POLITICS
07/11/2018 13:09 EDT | Updated 07/11/2018 13:57 EDT

Why Ted Arnott, The Ontario Legislature's New Speaker, Was 'Dragged' To His Seat

It's a tradition dating back to the early days of British parliament.

Ted Arnott is carried by fellow MPPs after his election as the new Speaker of the Ontario Legislative Assembly at Queen's Park in Toronto on July 11, 2018.
Christopher Katsarov/CP
Ted Arnott is carried by fellow MPPs after his election as the new Speaker of the Ontario Legislative Assembly at Queen's Park in Toronto on July 11, 2018.

It's a position that comes with a $36,000 pay bump and an apartment at Queen's Park, but you'd never know it by the way Ted Arnott resisted after he was elected the new Speaker of Ontario's Legislative Assembly.

Arnott, the Progressive Conservative MPP for Wellington-Halton Hills who was first elected in 1990, was chosen by his colleagues Wednesday on the first ballot.

A former assistant Speaker in the last Parliament, Arnott bested fellow Tories Rick Nicholls, Randy Hillier, and Jane McKenna.

And even though he wanted the job, Arnott had to be ceremoniously dragged to his new seat, just like other Speakers who have come before him across the country. Still, he had a big smile across his face.

The fun bit of theatre is a nod to the very real danger the role used to represent when it became part of the British parliamentary system in 1377.

Back then, the Speaker was appointed by the monarch and tasked with telling the king or queen what was going on in Parliament. If the Speaker brought back unpleasant news, such as a refusal to raise taxes on behalf of the king or queen, they could be put to death.

According to UK Parliament, seven Speakers were executed by beheading between 1394 and 1535.

And that's why those chosen for the job, which basically amounts to serving as a referee in the legislature, typically pretend to be resisting the call to serve.

In 2015, veteran Liberal MP Geoff Regan turned things up a notch by appearing to be terrified to assume the role of Speaker of the House of Commons. That position comes with, among other things, a pay raise of $84,000 on top of the base MP salary of $175,600 and an official residence in the Gatineau Hills.

Sean Kilpatrick/CP
Newly-elected Speaker of the House Geoff Regan jokingly resists as he's escorted to the Speaker's chair by former interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the House of Commons on Dec. 3, 2015.

Andrew Scheer, now the leader of the federal Conservatives, was bit more reserved after he was elected House Speaker in 2011.

Chris Wattie / Reuters
Former prime Minister Stephen Harper and former NDP leader Jack Layton lead Andrew Scheer to the Speaker's chair on June 2, 2011.

Arnott received a standing ovation Wednesday as accepted his new position. He joked it was likely the last one he'd receive as "servant of the House."

As Speaker, he'll now earn $152,914 per year, while the average MPP takes home $116,550. He'll also get to use an apartment on the third floor of the legislature.

Arnott told reporters later that he hoped to maintain a standard of decorum and enhance the reputation of all who serve at Queen's Park.

"I think the public expects that and I think the public deserves it," he said.

The election of the Speaker begins a rare summer sitting at the Ontario legislature that is expected to last at least two weeks.

With files from The Canadian Press

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