Eugene McGuinley, like many speakers, came to office with high hopes of restoring order, professionalism and decorum to the often raccous debates in the legislature over which he presides.
I am a student of parliamentary procedure and am often greeted with surprise when I explain the power that the Speaker has. That is to say, he is essentially, all powerful.
When the House is in session, it is up to the speaker to enforce and interpret the rules. In New Brunswick, "The Speaker shall preserve order and decorum and shall decide questions of order (...) No debate may be permitted on any such decision, and no such decision shall be subject to an appeal to the House."
Among the power of a Speaker is to cancel a session of the House or to remove and/or punish a member if things get out of hand. That includes ANY Member from the premier to the leader of the opposition to a freshly elected backbencher. I've often thought that this should be something that is used more frequently so as to restore decorum.
In recent times, the only occassion I recall of a member being thrown out of the New Brunswick legislature is when Elizabeth Weir called Bernard Lord a liar and refused, after three requests, to withdraw the comment.
Today, when things got quite heated during question period, Speaker McGuinley interupted the proceedings to put the House on notice that he is going to start throwing people out if they are out of order. Good for him. I hope he follows through.
I am sure when MLAs start to realize the unfortunate prospect of having to explain to their constituents why they were thrown out of the House for being so unruly, particularly when going door-to-door during an election campaign, I think they may shape up.
The transcript for today's Question Period has come out and here is what the Speaker had to say:
Hon. Eugene McGuinley (Grand Lake-Gagetown), Speaker: I have called for order too many times, and it has been ignored here this afternoon. I am not going to tolerate that kind of conduct in the House. We want to be following parliamentary rules here. We want this to be run like a Parliament, not like a playroom. I am warning the member for Restigouche-la-Vallée that I will not accept that kind of mockery of the system. I have asked for order, and the member kept repeating his interruptions to the minister who was responding, to the extent that I could not hear and understand what was being said.
This is not a threat, this is a promise. If members on either side continue to ignore the rules of the House, that will not be tolerated. I will be asking members to leave the Chamber for the duration of the day when that happens. I have been very lenient. When the week starts this badly, thank heavens it may be a short week. What will it be like when the week ends? In fairness, I am letting you know that, from here on in, the rules are going to be a lot more strictly adhered to. I will not be afraid to impose sanctions on people who disregard the authority of the chair.