Whither Peter Milliken?

Peter Milliken, as every politics-mad Canadian knows, is the Speaker of the House of Commons. Or at least he was for the 39th Parliament. On Nov. 18, the 40th Parliament of Canada will convene for the first time and its first order of business will be to elect a speaker. The election of a speaker is done by secret ballot which is preceded often by intense lobbying by the aspirants.

I can confirm, dear reader, that Milliken will, indeed, be one of those who aspires to be Speaker for the 40th Parliament.

There are other names being bandied about on the gossip circuit. I've heard that Merv Tweed, a Conservative from Manitoba, and Andrew Scheer, a Conservative from Saskatchewan who was assistant deputy speaker in the last Parliament might be interested.

With the retirement of Bill Blaikie, it seems unlikely that an NDP MP will put his or her name forward to be speaker. And we can rule out a BQ MP.

Now, here's an interesting little conspiracy theory advanced to me this afternoon by a smart and enthusiastic Hill staffer: The Conservatives may be interested in seeing anyone — even another Liberal – take the Speaker's job, so long as it's not Milliken. Here's why: Milliken has been the speaker for seven years and it's his dream job. Wily Conservatives though may be betting that if Milliken was deprived of his dream job, he might quit as an MP. After all, he was hinting during the last election campaign that this run would be his last. So, without the Speaker's job to keep him in Ottawa, some Tories think he might just up and vacate his seat of Kingston and the Islands, which Milliken and the Liberals have held since 1988. Milliken beat out Flora MacDonald who had held the seat for the Progressive Conservatives since 1972.

Now if Milliken quits his MP's job, that would free up a byelection and, given the fact that Kingston is a tiny little red dot in the sea of blue Conservative ridings between Toronto and Ottawa, the Tories have every reason to believe that they could take that riding.

So, for that reason, the Conservative leadership may suggest that the 143 Tory MPs cast their secret ballot for someone other than the incumbent.

3 thoughts on “Whither Peter Milliken?”

  1. Milliken “quitting if he wasn't the speaker” was pushed hard (and to great effect) in the local Conservative campaign there.
    Candidate Brian Abrams has already said he's running again and that he has begun to plan out the next campaign already. Given his strong showing, a byelection would surely have a great deal of support from Ottawa and be a tough go-around for any Liberal but Milliken.
    I'm going to be watching this story with great interest.

  2. I have also heard that rumor regarding Peter Milliken's quiet demand that he must be Speaker or he will go home. While I've met Mr. Milliken and liked him (as much as anyone can in a 20 minute meeting) as an individual, this kind of “threatening” can only serve to show that there is at least one Liberal still in Government who holds a sense of entitlement.
    That being said, if Mr. Milliken chooses to take his ball and go home, the riding will certainly swing back to the Conservatives. So we can certainly cheer him on!

  3. As resident of Kingston and the Islands for 49 of my 50 years, I have my doubts that this riding will swing back to the conservatives once Peter Milliken decides to retire. At least not the Conservative Party as it currently exists. Flora (our last Tory MP) was a “Red Tory”. Our provincial member for much of that time was Keith Norton — a “Red Tory” (and openly gay – although he “came out” after he was defeated by a Liberal in 1985). Even in times of Tory majorities provincially and federally, Kingston and the Islands has not been represented by a Tory in 20 years federally and 23 years provincially.
    Kingston and the Islands now has over 40% public sector employment. That compares to a provincial average in the low to mid 20's, and is even signicantly higher than Ottawa's level. 8 of our 10 largerst employers are public sector. Public sector employees and their spouses and families are hesitant to vote for a governing party that is philosophically opposed to the public sector. The only Tories that can win in Kingston and the Islands must be “Red Tories”, and they will need the benefit of a national or provinicial party that is also seen as significantly “progressive” in its philosophy and supportive of the public sector.

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