Leader of the Government in the Senate (Canada)

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Leader of the Government in the Senate
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The Leader of the Government in the Senate (French: Leader du gouvernement au Sénat) is a Senator who leads the government side in the Canadian Senate and is chiefly responsible for promoting and defending the government's program in the Upper House. The government leader's counterpart on the Opposition benches is the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. The Leader of the Government in the Senate is selected by the Prime Minister, and comes from the party that forms the government in the Canadian House of Commons regardless of whether or not that party commands a majority or plurality in the Senate. The position has almost always been held by a cabinet minister, except briefly in 1926, from 1958-63 and since 2013.

History[edit]

Early Canadian cabinets included several senators who would be answerable to the Senate for government actions, one of whom would serve as de facto government leader in the Senate. In the nineteenth century, it was not considered unusual for a senator to be Prime Minister. Sir John Joseph Caldwell Abbott and Sir Mackenzie Bowell served as prime minister from the Senate. Abbott and Bowell both found it difficult to lead the government from the Senate, however, and over time, the perceived legitimacy of the Senate declined. As time progressed, it became less common for senators to occupy prominent positions in Cabinet. From 1935 on, it was typical for a Cabinet to have only one senator who would have the position of minister without portfolio alongside the position of Leader of the Government in the Senate.

There have been a few rare occasions when the Leader of the Government in the Senate was not included in the Cabinet by virtue of a separate ministerial appointment, such as William Benjamin Ross who served in the position in 1926, and Walter Morley Aseltine and Alfred Johnson Brooks who were not included in the Cabinets of Prime Minister John Diefenbaker from 1958-1963. In 1968, the position of Leader of the Government in the Senate became an official cabinet position in its own right with the appointment of Paul Martin, Sr. (father of Canada's future prime minister, Paul Martin). From July 2013, under prime minister Stephen Harper, the government leader in the Senate was again a non-cabinet minister.

Occasionally, senators still hold senior cabinet positions (other than the Leader of the Government in the Senate) in order to ensure regional balance in Cabinet if the governing party is unable to elect members in a particular region or province, e.g., when the Progressive Conservative Party formed the government under the leadership of Joe Clark in 1979, and when the Liberal Party formed the government under the leadership of Pierre Trudeau in 1980. However, it is usually the case that the Leader of the Government in the Senate is the sole senator serving in Cabinet.

The responsibilities of the Leader of the Government in the Senate include:

  1. Planning and managing the government's legislative program in the Senate
  2. Answering all questions for the government during the Senate's Question Period
  3. Maintaining relations with the opposition on all matters concerning Senate activities
  4. Working with the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons to ensure the effective coordination of the government's legislative programme.

The government side in the Senate is the party that forms the government in the Canadian House of Commons. This means that the government party in the Senate may have fewer seats than the Opposition, particularly when a general election results in a new party forming government.

The office of Leader of the Government in the Senate has been held by Claude Carignan since August 20, 2013. When his predecessor, Marjory LeBreton, stepped down in July 2013 the Prime Minister's Office announced that the position, which was to be filled by the time Parliament returns in the fall, will be downgraded from cabinet level.[2]

Leaders of the Government in the Senate[edit]

Key:

