How'd you get that job? Samara speaks to Andrew Scheer (May 2014)

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How'd You Get That Job? Monday, June 12, 2017 View Count = 5862

How'd you get that job? Samara speaks to Andrew Scheer (May 2014)

Wow. Just three years ago, we had the opportunity to sit down with the Honourable Andrew Scheer, then Speaker of the House of Commons, and now he's been elected leader of the Conservative Party! Given this, we thought it would be timely and fun to revisit this interview where he speaks about his inspiration to get involved in politics, what he doesn't let stand in his way and what it was like to be Speaker of the House.


(Original introduction from May 26, 2014)

While in Ottawa to celebrate the launch of Tragedy in the Commons, Samara had the honour to sit down with the Speaker of the House of Commons and MP for Regina-Qu'Appelle The Honourable Andrew Scheer. How's that for a job title?! Canada's youngest Speaker and MP for the last decade, Mr. Scheer tells us what a day in the life of the speaker looks like, how he got to the best seat in the House and what he didn't let stand in his way. 

What inspired you to get involved in politics in the first place?

Growing up in my family, we had a lot of political discussions and dinner table conversations that piqued my interest in a lot of different areas of history and politics. More specifically, I remember watching the events in Eastern Europe happen—when the wall was coming down in Berlin, when communism was being fought-against in eastern Europe—and they really prompted a lot of questions as to how that happens and why that happens over there and not here. Why do leaders get shot in some countries, and not here? Getting that explained to me by parents and teachers really developed not only an interest in politics, but also an interest to pursue it as a potential field.

What path brought you to run as an MP?

In my last few years of high school and first few in University, I started volunteering for campaigns and political parties as a way to meet new people and support causes I was interested in. When I moved to Saskatchewan, I started doing the same thing and I was asked to be a campaign manager for a candidate in the provincial election. Unfortunately, that gentleman was unsuccessful, but we had such a great team and such a great experience, he actually ended up talking me into running federally. After quite a few conversations, and many afternoon coffees of him pressing me to do it, he convinced me to run and told me that he would be my campaign manager. So he would always joke that I may have been a better candidate than he was, but he was a better campaign manager. That was what pushed me to not just be active, but to run myself.

When you got to the Hill, were you immediately drawn to the Speaker’s role?

No, no. My predecessor would tell you that at an early age he knew he’d specifically like to be the Speaker of the House of Commons. I can’t claim that was forefront when I first got elected. I got into politics like most members, because I felt passionate about certain issues, interested in certain fields and I wanted to use a career in politics as a way of advancing those things I care about. But after coming here and learning how the House functions on a procedural level, and what the backbone is of the chamber and how members’ rights are protected and how rules are followed to ensure there’s an orderly flow to bills being passed, I saw the importance of the role of the Speaker and the historic aspect of it as well. So in 2006, I was asked if I would be interested in serving as the Assistant Deputy Speaker. I took the opportunity. Once I did that, I got to work with Speaker Milliken and preside over the house in the chamber, and that really accelerated my interest. Then I ran in 2008, and again in 2011 and was successful.

What does a day in the life of the Speaker look like?

Although there are some regular fixtures, one of the things I like about being both an MP and the Speaker is that every day is different. There are always different things going on and different types of events and challenges. Usually I get here around a normal time depending on the day. The first item of business is I meet with my chief of staff who will run through my agenda and also any ongoing issues that we’re facing; she’ll have updates on where we’re at with all these things. Then we have a meeting with the procedural clerks and my director of communications to go over the agenda for the House. We look at what’s coming up in the House, which bills are brought forward, things coming out of committees—like motions or points of order—we might have to watch. Then we try to anticipate things I might have to rule on.

