Society

FAREWELL TO PETER MILLIKEN

In the February 2008 Interiors edition, Ottawa Magazine featured a photographic series entitled “In My Bedroom.” Among the seven notables who participated in the shoot was Speaker of the House Peter Milliken, who posed in the Speaker’s apartment. Mr. Milliken’s final day as Speaker of the House of Commons was Friday, March 25, 2011.

TEXT: Michael Prentice
PORTRAIT: Colin Rowe

SPEAKER PEEK: PETER MILLIKEN

Peter Milliken has one of the toughest jobs in Canada: keeping order among unruly MPs as Speaker of the House of Commons. He loves it and is good at it, enjoying the respect of all for his tact and impartiality. He became hooked on parliamentary procedure while a teenager, studying the verbatim record of debates. There are benefits for the 61-year-old bachelor to being Speaker: he has a small apartment just down the hall from his spacious offices and a grand official residence in Gatineau Park (the Farm), across the Ottawa River in Quebec. It’s where late prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King lived and died.

Ready for bed: A good-natured Peter Milliken poses in fuzzy slippers for a 2008 Ottawa Magazine shoot. Photo: Colin Rowe

MY SPACE

I probably spend 150 nights a year at the Farm. I’m not sleeping in Mackenzie King’s bed at present. His bed is narrow and single, but quite comfortable. I assume they changed the mattress from the one he used. I like to try sleeping in different rooms of the house. At the moment, I’m sleeping in the master bedroom.

I probably spend only five or six nights a year in the Speaker’s apartment on the Hill. I may stay there when the House is sitting late or on the weekend when I don’t have a driver. There used to be a hide-a-bed, which was terribly uncomfortable. Now there’s a couch I sleep on.

MY DAYS

I get my own meals, unless I’m entertaining, which I don’t very often at the Farm. A favourite meal I prepare for myself? Steak, I guess. There is no kitchen in the apartment on the Hill, so I have to go to the cafeteria. It’s just not handy. When I am at the Farm, I like to go cross-country skiing and walking on the trails around the house. White-water canoeing is a hobby I’ve enjoyed since I was a boy.

My workday is often 13 or 14 hours when the House is sitting.

When I am in Kingston [where his riding is situated], I look forward to spending time in the home I had built in 1985. I also have an old family cottage near Renfrew.

MY WORK

I do a lot of international travel and travelling in Canada as part of the job. What I like best about my job is dealing with members of the House. They are very nice to me. There’s not much I don’t like about my job. I guess the hours more than anything. In five years’ time, I expect either to be retired or still be Speaker.