New Saskatchewan Speaker
On November 30, 2020, Randy Weekes was elected Speaker of the Saskatchewan Legislature. The Saskatchewan Party MLA defeated five other challengers, including incumbent Speaker Mark Docherty, Greg Ottenbreit, Hugh Nerlien, Nadine Wilson and Lisa Lambert.
COVID-19 protocols meant the election had a very different look and feel than previous elections. Legislative officers sanitized the wooden ballot box after each round of voting and when Speaker Weekes addressed his colleagues after his victory he faced a rearranged Chamber. Only about half of the Assembly’s MLAs were present and they sat in spaced out desks behind plexiglass shields.
“I really am humbled by the trust you put in me,” Speaker Weekes said. “Thank you to all the members, especially the members who ran for Speaker.” He promised to serve without any bias and follow the rules and traditions of the assembly. He then thanked Mr. Docherty for his service.
A former minister responsible for rural and remote health and deputy government whip, Weekes has been the member for Biggar-Sask Valley since 1999 and is the longest serving Saskatchewan Party MLA. He was born in Biggar and still lives nearby.
New British Columbia Speaker
On December 7, 2020, Raj Chouhan was acclaimed as Speaker of British Columbia’s Legislative Assembly. He became the first person of South Asian heritage to serve as speaker in any legislature in Canada. Speaker Chouhan replaces outgoing Speaker Darryl Plecas.
The Burnaby-Edmonds MLA was first elected in 2005. He became Assistant Deputy Speaker in 2013 and has served as the Deputy Speaker since 2017.
“As a proud member of the Indo-Canadian community, I am tremendously proud of this historic occasion and honoured to continue my public service in this new role,” Speaker Chouhan said after his acclaimation. “I am truly grateful to have been entrusted with this role by all members of the legislative assembly,” he said.
Emigrating from Punjab, India, Mr. Chouhan landed in Canada in 1973. While working on a farm, he was fired for speaking up for the rights of his fellow workers. The experience prompted him to help found the Canadian Farmworkers’ Union in 1980.
Premier John Horgan praised Speaker Chouhan for his commitment to social justice and his strength in resisting and speaking out against racism wherever it emerged. “Coming from the fields and now overseeing the commons for all British Columbians is truly extraordinary,” the Premier said.
Speaker Chouhan said he planned to take steps to make the Legislative Assembly work place more friendly and more practical for everyone.
New New Brunswick Clerk
On November 13, 2020, Donald J. Forestell retired as Clerk of the Legislative Assembly. Mr. Forestell began his career at the Legislative Assembly in 1993 as Clerk Assistant. He was appointed Clerk of the Legislative Assembly by resolution of the House in 2012.
On December 18, based on the recommendation of the Legislative Administration Committee, Shayne Davies, the Deputy Clerk and Acting Clerk at the time, was appointed Clerk of the Legislative Assembly by resolution of the House. Mr. Davies began his career at the Legislative Assembly in 2000 as a Committee Clerk.
Raised in New Brunswick, Mr. Davies graduated from the University of New Brunswick with a degree in Business Administration in 1995 and a Bachelor of Laws degree in 1999.
Mr. Davies articled with the New Brunswick Court of Appeal and was admitted to the practice of law in New Brunswick in 2000. He briefly practiced law as a sole practitioner before assuming the position of Committee Clerk with the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick.
In 2003, he was promoted to the position of Clerk Assistant and Committee Clerk, and in 2018 he was further promoted to the position of Deputy Clerk.
Mr. Davies is currently the vice-president of the Canadian Association of Clerks-at-the-Table.
New Nova Scotia Clerk
James Charlton was appointed Chief Clerk of the Nova Scotia House of Assembly effective November 30, 2020. Mr. Charlton replaces Acting Chief Clerk Annette Boucher. Ms. Boucher, who retired from the Assembly in December, had been in the role since the retirement of former Chief Clerk Neil Ferguson in February 2020.
Formerly Chief Legislative Counsel of Alberta, from 2019–2020, Mr. Charlton also served as Legislative Counsel with the Nova Scotia Office of the Legislative Counsel from 2011–2018, Law Clerk with the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal 2010–2011 and Research Officer with the Legislative Research Service, Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 2008–2010.
He holds an LL.B. from the University of New Brunswick (2005) and an LL.M. from the University of Toronto (2007).