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Victoria's Savoie will play referee in parliament

MP named assistant deputy speaker of House in Ottawa

Victoria MP Denise Savoie will be at the centre of a much-touted effort to make House of Commons debates more civil and less antagonistic.

Savoie was named assistant deputy speaker of the House of Commons in a unanimous vote yesterday.

That means Savoie will be part of Speaker Peter Milliken's four-person team that referees the often acrimonious exchanges across the floor and shepherds bills, questions and debates through Parliament.

"I am honoured that my colleagues from all parties in the House of Commons have shown such confidence in me," Savoie said.

"I look forward to this challenge and opportunity to help make Parliament a more respectful and productive place to conduct the country's business."

Earlier this month, the Conservative government decided that parliamentary decorum should be improved.

With that in mind, NDP Leader Jack Layton said Savoie will bring wisdom to the position.

"I believe that Denise will help bring a better atmosphere of respect and dignity to the House debates," Layton said. "We are proud and honoured that a New Democrat has been chosen by the House for such an important role."

Constituency assistant Kelly Newhook said Savoie is good at making points effectively, but in a respectful manner.

"She can be quite diplomatic. She is not a hothead," Newhook said.

The appointment means Savoie will have to relinquish her appointment as NDP housing and transit critic.

However, unlike the Speaker, she will be able to participate in debates and said she plans to continue advocating for citizens of Victoria and will continue advising the caucus on the key issues of housing, homelessness and transit.

Savoie was scheduled to take the chair late yesterday afternoon when the House sat as committee of the whole.

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