September 15, 1994 – October 17, 2011
|Appointed by||Jean Chrétien|
|Member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba for River Heights|
|Preceded by||Warren Steen|
|Succeeded by||Mike Radcliffe|
|Leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party|
|Preceded by||Doug Lauchlan|
|Succeeded by||Paul Edwards|
|Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba|
|Preceded by||Gary Filmon|
|Succeeded by||Gary Doer|
April 26, 1942 |
Halifax, Nova Scotia
|Manitoba Liberal Party|
|Relations||Harold Connolly, father|
Minister with Special Responsibility for Palliative Care (2001-2003)
Leader of the Government in the Senate (2001-2003)
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate (1997-1999)
Carstairs was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the daughter of former Nova Scotia Premier Harold Connolly and his wife Vivian. She was educated at Dalhousie University, Smith College, Georgetown University, and the University of Calgary.
She later moved to Western Canada, and was an unsuccessful Liberal candidate for Calgary-Elbow in the 1975 Alberta provincial election. She served as President of the Alberta Liberal Party between 1975 and 1977, and was on the national executive of the Liberal Party of Canada in the same period.
Manitoba Liberal leader
Carstairs became leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party in 1984, at a time when the party held no seats in the legislature. She was defeated in a 1984 by-election in Fort Garry, but was elected for River Heights in the 1986 provincial election, defeating incumbent Tory Warren Steen. For the next two years, she was the only Liberal in the legislature.
Carstairs led the Liberal Party to a dramatic resurgence in the 1988 provincial election. The New Democratic Party had lost much of its support base, and Carstairs's Liberals managed to win the votes of many centre-left electors. The party won 20 of 57 seats for their best showing since 1953, and Carstairs became leader of the opposition, the first woman to hold such a position in any Canadian legislature.
The 1988 election saw the election of a Progressive Conservative minority government under Gary Filmon and the reduction of the New Democratic Party of Manitoba from government to third party status. It initially seemed that Carstairs had a strong opportunity to lead the Liberals to victory in the following election. The 1990 election, however, saw the Tories returned with a majority government and a resurgent NDP under Gary Doer regain official opposition status. The Liberals were reduced to only seven seats, and Carstairs was blamed by many in the party for squandering their best chance in years to form government.
A strong opponent of the Meech Lake Accords, Carstairs remained party leader and, in 1992, campaigned for the "No" side on the Charlottetown Accord, with financial assistance from former Manitoba Liberal Party leader Israel Asper. Her efforts were opposed by others in the Liberal Party, and she frequently argued with Lloyd Axworthy on constitutional matters. Carstairs resigned as party leader in 1993, and the party has continued to decline since her departure. Also in 1993, Carstairs published an autobiography entitled Not One of the Boys.
On September 15, 1994, at the recommendation of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, Governor General Ray Hnatyshyn appointed Carstairs to the Canadian Senate. Carstairs had supported Chrétien's campaign to become party leader in 1990.
She held the position of Leader of the Government in the Senate from January 2001 to December 2003, and also served as Minister with Special Responsibility for Palliative Care in Chretien's cabinet.
She did not serve in the cabinet of Chretien's successor, Paul Martin, when he took office in December 2003.
From April 2006 until December 2009, Carstairs continued her earlier work in cabinet by serving as chairperson of the Special Committee on Aging which issued a report that helped get palliative care added to the core curriculum in Canadian medical schools. She also helped create the Canadian Virtual Hospice, a website with information on palliative care.
In October 2011, Carstairs announced she was resigning from the Senate, six years earlier than required, in order to return to private life.
In retirement, she and her husband intend to remain in Ottawa to be close to their children and Carstairs intends to chair a board for a network centre of excellence on caring for the frail elderly, pending the approval of a grant from the federal government.
- Rabson, Mia (October 7, 2011). "Carstairs retiring from Senate, politics". Winnipeg Free Press. Retrieved October 26, 2011.
|26th Ministry – Cabinet of Jean Chrétien|
|Cabinet Post (1)|
|Bernie Boudreau||Leader of the Government in the Senate