TORONTO – Longtime Liberal Dave Levac was elected Speaker of the Ontario legislature Monday, taking over as chief political referee in Ontario’s first minority parliament in a generation.
Three other Liberals were also vying for the job: Donna Cansfield, Kevin Flynn and David Zimmer.
Flynn was dropped after the first ballot, while Zimmer and Cansfield – who could have been the first woman elected to the post – lost after the second ballot.
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An emotional Levac thanked his colleagues in the legislature, calling it an honour to serve as Speaker.
“I accept the challenge humbly, and very proud to say that we are the elected members of Ontario,” he said.
“I’ll do my best to work with all of you to keep the dignity and the honour and the trust of this place in your hands. It’s your house, it’s our house.”
The Speaker oversees debate in the legislature but can also be called upon to break a tie vote – a critical role with the Liberals holding 53 of the 107 seats and the opposition together controlling 54.
The Speaker, by convention, tends to vote with the governing party, although there have been exceptions.
There was speculation after the Oct. 6 election that the minority Liberals might push for a Speaker from one of the opposition parties, which would level the playing field by taking away their one-vote advantage. But that didn’t happen.
Levac replaces Steve Peters, who held the post since November 2007, and will be Ontario’s 41st Speaker since 1867.
The job also comes with a bump in salary to nearly $153,000 a year and an apartment at the legislature. It’s also one of the few roles that includes a portrait on the walls of the legislature along with one of the premier.
Now that a Speaker has been chosen, the legislature can officially get back to business with a throne speech on Tuesday.