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Arnott embraces new role as speaker


Arnott embraces new role as speaker

by Jaime Myslik

FERGUS - “Every speaker has to learn to bite their tongue on occasion, sometimes bite it hard, hopefully not bite it off, but you do have to respect the role that you’ve been assigned.”

Wellington-Halton Hills MPP Ted Arnott says that’s one of the key lessons he’s learned in his first six months as Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

Arnott, a veteran Progressive Conservative MPP, was elected as Speaker on July 11, following the June provincial election.

“It was quite overwhelming at first, and challenging to say the least, and there were times that I was wondering whether I’d made the right decision ... but then I became more accustomed to some of the responsibilities,” he said in a Feb. 5 interview.

He added many MPPs were new and it seemed parties and members were still contesting  the election when the house resumed in July.

“I think at times the tone of the debate in the legislature was very negative, I’m afraid to say,” Arnott said.

“But at the same time ... I think it’s getting better ... by Christmas it was more sort of a normal kind of atmosphere in the legislature.”

As speaker, Arnott must preside with fairness over debates in the house.

“The speaker is expected to be neutral and not make any public statements one way or the other,” Arnott said. “In order to be an effective speaker ... you have to demonstrate to all sides of the house that you are making an effort to be neutral and non-partisan and so that’s what I have to do.”

Managing the house is not his only new responsibility.

“I think one of the former speakers told me that every speaker is judged on how they manage the house but ... question period is one hour a day and there’s still a lot of work that has to get done behind the scenes,” he said.

That includes managing about 450 assembly employees, as the speaker is also chairman of the board for the legislature.

“So that takes a lot of time but it’s very interesting work,” Arnott said. “We’ve got outstanding people ... and it’s a real pleasure and really an honour to work with them.”

Arnott stressed his new responsibilities in the house do not take away from his accountability to Wellington-Halton Hills constituents.

“I started out with an expectation and a commitment to start my day with constituency work every day, even when the house was in session and to be in touch with the riding office,” Arnott said.

“And when I’m home on Friday ... my work continues as it always has. I come into the riding office and we meet with constituents and I return phone calls and we draft emails and we do our normal MPP work.”

Though Arnott can no longer participate in legislature debates, and he only votes in the event of a tie, he said he still takes his constituents’ concerns to the right government officials.

“We get lots of emails from people about bills that are currently in the legislature and they’re asking for my assistance and we try to make sure that the minister responsible ... is informed of each of the constituents’ concerns,” Arnott said.

He also still works with municipalities in his riding. Recently, Arnott went to the Rural Ontario Municipal Association conference, where he attended meetings between ministers and municipal delegations.

“I continue to do that to support the municipalities in Wellington-Halton Hills as I always have,” he said.

In his new role, Arnott said he’s always learning.  

“I’m certainly trying to do the best job I can,” he said.

“Day to day I’m sure there will be more challenges ... but I am looking forward to it and I’m hoping to make a contribution to the legislature ... as a result of this opportunity I’ve been given.”

February 8, 2019


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