Parliament resumes as MPs gather to elect of new House of Commons Speaker

Parliament has resumed and the first order of business is to elect the next Speaker of the House of Commons.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird

OTTAWA — Parliament has resumed and the first order of business is to elect the next Speaker of the House of Commons.

Eight MPs are vying to replace Peter Milliken, a Liberal MP who retired before the May 2 election.

Seven of the candidates are Conservatives and one is a New Democrat.

The NDP candidate, Denise Savoie, is the lone female contender.

Liberal Justin Trudeau, whose name had been the candidates’ list, dropped out before the proceedings began.

All MPs are considered candidates for Speaker unless they formally withdraw; Trudeau blamed Canada Post for not getting his letter to parliamentary officials on time.

“Despite my desire to perhaps have a better seat here in this House, I am refusing reluctantly,” he told the assembled MPs.

The hallowed Speaker’s job comes with a $233,000 salary, a car and driver, country estate, parliamentary apartment and considerable powers.

Milliken once had to cast a tie-breaking ballot in a contentious vote on same-sex marriage.

All eight candidates were given five minutes apiece to make a stump speech, but the campaigning has been going on for weeks.

It’s included offers of free ice cream from Tory candidate Barry Devolin and Starbucks coffee from Tory Merv Tweed.

“I considered offering a mini bar on the green bus on the Hill but then I thought better,” joked Savoie as she headed into the Commons.

MPs travel around Parliament Hill and surrounding government buildings via green shuttle buses.

But, added Savoie: “I think I have more substantive arguments I am going to try and make.”

A key theme in their speeches was a pitch for better decorum in the House. One candidate got heckled during his address.

But history isn’t just being made in Parliament by the choice of Milliken’s replacement.

It also marks the movement of the Liberal party to the also-ran seats in the Commons.

It is now New Democrat Leader Jack Layton staring down Prime Minister Stephen Harper from the chair of leader of the Opposition.

New Democrats looked comfortable in their new front-row spots and for the new members it was a moment to remember.

“Just took my seat in the House of Commons for the first time,” said new Tory MP Mark Strahl on Twitter.

“What an honour.”

It was also an exciting moment for the Green party.

Their first and lone MP arrived at the Commons to find her place card as expected.

“OK. What I figured — I have the back corner seat on the floor,” tweeted party Leader Elizabeth May.

“But there’s no bad seats in the House!”