Nunavut MLA takes after his father, in the Speaker’s chair

MLA George Hickes sits in the Speaker’s chair at the Nunavut Legislative Assembly on Friday. It’s believed to be the first time in Canadian history the son of a former Speaker has also served as Speaker in a legislative assembly. Georges Hickes’s father was Speaker in Manitoba from 1999 to 2011. (Nunavut Legislative Assembly)

George Hickes, son of former Manitoba Speaker, filled in as Speaker in Nunavut on Friday

Nunavut MLA George Hickes took after his father on Friday, by filling in as Speaker of a legislative assembly — and he might have made history at the same time.

The Iqaluit-Tasiluk MLA, and deputy speaker, served as Speaker in Tony Akoak’s absence.

Hickes’s father — also George Hickes — was the Speaker of the Manitoba Legislature from 1999 to 2011, and so with his son taking up the seat in Nunavut on Friday, it’s believed to be the first time in Canadian history the child of a former Speaker has also taken up that role in a legislative assembly.

“Mr. Speaker, it’s not every day that we get to see history,” said Iqaluit-Sinaa MLA Janet Brewster who used her member statement to mark the occasion.

“I am so proud to be here to witness this,” she added, prompting a roaring applause from the House.

“Thank you for the kind words, member. I’m just keeping the seat warm for a day for Speaker Akoak. But I thank you very much,” replied Hickes, before continuing on with the orders of the day.

Dressed for success

Hickes even dressed for the occasion, donning a pair of Manitoba Legislative Assembly socks he got at a recent Speakers’ conference from someone in the clerk’s office who used to work with his father.

He also wore a special atigi (handmade parka) his grandmother made for his father — which he’s only worn on two other special occasions, delivering the budget address when he was finance minister.

Speaking with CBC News after Friday’s session, Hickes called it an “honour” when Akoak asked him to sit in.

Hickes said he texted his father earlier in the week to give him a heads-up.

“He watches every day anyway, so I’m looking forward to our next conversation on my performance,” Hickes said, smiling. “Oh yeah, I get my constructive criticism from him.”

Hickes, the MLA for Iqaluit-Tasiluk, shows off the Manitoba Legislative Assembly socks he wore to mark the day he sat in as Nunavut’s Speaker on Friday. (Nick Murray/CBC News)

Hickes, who was first elected to Nunavut’s Legislature in 2013, said there are several lessons he learned from his father’s 21-year career in Manitoba’s legislature.

“One thing I did take from my father’s career, is how important it is for the Speaker … to be non-partisan,” Hickes said.

“We work in a consensus-model of government, so that makes it a little bit easier than most jurisdictions, in the Speaker role, but at the same time it’s still very important with recognition of the regular members caucus, and cabinet.”

Hickes returned to his regular MLA role on Monday, when Akoak was back in the Speaker’s chair.

In an email to CBC News, the Library of Parliament was unable to say for sure whether it marked a Canadian first, saying it did not have such information compiled and it would take a considerable amount of time to verify.

Nick Murray, CBC News

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