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MPs agree to ask committee to review controversy over video by Speaker Greg Fergus

The House of Commons is debating whether to have a committee determine if Speaker Greg Fergus should be punished for a video message he filmed that was played at a political party convention.. Speaker of the House of Commons Greg Fergus chairs his first question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA — The House of Commons voted late Wednesday to have a committee determine whether Speaker Greg Fergus should be punished for a video message he recorded that was played at a political party convention.

MPs voted unanimously in favour of a motion from Conservative House leader Andrew Scheer to have a parliamentary committee explore whether the Speaker violated Commons conventions that require him to be non-partisan.

Earlier, the House also agreed to require that the committee meet within 24 hours, ensure the issue takes priority over all other business, and report back by Dec. 14 — the day before the House is scheduled to rise for the holidays.

Assistant deputy Speaker Alexandra Mendès presided over Wednesday night's debate in the House.

It's the second controversy to involve a Commons speaker since September, when Anthony Rota was forced to resign after he invited to Parliament a Second World War veteran who fought in a Nazi unit.

Fergus apologized for the video, in which he appeared in his ceremonial robes and thanked the former interim leader of the Ontario Liberals, after it was played at the provincial party's convention last weekend.

The Speaker has said he was asked to record a video message for an intimate gathering to honour John Fraser, whom he called a longtime friend.

The Quebec MP told members of Parliament that he regrets the video was used the way it was, and said acknowledging the career accomplishments of a colleague should not be considered an expression of partisanship.

On Wednesday, Conservative MP James Bezan wrote to the Board of Internal Economy asking it to consider Fergus's "inappropriate use of House of Commons resources" by recording the video in his office and wearing the Speaker's robes.

Fergus spent part of the week in Washington, D.C., where he participated in the Canadian Embassy's annual tree lighting ceremony.

He also gave a farewell address for Claus Gramckow, who is leaving his post as head of the North America regional office at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation.

During a speech, Fergus spoke about his time as a member of the Young Liberals of Canada, where he met Gramckow in 1994.

NDP House leader Peter Julian called those comments inappropriate.

"When we elect a Speaker, that Speaker in a sense leaves their past behind," Julian said Wednesday. "You're a Speaker of the entire House of Commons. So you don't come from any one party."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2023.

Anja Karadeglija, Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press

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