From left, Speaker of the House of Commons Anthony Rota, Speaker of the Senate George J. Furey and Governor General Julie Payette are escorted through the Senate foyer by a ceremonial guard, including Usher of the Black Rod J. Greg Peters, second from right.
Speakers and presiding officers from parliaments across the Commonwealth came to Ottawa in January 2020 to share experiences and exchange views.
The 25th Conference of Speakers and Presiding Officers of the Commonwealth helped to deepen the ties between these parliamentary leaders.
Hosted by Speaker of the Senate George J. Furey, Q.C. and by Speaker of the House of Commons Anthony Rota, the weeklong conference — which officially opened on January 7, 2020 — saw participants discussing topics including parliamentary engagement and procedure, and supporting effective legislative work.
Of particular note were workshops on challenges and opportunities arising from the displacement of a parliamentary assembly. The rehabilitation of Centre Block forced the Senate and the House of Commons to move to new locations in 2019. Workers converted Ottawa’s former central train station into the Senate of Canada Building. Senators took their place in the new Senate Chamber in 2019; the House now legislates from the West Block atrium.
A Public Services and Procurement Canada official spoke about the move of Canada’s Parliament, while the deputy speaker of Tonga’s legislative assembly described the challenges the Pacific island’s parliamentarians faced when a cyclone destroyed the century-old Tongan parliament building in 2018.
Speakers and presiding officers from 37 Commonwealth parliaments attended the conference.
“This conference is a vital forum for speakers and presiding officers to build relationships with colleagues across the Commonwealth, while exchanging ideas and best practices,” Speaker Furey said.
“The more effective we are in our roles, the stronger debates and parliamentary processes can be, and the more faith our citizens will have in our parliamentary systems.”