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Robert-Falcon Ouellette withdraws from speaker's race

Robert Falcon Ouellette, Liberal MP for Winnipeg Centre, has apologized for suggesting the Speaker of the House of Commons has power to influence the prime minister.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Robert Falcon Ouellette, Liberal MP for Winnipeg Centre, has apologized for suggesting the Speaker of the House of Commons has power to influence the prime minister.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/11/2015 (1086 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg Centre MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette withdrew Sunday from the race to be Speaker of Parliament and apologized after publicly suggesting he could use the position to influence Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

In a statement posted to his Facebook page Sunday, Ouellette apologized for suggesting there was a “quid pro quo” between the Speaker of the House of Commons and the prime minister during a town hall meeting with his constituents Saturday.

“I deeply regret any impression I gave of the Speaker’s role. While I never intended to imply anything other than that the Speaker, as MP, still has the capacity to bring constituents’ concerns to the attention of government, I must take responsibility for my clumsiness in the way I expressed myself,” the statement reads.

“If we are truly to move forward with a fresh start in this Parliament, we do have to raise standards, and I am no exception. Mistakes have consequences, and I accept them. I apologize unreservedly to the House and my fellow parliamentarians and withdraw my name from consideration.”

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/11/2015 (1086 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg Centre MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette withdrew Sunday from the race to be Speaker of Parliament and apologized after publicly suggesting he could use the position to influence Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

In a statement posted to his Facebook page Sunday, Ouellette apologized for suggesting there was a "quid pro quo" between the Speaker of the House of Commons and the prime minister during a town hall meeting with his constituents Saturday.

"I deeply regret any impression I gave of the Speaker’s role. While I never intended to imply anything other than that the Speaker, as MP, still has the capacity to bring constituents’ concerns to the attention of government, I must take responsibility for my clumsiness in the way I expressed myself," the statement reads.

"If we are truly to move forward with a fresh start in this Parliament, we do have to raise standards, and I am no exception. Mistakes have consequences, and I accept them. I apologize unreservedly to the House and my fellow parliamentarians and withdraw my name from consideration."

Ouellette’s controversial speech to constituents Saturday was recorded and posted online.

"I’ve talked to other Speakers who have been in the position before," Ouellette said in the speech.

"They said, actually, it’s a position of great influence because if I have an issue in my riding where I need some funds or I need something to happen... I would call over the prime minister to my chair," he continued.

"This is what other Speakers have said and perhaps what people don’t think about, but you can actually use that influence that you have in the House, because you do control the debate and the prime minister wants to keep you happy."

In an interview with The Canadian Press after the speech, Ouellette said he wasn’t trying to suggest any untoward deal-making, but only showing how Speakers, who don’t attend caucus meetings and who don’t participate in question period, can express their constituents’ concerns.

"What I was trying to say is... we have to allow the Speaker to advocate some way on behalf of his constituents."

Before he withdrew his name from the running Sunday, Ouellette, 39, had been open about his ambition to win the Speaker’s role, despite never having held elected office before the Oct. 19 election.

A virtual unknown until last year, he finished a strong third in the Winnipeg mayoral race.

In October, he beat NDP incumbent Pat Martin in Winnipeg Centre, one of the country’s poorest ridings, on a promise to be a stronger voice for the area.

Electing a new Speaker is the first order of business when Parliament returns Thursday. The job comes with several perks, including another $80,100 in pay, an official residence in Gatineau Park, an apartment in Centre Block, and a car and driver.

The contenders include veteran MPs, including Liberals Geoff Regan, Denis Paradis, Yasmin Ratansi, Mauril Belanger and Scott Simms and Conservative Bruce Stanton.

Ouellette supporters were quick to respond on Facebook after he withdrew from the race.

"I am torn — I know Winnipeg Centre needs a strong advocate in you, but I also know that the House needs an overhaul and I like your visionary approach," one commenter wrote.

Many of the nearly 200 who responded Sunday accepted Ouellette’s apology.

"You show great humility and courage in coming forward like this and admitting your mistake... Hopefully, your fellow parliamentarians will have the kindness and compassion to accept your apology," another commenter said.

 

— The Canadian Press / staff

 

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History

Updated on Sunday, November 29, 2015 at 12:44 PM CST: Adds comment from supporter.

7:17 PM: Writethru, statement added.

7:42 PM: Writethru.

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