chamber has been difficult. This is perhaps not surprising, since the House is made up of Members who are committed and whose strongly-held views are freely expressed on a daily basis. The House is also an inherently adversarial forum that tends to foster conflict. As a result, sometimes emotions get the better of us and we quickly find ourselves in situations marked by disorderly conflict. Tone and gestures can cause as much of a reaction as the words used in debate. Lately, it appears that all sides have, at different times, strayed quite far from the flexibility, accommodation and balance that ideally ought to exist in this place.

My task as Speaker is to ensure that the intensity of feeling expressed around some issues is contained within the bounds of civility without infringing on the freedom of speech that Members enjoy. The Chair tries to ensure that our rules are adhered to in a way that encourages mutual respect.

But all Members will recognize that ultimately, the Speaker must depend on their collective self-discipline to maintain order and to foster decorum: my authority to enforce the rules depends on the cooperation of the House.

Our electors expect all Members to make greater efforts to curb disorder and unruly behaviour. So I urge all Members to reflect on how best to return the House to the convivial, cooperative atmosphere I know all of us would prefer.

This would be a great help to me and my fellow Chair Occupants, about whom I would also like to say a few words.

I would like to take a moment to salute, on behalf of us all, the excellent work of our Deputy Speaker the Member for Windsor-Tecumseh (Mr. Comartin), and our Assistant Deputy Speakers, the Members for Haliburton - Kawartha Lakes - Brock (Mr. Devolin) and Simcoe North (Mr. Stanton).

Often under trying circumstances, my colleagues in the Chair have soldiered on, doing their best to uphold the finest traditions of this Chamber. As all honourable Members are aware, unusual events arise frequently in the House. Thus the task of reading the will of the House is often left to Chair occupants -- whether an unexpected sequence of events occurs or an expected sequence of events does not.

Since the House resumed its sittings in mid-September, we have witnessed our fair share of instances where the House has been faced with unforeseen situations but has nevertheless found its way with the help of Chair Occupants. I want to say that the three gentlemen who share duties in the Chair have in my view upheld the highest standards of professionalism and impartiality while trying to facilitate the orderly conduct of House business.

Only those who have had the privilege of serving in the Chair and presiding over the deliberations in this Chamber can truly understand to what degree the role involves as much art as science. I am very proud of the way in which these Chair Occupants conduct themselves and I want, on your behalf, to thank them for their dedication to the institution and for their ongoing good work.

I thank the House for its attention.

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