Leader in the Senate Prime Minister
(Ministry)
Party Term of office
Alexander Campbell (1st time) Sir John A. Macdonald
(1)
Liberal-Conservative July 1, 1867 November 5, 1873
Luc Letellier de St-Just Alexander Mackenzie
(2)
Liberal November 5, 1873 December 14, 1876
Sir Richard William Scott (1st time) Liberal December 14, 1876 October 7, 1878
Alexander Campbell ('2nd time) Sir John A. Macdonald
(3)
Conservative October 18, 1878 January 26, 1887
Sir John Joseph Caldwell Abbott Conservative May 12, 1887 6 June 1891
Himself
(4)
16 June 1891 October 30, 1893
Sir Mackenzie Bowell Sir John Thompson
(5)
Conservative October 31, 1893 December 12, 1894
Himself
(6)
December 21, 1894 April 27, 1896
Sir Charles Tupper
(7)
April 27, 1896 August 19, 1896
Sir Oliver Mowat Sir Wilfrid Laurier
(8)
Liberal August 19, 1896 November 18, 1897
David Mills Liberal November 18, 1897 February 7, 1902
Sir Richard William Scott (2nd time) Liberal December 14, 1902 1908
Sir Richard John Cartwright Liberal 1909 October 6, 1911
Sir James Alexander Lougheed Sir Robert Borden
(9/10)
Conservative October 10, 1911 October 12, 1917
Unionist Party October 12, 1917 10 July 1920
Arthur Meighen
(11)
Conservative 10 July 1920 December 28, 1921
Raoul Dandurand (1st time) William Lyon Mackenzie King
(12)
Liberal December 29, 1921 June 28, 1926
William Benjamin Ross[n 1] Arthur Meighen
(13)
Conservative June 28, 1926 September 24, 1926
Raoul Dandurand (2nd time) William Lyon Mackenzie King
(14)
Liberal September 25, 1926 August 6, 1930
Wellington Bartley Willoughby R. B. Bennett
(15)
Conservative August 7, 1930 February 3, 1932
Arthur Meighen Conservative February 3, 1932 October 22, 1935
Raoul Dandurand (3rd time) William Lyon Mackenzie King
(16)
Liberal October 23, 1935 March 11, 1942
James Horace King Liberal May 26, 1942 August 24, 1945
Wishart McLea Robertson Liberal August 24, 1945 November 15, 1948
Louis St. Laurent
(17)
November 15, 1948 October 14, 1953
William Ross Macdonald (1st time) Liberal October 14, 1953 June 20, 1957
John Thomas Haig John Diefenbaker
(18)
Progressive Conservative October 9, 1957 May 11, 1958
Walter Morley Aseltine[n 1] Progressive Conservative May 12, 1958 August 31, 1962
Alfred Johnson Brooks[n 1] Progressive Conservative August 31, 1962 April 21, 1963
William Ross Macdonald (2nd time) Lester B. Pearson
(19)
Liberal April 22, 1963 February 2, 1964
John Joseph Connolly Liberal February 3, 1964 April 20, 1968
  Paul Joseph James Martin[n 2] Pierre Trudeau
(20)
Liberal April 20, 1968 August 7, 1974
Ray Perrault (1st time) Liberal August 8, 1974 June 3, 1979
Jacques Flynn Joe Clark
(21)
Progressive Conservative June 4, 1979 March 2, 1980
Ray Perrault (2nd time) Pierre Trudeau
(22)
Liberal March 3, 1980 September 29, 1982
Bud Olson Liberal September 30, 1982 June 29, 1984
Allan MacEachen John Turner
(23)
Liberal June 30, 1984 September 16, 1984
Duff Roblin Brian Mulroney
(24)
Progressive Conservative September 17, 1984 June 29, 1986
Lowell Murray Progressive Conservative June 30, 1986 June 24, 1993
Kim Campbell
(25)
June 24, 1993 November 3, 1993
Joyce Fairbairn Jean Chrétien
(26)
Liberal November 4, 1993 June 10, 1997
Alasdair Bernard Graham Liberal June 11, 1997 October 3, 1999
J. Bernard Boudreau Liberal October 4, 1999 January 8, 2001
Sharon Carstairs Liberal January 9, 2001 December 11, 2003
Jack Austin Paul Martin
(27)
Liberal December 12, 2003 February 6, 2006
Marjory LeBreton Stephen Harper
(28)
Conservative February 6, 2006 July 14, 2013
Claude Carignan[n 1] Conservative August 20, 2013 present
Notes
  1. ^ a b c d Not in the Cabinet
  2. ^ Until April 1, 1969, Martin was, as had been typical, Minister without portfolio while holding the unofficial post of leader of the government in the Senate. Thereafter, Leader of the Government in the Senate became an official ministerial office.

Sources[edit]

References[edit]

See also[edit]