Today, members of the Ontario legislature elected Dave Levac as Ontario’s 41st Speaker. Levac, a Liberal, has been the MPP for Brant since 1999. His second ballot victory came as a surprise as he upset Donna Cansfield, MPP for Etobicoke North, who was heavily favoured to secure the Speaker position. Also in the running were Liberals Kevin Flynn and David Zimmer. Despite a brief campaign by Conservative MPP Frank Klees, both opposition parties chose not to field any candidates for Speaker.
One of the key reasons for Levac’s victory was his standing amongst opposition parties. He is well respected and has been actively campaigning for the Speaker job since winning re-election. Levac’s nomination was seconded by PC MPP Jerry Ouellette, and it is clear he received support from the PC and NDP benches. This vote signals that Levac was seen by the opposition parties as the most non-partisan of the four candidates, likely due to the fact that he had never served in Cabinet.
The Speaker’s role in this minority government is important. By electing a member of the Liberal Party, the opposition now has two votes more than the governing Liberals in the legislature. This is particularly important because it provides a slightly increased buffer zone for the opposition parties in case one of their members must be absent from the Legislature for a vote.
Levac now has the difficult task of moderating debate and maintaining order in a minority parliament that is likely to be quite volatile. Although it is less than two months since the province went to the polls, there has already been some jockeying with regards to the next election. PC leader Tim Hudak hinted in a letter to supporters last week about being “ready to go into an election next year if necessary.” There is likely to be more brinksmanship as the legislative session commences, and the Speaker’s job of maintaining order and discipline will be tested thoroughly.
Levac will go right to work as the Legislature returns tomorrow with the Speech from the Throne followed by the first Question Period in this minority parliament on Wednesday.
Bryan Bossin and Patrick Harris consult for clients as part of our Public Affairs group in Toronto.