And then I open the House and go through routine proceedings which is the part of the day when normal motions are moved, bills are introduced for the first time, petitions are tabled, etc. And then I return to my office and that’s when the day really starts to get different. I might have meetings with members of the diplomatic community, today for example I had two courtesy calls one with an outgoing ambassador and another with a newly arrived ambassador. I might have a joint meeting with the Senate Speaker over the Library of Parliament, I might have meetings with individual MPs who come to see me about questions of a procedural nature or to ask me to sponsor or co-host events they’d like to hold. I may have official lunches with groups, for example a couple recent ones were with the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards Recipients and the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize nominees. That usually takes us right to 1:45pm when I have a second procedural meeting just before Question Period. Then of course, Question Period.

Usually in the afternoons, I focus on constituency work. I call into the riding staff and get an update from them. I make calls to Ministers on issues from the riding if necessary. Then I get back to people in the riding.

Then the evenings are similar to my lunches. The Speaker is often asked to represent Parliament in the diplomatic community so there are often events to commemorate important anniversaries between Canada and other countries.

Is it difficult to balance the role of the Speaker and the role of an MP?

I think it’s no different than any Member who has extra responsibilities, like a Cabinet Minister or a leader of a party. You do have two roles. It’s a bit of a balancing act, but the sense I get, and my predecessor said the same thing, is that Ministers understand that the Speaker doesn’t go to caucus or participate in debate. So when I do have an issue that I need to bring forward, they are very good about getting back to me or giving time for a meeting. They recognize there’s a different relationship there than a member who can go to caucus and have an easy chat with the Minister about an issue of concern to them.

What has been your favourite moment so far?

That’s really tough to pick. Every QP is very intense. When you’ve got the Leader of the Opposition, Prime Minister, various party critics and leaders, and ministers who are so good at tough questions and good answers it’s always very interesting and I’ve got a great seat for that. They say there’s no such thing as a bad seat in the House of Commons, but I like to think I’ve got the best one.

But if I had to pick a moment that I know I’ll remember standing out, it was when I was asked to lead a delegation for the canonization of a Canadian Saint at the Vatican. I was able to meet with Pope Benedict XVI, because I lead the delegation. That will probably stand out as a very memorable moment.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be Speaker?

Well, I think it’s like anything else in life. I approached running for office and running for Speaker the same, by identifying the criteria to get there and making sure I was accomplishing them. When it came to running in Regina-Qu’Appelle, I had to sell memberships, get the nomination and run a successful campaign. So, have a clear understanding of how to get there and what steps you need to take to get to the role you’re striving for, whether it’s politics or any other career. It’s no different than if someone wants to be a doctor, you need to get an appropriate undergrad degree and follow the steps. Just mentally know what all your steps are and start working toward them.

And most importantly, don’t let anyone tell you you’re too young to do it. Don’t let other people talk you out of things or put barriers in your mind that may not exist. I was told by a few people both when I was running to be MP and when I was running for Speaker that I was too young. A couple times I thought, well, maybe I am.  Then I realized, who says I’m too young? That is someone else’s artificial barrier that they’re trying to put in front of me that I don’t need. That would be my piece of advice, make sure you’re ready but don’t let somebody talk you out of doing it. 

Mr. Scheer was elected Speaker of the House of Commons for the 41st Parliament on June 2, 2011. He is the fourth Speaker to be chosen by a secret ballot cast by his fellow Members of the House of Commons. Born in 1979, he is also the youngest Speaker of the House in Canadian history.

Mr. Scheer was first elected to the House of Commons in 2004 as the Conservative Member of Parliament for Regina—Qu'Appelle. He was re-elected in 2006, 2008 and 2011. During the 39th Parliament he served as the Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole. During the 40th Parliament he served as the Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Scheer was born and raised in Ottawa, Ontario. He studied history and politics at the University of Ottawa and the University of Regina, where he received a Bachelor of Arts.

Interested in politics at a young age, Mr. Scheer worked for the Leader of the Opposition while he was still a student in Ottawa. Shortly after graduation, Mr. Scheer joined the constituency office of Canadian Alliance MP Larry Spencer, in Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre.

Mr. Scheer lives in Regina with his wife Jill and their four children – Thomas, Grace, Madeline, and Henry.

Update: On May 27, 2017, Mr. Scheer was elected Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. 

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