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House Speaker Fergus apologizes over video message for Ontario Liberals

Click to play video: 'Conservatives support Bloc’s call for House Speaker to resign over Ontario Liberal convention video message'
Conservatives support Bloc’s call for House Speaker to resign over Ontario Liberal convention video message
WATCH: Conservatives support Bloc's call for House Speaker to resign over Ontario Liberal convention video message – Dec 4, 2023

House of Commons Speaker Greg Fergus apologized Monday after a video message he had recorded to thank the departing interim leader of the Ontario Liberals was played at the provincial party’s leadership convention on the weekend.

Fergus delivered the apology in the House of Commons on Monday the day after Conservative House leader Andrew Scheer had given notice on Sunday that he planned to raise a question of privilege, given the Speaker is supposed to be an explicitly non-partisan role.

The Speaker said he had been asked to record the message for an intimate gathering to honour Ontario Liberal MPP John Fraser, whom he called a long-standing friend. Fraser had served as interim leader of the provincial Liberal party since August 2022, with that role coming to an end with the election of Bonnie Crombie as party leader on Saturday.

Mathieu Gravel, a spokesman in the Speaker’s office, clarified that a member of Fraser’s family had been the one to ask Fergus to record a video message. At Queen’s Park on Monday, Fraser told reporters there was a miscommunication to Fergus’s office over when it would be played.

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“That’s on us,” Fraser said Monday.

“I just deeply appreciated what Greg did and what I would suggest to anybody who’s being critical of the Speaker — watch the video,” he added, defending the message Fergus gave as personal and non-partisan.

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Fergus, who represents the western Quebec riding of Hull-Aylmer across the river from Ottawa, told members of Parliament that he regrets the video was used in the way it was. He added that he is not a member of the Ontario Liberal Party and has not voted in the province for 30 years.

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Carter Brownlee, a spokesperson for the Ontario Liberals, said Monday the party had nothing to add about the video.

Fergus also defended his decision to film the message in the first place, saying that like other MPs, he is friends with people from across the political spectrum.

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“I have deep and abiding relationships with people from all political backgrounds,” he said Monday. “It should not be seen as partisan to recognize a colleague’s departure. It is an act of friendship and respect.”

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He also said it will not happen again and that he will continue to value the principles of “impartiality” and “decorum.”

Scheer did raise the question of privilege after Fergus apologized.

Fergus was elected Speaker in early October after his predecessor, Liberal MP Anthony Rota, stepped down amid controversy.

During Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s visit to Ottawa in September, Rota had recognized in the House of Commons a man who had fought for a voluntary unit created by the Nazis to help fight the Soviet Union during the Second World War.

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