Nathan Cooper, the UCP MLA for Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills, has been chosen as Speaker of the 30th Alberta legislature on Tuesday.
Cooper, just re-elected to his second term in office, was elected by a majority of MLAs through a secret ballot. His only opponent was Heather Sweet, the NDP MLA for Edmonton-Manning, who served as deputy chair of committees in the last assembly.
In a nod to parliamentary tradition, Cooper was “dragged” to the speaker’s chair by Premier Jason Kenney and NDP Official Opposition Leader Rachel Notley.
In his first remarks to the assembly as Speaker, Cooper paid tribute to his 89-year-old grandmother, Louise Cooper, who was dabbing tears from her eyes while she watched from the gallery.
“I can almost guarantee you that she never thought she would see a day where someone from her family would have achieved high office,” he told reporters afterwards.
“The sense of pride and honour she would have felt is really powerful for me to be able to represent her and really honour her legacy and her life.”
Angela Pitt, the UCP MLA for Airdrie-East, was chosen deputy speaker and chair of committees. Nick Milliken, a rookie UCP from Calgary-Currie, was chosen deputy chair of committees.
The NDP nominated Sweet for all three positions. Edmonton-Mill Woods MLA Christina Gray urged MLAs to set aside partisanship and choose Sweet, who had previous experience.
At 39, Cooper is the youngest Alberta Speaker since 1936. He is known for his love of parliamentary procedure and sense of humour.
His predecessor, Bob Wanner, used to stand silently when MLAs got out of hand.
Cooper said his technique to deal with unruly members will be to “try his very best Dad voice.” He said he plans to be consistent in applying the rules, especially for the length of members’ questions.
“I think the thing that I hope to do is strike the right balance of being a Speaker who has a keen sense of when to interject and when to allow the members of the assembly to continue in the cut and thrust of debate,” he said.