Statement by Speaker D. James Walding to
the Manitoba Legislative Assembly, April 30, 1985.
Background: From time to time serious
comments regarding the institution of the speakership are made by committees,
journalists, academics and other students of parliament. It is particularly
important when Speakers still in office reflect upon the nature of the duties
they are asked to fulfil.
D. James Walding (Manitoba). During the past
three years I have been at the centre of the decision-making process of the
Legislature of Manitoba. I have conducted much research and investigation into
the procedures of the parliamentary system in general, and the Office of the
Speaker in particular. A great deal of information is available and I am
grateful to the procedural experts who have given so freely of their wisdom and
Having served on both sides of the
Legislature for over ten years, and for the past three years as Speaker, there
is a responsibility on my part to bring certain recommendations to the
attention of the Legislature.
The elected representatives of the people of
Manitoba meet in the Legislature to discuss the business of our province. To
ensure that this public business is conducted fairly, and that the voters of
all the elected representatives of the people throughout the province are
heard, it is necessary for the Legislature to recognize the role of the Speaker
in guaranteeing the fairness of the daily proceedings.
The Speaker is the one Member of the
Legislature chosen by the Assembly to serve as the referee of the daily
discussion of important matters by all the elected Members of the Legislature.
Although elected on an equal basis with every other Member of the Manitoba
Legislature, the person designated as the Speaker is asked by all the Members
of the Legislature to serve as the referee of their discussions.
The more a Speaker strives for a position of
impartiality, the more he becomes separated from the constituency and the Party
which endorsed him in the previous election.
There is an inherent unfairness in the
Legislature which places one of its Members, and one only, in the position of
being expected to support the initiatives of the Government of the Day while at
the same time being required to act with fairness and impartiality.
Suggestions have been made to me both
implicitly and explicitly that a Speaker's political allegiance should
supersede the requirement for impartiality and this has been the cause of
The expectation of partiality and
impartiality at the same time is clearly impossible, and has caused me
considerable personal distress.
A second point which must be made concerns
the issue of unequal representation in the Manitoba Legislature. The Speaker is
the only MLA who cannot take part in any of the debates in the Legislature,
does not vote except in the case of a tied vote, and cannot publicly discuss
any grievance for any of his Constituents. Voters in one constituency,
represented by the Speaker, therefore do not enjoy the same rights as do
residents in the other 56 constituencies of the province.
Surely a democratic system which gives all
voters the equal chance to freely choose their representative should also
permit equal representation on the floor of the House.
I recently conducted a survey in St. Vital,
my constituency, which makes it clear that the people of St. Vital are very
aware of their unequal representation in the House and there is an overwhelming
perception that it is a liability to live in the Speaker's constituency.
The principle of the continuity of the
Speakership has been endorsed by successive Prime Ministers since our first Prime
Minister, John A. Macdonald.
In 1967 the Manitoba Legislature approved a
Resolution, introduced by a former Premier, with all-Party support, favouring
the principle of continuity of the Speakership.
Members might be interested to know that Mr.
Stanley Knowles introduced a Bill in 1971 in the House of Commons proposing a
solution to the continuing difficulty of the role of the Speaker. Mr. Knowles
called for the setting up of a special constituency for the Speaker.
While certain disadvantages exist with this
proposal they are less than the disadvantages of the present situation.
The same situation exists in all other
provinces and the House of Commons, and although other Speakers are keenly
aware of the problem, each Legislature has thus far been reluctant to make
This Assembly has attained a commendable
level of political maturity and has demonstrated a willingness to institute
Manitoba has an enviable record of
leadership in enacting statutes and programmes which have been followed by
other provinces. It should not be beyond the ability of the Legislature to
implement changes in the evolving development of our parliamentary process,
even on a trial basis.
The widespread public interest in
parliamentary reform combined with the recently proclaimed equality provisions
of the Constitution, provide a particularly opportune time to introduce an
equality provision into the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba
Accordingly, I intend to meet with the
leaders of the major political parties to discuss solutions to this
longstanding problem and to propose specific remedies.
I will report developments regarding this
matter of importance to all Manitobans.