In our parliamentary system there are very few opportunities for members to vote as they please on issues. Party solidarity in the Westminster system is essential to keep a government in power. One exception, however, is the vote to choose a speaker, which is conducted by secret ballot. In the case of the Ontario Legislature which sat Monday for the first time since the election, the first order of business was just that–the selection of a speaker and the current Speaker, Ted Arnott, a Progressive Conservative MPP from the riding of Wellington-Halton Hills was re-elected to the post.
Normally the speaker selection is a scarcely-noticed formality, but in this instance, there was a bit of drama, because also running for the job was fellow PC MPP Nina Tangri, who represents the riding of Mississauga-Streetsville. Several Toronto news outlets had reported on the weekend that Premier Doug Ford was quietly pushing for Tangri, making today’s vote a mild rebuke for the premier. For Arnott to get the minimum necessary 63 votes, there would have had to have been at least 22 PC members voting against Ford’s wishes, and maybe more depending on the final tally, which we will never know.
Nobody should interpret this as a looming palace rebellion. The Premier’s office still wields considerable sway over members, not the least of which is having the ultimate say over re-nomination. But it does reflect the realization by some members that they are probably never going to get into the cabinet. It also, in the case of Arnott, reflects the fact that certain ridings in Ontario are so reliably Tory that the local member becomes somewhat expendable. But the secret vote and its outcome provide one of the few opportunities available to ordinary MPPs to show a little independence.