The election of a Speaker is the first task of a new general assembly. After an election, the House of Assembly must elect a Speaker before it can conduct any other business.
The Speaker is chosen by his or her peers in the House of Assembly. Any member can nominate another member for the position and the nominated member must accept the nomination. All members are eligible except cabinet ministers, the leader of the official opposition and leaders of recognized parties.
If only one candidate is nominated, he or she is declared Speaker. If there is more than one candidate, an election is held by secret ballot.
Election proceedings are presided over by the chief clerk. The chief clerk distributes the ballots to members, who vote by printing the name of their preferred candidate on a ballot and placing it in a receptacle provided by the chief clerk. All members are eligible to vote.
The chief clerk leaves the chamber to count the ballots, then returns to announce the result. A candidate who receives a majority of the votes cast is declared Speaker. If no candidate receives a majority of votes, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. Because the Speaker must be elected by a majority of votes, the procedure is repeated until a majority is achieved. The ballots are destroyed by the chief clerk.
Once a Speaker-elect is declared, he or she is escorted to the chair by the premier and the leader of the official opposition. It is customary for the new Speaker to resist taking the chair. Historically, the position of Speaker was a dangerous one. Seven Speakers were executed by the monarch between the 14th and 16th centuries for delivering news from Parliament that the monarch did not like. The feigned reluctance of modern day Speakers is a nod to their ill-fated predecessors.