My Role as Speaker of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly
Published in November 2019 Lifestyles 55
The provincial election on September 10, 2019 was not the only election I’ve recently put forward my name as a candidate. In Manitoba the Speakers of the Legislative Assembly are elected through a vote by all MLAs. On September 30th the Speaker election was held. I, along with two of my Legislative Assembly colleagues, put our names forward. The secret ballot election happens on the floor of the Chamber and the ballots are counted by the Clerks of the Legislative Assembly. Once the ballots have been counted the Speaker is declared. I was humbled that my colleagues chose me to be their Speaker once more. After being dragged from my seat by the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition, I stood in front of my colleagues and made this promise: “Honourable members of the 42nd Legislative Assembly, I wish to thank the members for the high honour the House has conferred on me. I leave the floor of this House to take the Speaker's Chair. I leave behind all political and partisan feelings, and I intend to carry out the important duties of the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly with impartiality and to the best of my ability.”
I was eager to put my name forward for this role as it was one that I have truly enjoyed since being first elected to the position in 2016. Interestingly, at that point in my career I had been an MLA for 18 years and held a variety of different roles. Once assuming the role of Speaker, I was surprised to learn of the depth and scope involved in the role of Speaker. I had seen the previous Speakers in the Chamber presiding over debate but I was amazed at how much responsibility and administrative work is involved with this role.
There are some initiatives I undertook in my first term as the Speaker of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly of which I am particularly proud of. The Chamber of the Assembly is an important place. It is where legislation is introduced, debates are held, and Manitobans can see our provincial democracy in action. Built in 1920, the Chamber was not built to the current standards of accessibility. That’s why I chaired a committee to look into the options of renovating the Chamber to bring it to current standards of accessibility. We looked into a variety of different options. The design we chose preserved the design of our historic Chamber while enabling more accessibility. The new design fits seamlessly with the architecture of the building and I am pleased to note that this project was honoured with the 2018 Heritage Winnipeg Preservation Award for Excellence as well as an Award of Merit from the Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals.
Further, as Speaker, I initiated the hiring of the first ever full time Sergeant-At-Arms. This role is responsible for security and also for a significant ceremonial aspect in the day to day activities in the Chamber. The Sergeant-At-Arms leads the Speaker’s Parade into the Chamber during session and carries the mace, which serves to represent the authority of the Crown in the Chamber. Recently, I was proud to unveil a new case for the Manitoba maces so that visitors are able to see them whenever they walk down the Speaker’s Gallery. A new tradition I implemented was the addition of the Pages to the Speaker’s Parade.
Throughout my career, I have been passionate about promoting and celebrating the successes of women. I am humbled when I walk past the two permanent exhibits, the Vote100 Wall and the Trailblazers Wall which I initiated. These permanent exhibits celebrate the successes of women within the first 100 years since (most) Manitoba women earned the right to vote. It is important that women and girls who come to the legislature see these exhibits to know that there is a place for them under this dome: you can’t be what you can’t see.
An interesting aspect to the role of Speaker is to officially welcome delegations and visitors to the Legislative Assembly. In 2017 I hosted the Commonwealth Parliamentarian’s Association Canadian Conference and in 2018 I hosted the Midwestern Legislative Conference. These conferences brought delegates from all over Canada and the United States and I am so proud to have had the opportunity to showcase our amazing province.
I am also happy to have initiated a leadership development program for the managers within the Legislative Assembly. Through this program evolved the development of the mission, values, and aims statement for the Manitoba Legislative Assembly. In addition, I have also led the efforts to review and update the Respectful Workplace Policy within the Legislative Assembly.
Having the opportunity to hold the role of Speaker has been an honour and it is an honour to have been elected for a second time by my colleagues within the Manitoba Legislative Assembly. I will continue to serve the assembly to the best of my ability and uphold the integrity of this privileged role.