The Weekly Writ for Sept. 27: Does being Speaker help or hurt re-election?
Plus, turmoil at Queen's Park, a new party emerges and what to make of the latest Manitoba and federal polls.
Welcome to the Weekly Writ, a round-up of the latest federal and provincial polls, election news and political history that lands in your inbox every Wednesday morning.
Yesterday, Anthony Rota announced he would be resigning as Speaker of the House of Commons as of the end of day today. On Monday, Rota apologized for inviting a Ukrainian-Canadian veteran who fought alongside Nazi Germany during the Second World War to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s speech to the House and recognizing him during his own remarks. He did not resign, however, until it became clear that he no longer had the support of the House (nor his own party’s caucus) and that he had no other option but to resign.
Rota seems like a very pleasant man who loved being speaker, so it is unfortunate that his tenure ends like this. But, even if this was an honest, careless mistake, it hurt many Canadians, embarrassed the country and gave Russia more ammunition in their propaganda war against Ukraine. Some mistakes can be forgiven. Others are firing offences, and that’s what this was.
It’s been a very strange start to this parliamentary sitting, starting with Justin Trudeau’s announcement in the House that his government had credible evidence that India was behind the killing of a Canadian citizen in Canada. Then there was Zelenskyy’s visit, an important moment that was tarnished by this sorry event. One can’t help but hope politics gets dull and uneventful again very soon.
In that vein, let’s look to the mundane steps that will come next for the House of Commons. By agreement between the House leaders, Bloc MP Louis Plamondon (the dean of the House) will serve as interim speaker until next week, when a vote will be held to choose Rota’s permanent replacement. MPs from every party can stand for election and all MPs vote using a preferential ballot. The winner is the candidate who can garner support from a majority of MPs.
A number of candidates usually step forward for this prestigious post. Normally, this job is relatively controversy-free, puts you above the partisan fray and comes with a lot of perks, including an official residence and a bump in salary.
But with a new MP about to be chosen as the speaker, a question came to my election-focused mind. Does being the speaker help or hurt an MP’s re-election chances?
I was curious about this, so I looked at how the past six speakers have fared in their first election after taking over the big chair. The results are rather mixed.
On average, when running for re-election for the first time after becoming speaker, the past six occupants of the job lost about one percentage point of support from the previous election more than candidates running for the same party did in neighbouring ridings. It’s such a small difference that it seems reasonable to conclude that being the Speaker of the House of Commons, in and of itself, makes little difference to voters. The speaker’s change in support will largely match that of the party as a whole.
Of the last six, Anthony Rota, Peter Milliken and Gilbert Parent all did a little better than their neighbouring partisan counterparts in their first election as the incumbent speaker. Geoff Regan, Andrew Scheer and John Allen Fraser did worse.
So, the lesson here is that if you’re an MP considering a run at the speaker’s chair, winning it probably won’t impact your re-election chances in your own riding. That is, of course, assuming you don’t make a colossal error and cause an international incident while occupying the seat.
Now, to what is in this week’s instalment of the Weekly Writ:
News on the latest problems for Ontario’s PCs and a new federal party being launched.
Polls put the Manitoba NDP in majority territory, while a strange-looking federal poll gets people talking (the non-strange one didn’t). Also, we get another look at B.C.
Majority/minority toss-up federally if the election were held today, but a majority favoured for the NDP in Manitoba and (especially) in British Columbia.
A stretch goal for the Manitoba NDP in this week’s riding profile.
The first one-term government in New Brunswick in the #EveryElectionProject.
A Mulroney milestone for Pierre Poilievre.