Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday January 6, 2023
Canada and the U.S. both have House Speakers. For one of them, the stakes are a lot higher
It’s being called the “battle for the gavel,” a historic fight in the U.S. over who will hold the title of Speaker, the presiding member of the House of Representatives.
For nearly two full days, bitter partisanship within the Republican party, now the majority in the House, has turned what’s normally a swift affair into a protracted stalemate over who from their ranks ought to hold the job.
Multiple rounds of voting so far haven’t meaningfully moved the needle, and it is holding up the start of the next Congress for the first time in 100 years.
“The rest of the world is looking,” said U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday of the chaos.
“They’re looking at, you know, can we get our act together?”
By contrast, the drama that’s attached to what might be called the “race for the mace” in Canada — the election of a Speaker for the House of Commons — pales in comparison.
The job of Speaker hearkens back over 600 years to the formative Parliaments in Britain, and an agreed-upon need for someone to oversee and guide the work of the legislature.
That a Speaker is required for Congress as well as for the House of Commons and Senate is part of the constitutions of both countries.
Still, with the two countries having different systems of government, the jobs have developed differently over time and with contrasting political dynamics.
In the U.S, the evolution has given the House Speaker a number of powers which — depending on the makeup of Congress — can allow a Speaker to derail a president’s agenda, drive their own party’s legislative goals and reward or punish fellow elected representatives with plum committee posts.
That makes the person in the job — normally chosen from the majority party — exceptionally influential; among other things, should the president not be able to fulfil their duties, nor the vice-president, it is the House Speaker who is on deck.
Former House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer used a sports analogy to describe the difference between the post in Canada versus that in the U.S.
“In Canada, it’s far more of a referee, where in the U.S. it is more like a quarterback,” he said when reached by the Star on Tuesday.
What Speakers referee is the House of Commons itself, ensuring the rights and privileges of MPs are respected as is the decorum and work of Parliament — there’s rarely a day, for example, where the Speaker doesn’t intervene to ask MPs to mind their manners as they joust.
They do it from a largely neutral position as the job is understood by all parties to place the business of Parliament above that of partisanship. Speakers only cast a vote in the event of a tie, don’t participate in debates, stay away from partisan party caucus meetings and even have to watch their words when they campaign for seats during general elections. (The Toronto Star)
rom sketch to finish, in 30 seconds, see the current way Graeme completes an editorial cartoon using an iPencil, the Procreate app, and a couple of cheats on an iPad Pro … These sped up clips are posted to encourage others to be creative, to take advantage of the technology many of us already have and to use it to produce satire. Comfort the afflicted. Afflict the comforted.