View From the Legislature

New Legislative Leadership For New Session

  • Kelvin Goertzen, Author
  • Member of the Legislative Assembly, Steinbach

The Manitoba Legislature is set to resume sitting on Tuesday of next week with the reading of the government’s Speech from the Throne. This first session of the Legislature following the recent provincial election will see many changes. Most of these changes are related to the election of the NDP government and are well known by the public, but there have been other changes within the Manitoba Legislative Assembly which may not have received as much attention.

One change is the selection of the new Speaker of the Assembly which took place last week Thursday. Flin Flon MLA Tom Lindsey was chosen for the role. The Speaker is the individual who despite being elected as an MLA for a political party, undertakes an oath to be non-partisan in the role of Speaker of the House. In this role, they are responsible for presiding over the debates and matters of the Legislative Assembly and ensuring the proper functioning of the House by enforcing rules and management of the Legislative Assembly.

Over the past almost eight years, now former MLA for Charleswood Myrna Driedger had been the Speaker of the House. Speaker Driedger was passionate about trying to improve decorum in the Legislature and encouraging more women to participate in the democratic process. In this and many other ways she distinguished herself in the role of Speaker. I both congratulate former Speaker Driedger for a job well done and wish new Speaker Lindsey all the best as he assumes this important role.

Not as well known is the fact that prior to the election the long-term Clerk of the Legislative Assembly Patricia Chaychuk retired from that role. Chaychuk was appointed as the first female Clerk of the Legislative Assembly in 2000 and over two decades has served the Assembly faithfully and with integrity. The Clerk of the Assembly is involved with the management of the Legislative Assembly and is instrumental in giving advice to the Speaker. While not a role that garners a great deal of public attention, it is one that is key to the proper functioning of our democracy. Since Patricia Chaychuk’s retirement, deputy Clerk Rick Yarish has been acting in the role of Clerk.

Mr. Yarish was instrumental in putting together a multi-day training session for the many new MLAs who were elected in October to help familiarize them with the role of an elected representative. He will also be working to prepare the Assembly for the upcoming Throne Speech and the winter session. As both a former Opposition House Leader and former Government House Leader, I have worked closely with both Patricia Chaychuk and Rick Yarish over the years and have appreciated their commitment to the Assembly and democracy.

While much of the attention next week will be on the changes that have occurred within the structure of government itself, the changes within the Legislative Assembly and office of the Speaker also deserve attention. Those roles help uphold our system of democracy and the ability for elected representatives to fulfil their responsibilities on behalf of their constituents.