The Speaker of the House of Assembly

The Speaker is the key figure in the House of Assembly, a position that is open to all Members of the House of Assembly (MHAs) except Party leaders and Cabinet Ministers. He/she is elected in a secret ballot by other Members immediately following each general election, or when a vacancy occurs. The Speaker must maintain order in the House in an impartial manner and serve all MHAs equally.


Did You Know?

The nature of violence associated with the role of Speaker in the early days explains a current tradition of the House. Today the Speaker, upon election, pretends to be reluctant to take the Chair and must be dragged to the front of the Chamber.

History of the Role

The Speaker has been part of the British parliamentary system since 1377. The Office emerged when the Commons – the ordinary people – needed a person to bring their messages (often complaints or grievances) to the Monarch. This was by no means a safe or easy thing to do as the King or Queen was not always pleased with these messages. Some of the Speakers during that time met a violent death, and for this reason the potential spokesperson usually had to be pressured into accepting the responsibility.


Responsibilities of the Speaker

As the person of highest authority in the House, the Speaker sits on this chair situated at the end of the Chamber. It is also used by the Lieutenant Governor when delivering the Speech from the Throne.

The responsibilities of the Speaker can be divided into four categories:


Speaker of the 47th General Assembly

The current acting Speaker of the House of Assembly is the Hon. Wade Verge. He became acting Speaker on September 5, 2014.


Contact the Office of the Speaker

Office of the Speaker
Main Floor, East Block
P.O. Box 8700
St. John's, NL
A1B 4J6
Phone: (709) 729-3404
Email: SpeakerHOA@gov.nl.ca

Speaker Portraits

The Speakers’ portrait collection which encircles the Chamber of the House of Assembly is a proud testimony to the history and the governance of Newfoundland and Labrador. In 1949, shortly after Newfoundland joined Canada, Premier Joseph Smallwood commissioned the artist Richard Steiger to paint portraits of all of the pre-Confederation Speakers of the House of Assembly. Steiger was paid a lump sum of $6000.00 to deliver 26 framed portraits to the House. When the portraits were completed, the following speech was made in the House of Assembly:

"…we are reminded of the men who played a big part in the pages of Newfoundland history...they should serve us as an example of modesty, to be modest in our own ideas, not to think too much of ourselves, not to feel we are the only statesmen in the world, the only ones that God created in this country. I think I heard someone say one time: ‘The men here are the finest body of men who ever sat in this House.’ "

- John G. Higgins, Leader of the Opposition, while speaking about the hanging of portraits
  of pre-Confederation speakers in the House of Assembly in 1951.

In 1949, no likeness of the second Speaker of the House, Thomas Bennett (1788-1872), could be found, thereby preventing his portrait from being painted. The collection remained incomplete until 2008 when, after a three year search of local, national and international sources, a photograph of Speaker Bennett was discovered in England in the private collection of one of Bennett’s descendants. Newfoundland and Labrador artist Gerald Squires was commissioned to paint Thomas Bennett’s portrait, which was unveiled in the Chamber on April 22, 2008, thereby filling a 171 year old gap in our legislative history.

Transcription of the ceremony unveiling Thomas Bennett's portrait.

Past Speakers

1833 John Garland
1834-1837 Thomas Bennett
1838-1841 William Carson
1841-1843 Constitution Suspended
1843-1848 James Crowdy
1848-1855 John Kent
1855-1861 Ambrose Shea
1861-1865 F.B.T. Carter
1866-1870 William V. Whiteway
1870-1874 Thomas R. Bennett
1874-1877 Prescott Emerson
1877-1879 James S. Winter
1879-1883 A.J.W. McNeilly
1883-1885 Robert Kent
1885-1886 Robert Bond
1886-1890 A.J.W. McNeilly
1890-1898 George Emerson
1898-1901 Henry Y. Mott
1901-1905 Lawrence Furlong
1905-1910 Francis J. Morris
1910-1914 William R. Warren
1914-1918 John R. Goodison
1918-1920 William J. Higgins
1920-1923 William F. Penny
1923-1924 Harry A. Winter
1924-1928 Cyril Fox
1928-1932 Albert J. Walsh
1933-1934 James A. Winter
1934-1949 Responsible Government Suspended
1949-1956 Reginald F. Sparkes
1956-1962 John R. Courage
1962-1972 George W. Clarke
1972-1975 James Russell
1975-1979 Gerald R. Ottenheimer
1979-1982 Leonard Simms
1982-1985 James Russell
1985-1989 Patrick McNicholas
1989-1993 Thomas Lush
1993-1995 Paul Dicks
1995-2003 Lloyd Snow
2003-2007 Harvey Hodder
2007-2011 Roger Fitzgerald
2011-2014 Ross Wiseman
2014- Wade Verge