The Speaker (Chair) is responsible for ensuring that the debate is conducted in an orderly and effective manner. The Speaker is required to know the rules and procedures of debate and to assist and direct debaters who deviate from these guidelines. The Speaker must remain impartial during the entire debate.
Symbol of Authority
The Speaker of the House is widely viewed as symbolizing the authority of the House. The Speaker’s most prominent role is that of presiding officer of the House. In this capacity he/she is empowered by members to administer proceedings on the House floor, including the power to recognize members on the floor to speak.
The Speaker presides over the House and ensures that everyone respects its rules and traditions and must be impartial and apply the rules to all Members equally.
The Speaker may introduce the club to those assembled, and explain the process of debates and debating as conducted at the Toronto debating Society.
Part of the introduction should include an introduction to the debating style, the timings of speakers, points of order (if applicable), the clubs view of heckling and audience participation.
In general, the Speaker has the following duties:
- Ensures that roles for the debate are filled. If not filled one week prior, is responsible to contact members and ask them to participate in the required positions.
- Reviews the definition of the motion to certify that it is debatable.
- Chairs the debate.
- Calls each debater to the podium.
- Rules on procedural violations.
- Concludes the debate and calls on the adjudicator to give critique.
Introduce the Debate
Following the meeting recess, the executive meeting chair will invite you to the podium to introduce the debate. What you wish to say will depend on your style as much as the level of experience in the teams and visitors to the House.
You may explain debating terms (optional):
- “Be it resolved … “
- The Government, the team in favour of the resolution
- Opposition: the team against the resolution
- Evidence: the proof used to support your case
- Refute: to show what is wrong with the other team’s evidence
- Rebuttal: summary of your best arguments
You may explain team responsibilities (sometimes useful):
- Define the resolution
- Present a plan to implement the resolution
- Prove that the resolution is necessary and beneficial
- Refute the arguments of the Opposition
- Refute the arguments of the Government
- Prove that there is no need for change
- Prove that the resolution is not beneficial
Starting the Debate (on camera)
Before the debate begins, the Speaker should do the following:
- Ask both teams if Points of Information are to be taken (or, state that the agenda stipulates that POI will be automatically accepted),
- ask for the video equipment to be turned on, and
- state: “Good evening. Welcome to the Toronto Debating Society. Tonight is _______ (date). This is a _______ (style) debate. The resolution is ________________. The first speaker is the Prime Minister, _______ (first name), who will speak to us for seven minutes. Please welcome _______ (first name).
As the debate continues, introduce each speaker in turn (do not use last names on camera). During speeches, the Speaker remains the ultimate authority figure and must intervene if necessary to restore the integrity of the debate.
Once the speeches and summations are complete, do the following:
- Dismiss the adjudicator(s) from the room,
- Ask that the voting ballots be distributed, and
- Ask for the video equipment to be switched off
The audience should be briefed about the intention of the voting: “keep in mind that this vote is not based on what you think about the resolution. Instead, your vote should indicate which side you think has been the most persuasive tonight. In other words, imagine you do not have an opinion, one way or the other, and ask yourself which side has presented the most compelling case.”
Once the ballots have been collected, the Speaker is to host a roundtable discussion with participation from the floor: “We have heard the entire debate. Now it is the turn of the Members to determine which side has been the most persuasive.”
The discussion may include comments from the audience about the topic, the resolution, the contents of the speeches or the style and strategy of the debating teams. The Speaker must remain impartial during the entire discussion. The Speaker must ensure that criticism of the debaters does not become excessive – especially when new participants are involved. At some point in the discussion, the Speaker should ask the informal question, “did your opinion change because of the debate?”
When the adjudicators return to the room, conclude the rountable discussion and request that the video equipment be turned back on.
Introduce the adjudicator. After the adjudicator has rendered the verdict, return to the podium and announce the result of the popular vote: “The vote was # in favor of the ____________ and # in favor of the ____________. I declare the motion [Carried/Defeated].” In the case of a tie, the speaker casts the deciding vote.
Invite the leader of the winning team to the podium to accept the “People’s Choice Award” (star trophy). Remain standing at the podium during the award presentation (have them come to you) for the benefit of the camera.