Job perks House Speaker Greg Fergus expected to get with his new job

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Liberal Member of Parliament Greg Fergus has been elected 38th Speaker of the House of Commons, after Anthony Rota resigned from his position following his invitation to the chamber a man who had fought for a Nazi unit during the Second World War. Here’s what the 54-year-old member from Hull-Aylmer can look forward to.

What are the duties of the Speaker of the House?

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Elected by fellow members of Parliament, the Speaker presides over the House of Commons, inviting members to speak, maintaining order and decorum, and ruling on points of order.  (“A bit like a referee on a sports field,” according to a government website.) He or she also manages the staff at the House of Commons (some 2,500 employees) and acts as a liaison with the Senate and the Crown.

What does the Speaker get out of this?

In addition to a base salary of $194,600 as a member of the House of Commons, the Speaker receives an additional salary of $92,800 and a car allowance of $1,000 a year.

The Speaker has an official residence, The Farm, in nearby Kingsmere, Que. Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King bought the property in 1927, died there in 1950, and bequeathed it in his will to “the government and people of Canada,” with hopes that it would become the official residence of the Prime Minister. But since 24 Sussex Drive already had that role, The Farm has been used by the sitting Speaker since 1955.

Greg Fergus, Liberal candidate for Hull-Aylmer and chair of the black caucus in Parliament, speaks to reporters during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019
Greg Fergus, seen here when he was Liberal candidate for Hull-Aylmer in 2019, is the new Speaker of the House. Photo by Justin Tang /The Canadian Press

What if the Speaker doesn’t want to commute from Quebec?

In addition to The Farm, the Speaker has a “secret” apartment inside the Centre Block on Parliament Hill, behind a door marked merely as “202N.” (Centre Block is now closed to renovations, however.) It has a small dining area and an office featuring a print of the famous picture of Winston Churchill looking grumpy, which was taken in that very room in 1941.

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The apartment also has a bedroom with a Murphy bed tucked into one wall. The Speaker is apparently the only person authorized to sleep in the Centre Block, although that probably hasn’t stopped others from unauthorized napping.

What if the Speaker gets thirsty?

Inside an armoire in the dining area is the Speaker’s whisky, a tradition that started with Peter Milliken in 2003. In addition to being the longest-serving Speaker, Milliken decided to import the British practice of selecting an official single malt beverage for Parliament. Since then, Speakers released six versions of Scotch, each with a distinctive label and special packaging.

But for his newest choice, last year, Rota decided to switch from a Scottish-made drink to something more Canadian — Speaker’s Canadian Whisky, a rye whisky made by Rig Hand, a craft distillery near Edmonton. “This is Canadian Parliament, and we should have Canadian whisky,” Rota told the National Post at the time.

Has another Speaker ever resigned under such a cloud?

Louis-René Beaudoin, Speaker from 1953 to 1957 under Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent, tendered his resignation during the Pipeline Debate of 1956, after it was learned that he had been publicly critical of opposition members during the debate. St. Laurent convinced him to stay on, but his reputation suffered and he soon withdrew from politics.

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In 1899, James David Edgar died before his term as Speaker ended, and in 1984 Canada’s first (and so far only) female Speaker, Jeanne Sauvé, resigned to become Governor-General. Two years later, Speaker John Bosley resigned to allow for future speakers to be elected through a secret ballot, first won by John Allen Fraser. Bosley ran against him in the next election but lost.

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