MPP Klees | PHOTO COURTESY OF FRANK-KLEES.ON.CA
Frank Klees, a veteran Progressive Conservative MPP, broke ranks with his party saying he’ll run for speaker of the Ontario Legislature. Should Mr. Klees be victorious, the ruling Liberals with 53 seats would be tied with the Tories and New Democrats who hold a combined 53 seats, excluding that of the speaker who does not vote except in ties.
This is a major blow to PC Leader Tim Hudak, who, along with NDP leader Andrea Howath, have reportedly said that no one from their party would run for speaker so as not to prevent them from defeating the McGuinty government, should such an opportunity present itself. Mr. Klees’s decision to run for speaker puts the opposition’s strategy in jeopardy because the speaker traditionally votes with the government and Premier Dalton McGuinty could keep power until the 2015 election.
So does this imply that Frank Klees is a turncoat?
I always thought he was a party-first kind of a guy, but perhaps the lure of the prestigious post as “Presiding Officer of the House” with a comfortable $152,914-a-year pay cheque, a suite of offices and a private apartment at Queen’s Park was too much for him to pass up.
Mr. Klees denied Tuesday there was an agreement among his fellow MPPs to stay out of the race—“I wasn’t privy to that caucus,” he said—but he seems to stand alone on that one. According to a report in today’s National Post newspaper, Mr. Hudak said on Tuesday:
We’re surprised and disappointed that Frank has decided that this is a better approach for him in the assembly. Frank’s made a decision. And Frank is Frank. We did our best as a team to encourage Frank to take on a couple of key critic portfolios, but Frank felt that his energies were best directed elsewhere.
It also seems disingenuous of Mr. Klees to deny that his victory would hand the Liberals a de facto majority. Scott Stinson quotes Mr. Klees in his Full Comment blog as telling reporters on Tuesday:
While convention is that [the Speaker] would cast the vote with the government, that’s not a rule—the speaker always has the prerogative to cast a vote based on what he or she believes is the right thing to do, and I’ll conduct myself accordingly.
Who is he trying to kid? I’d give his remark more credence if he’d provided a single example of a speaker in a parliament following the Westminster tradition ever voting against a government in a confidence vote. In other words, When has a speaker ever cast a vote that led directly to the defeat of a government? I don’t believe one ever has.
Being more candid, Mr. Klees also said that after 16 years at Queen’s Park, he is simply looking to stay interested. Perhaps he would have better served his constituents of Newmarket-Aurora had he owned up to his boredom earlier and retired from Queen’s Park before the October election.
Given the present circumstances at Queen’s Park, I believe Mr. Klees has done the equivalent of “crossing the floor,” that is, he’s a “rat” and Tim Hudak should turf him from the Tory caucus.