Leader of the Government in the Senate (Canada)
|Leader of the Government in the Senate
Leader du gouvernement au Sénat
|Member of||Senate of Canada
Cabinet of Canada (often, though not always)
|Reports to||Prime Minister of Canada|
|Appointer||Prime Minister of Canada|
|Formation||1 July 1867|
|First holder||Alexander Campbell|
|This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
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.
At present, due to current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's 2014 decision to remove senators from the Liberal Party of Canada caucus, leaving them all effectively sitting as independent senators, no Leader of the Government in the Senate has been named in the 42nd Canadian Parliament. The situation has created some uncertainty about how the Senate will function, and how government legislation will be brought to the Senate.
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. Today, it is rare 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:
- Planning and managing the government's legislative program in the Senate
- Answering all questions for the government during the Senate's Question Period
- Maintaining relations with the opposition on all matters concerning Senate activities
- 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.
Leaders of the Government in the Senate
|Leader in the Senate||Term of office||Prime Minister
|Alexander Campbell (1st time)||July 1, 1867||November 5, 1873||Sir John A. Macdonald
|Luc Letellier de St-Just||November 5, 1873||December 14, 1876||Alexander Mackenzie
|Sir Richard William Scott (1st time)||December 14, 1876||October 7, 1878|
|Alexander Campbell (2nd time)||October 18, 1878||January 26, 1887||Sir John A. Macdonald
|Sir John Joseph Caldwell Abbott||May 12, 1887||6 June 1891|
|16 June 1891||October 30, 1893||Himself
|Sir Mackenzie Bowell||October 31, 1893||December 12, 1894||Sir John Thompson
|December 21, 1894||April 27, 1896||Himself
|April 27, 1896||August 19, 1896||Sir Charles Tupper
|Sir Oliver Mowat||August 19, 1896||November 18, 1897||Sir Wilfrid Laurier
|David Mills||November 18, 1897||February 7, 1902|
|Sir Richard William Scott (2nd time)||December 14, 1902||1908|
|Sir Richard John Cartwright||1909||October 6, 1911|
|Sir James Alexander Lougheed||October 10, 1911||October 12, 1917||Sir Robert Borden
|October 12, 1917||10 July 1920||Unionist Party|
|10 July 1920||December 28, 1921||Arthur Meighen
|Raoul Dandurand (1st time)||December 29, 1921||June 28, 1926||William Lyon Mackenzie King
|William Benjamin Ross[n 1]||June 28, 1926||September 24, 1926||Arthur Meighen
|Raoul Dandurand (2nd time)||September 25, 1926||August 6, 1930||William Lyon Mackenzie King
|Wellington Bartley Willoughby||August 7, 1930||February 3, 1932||R. B. Bennett
|February 3, 1932||October 22, 1935||Arthur Meighen|
|Raoul Dandurand (3rd time)||October 23, 1935||March 11, 1942||William Lyon Mackenzie King
|James Horace King||May 26, 1942||August 24, 1945|
|Wishart McLea Robertson||August 24, 1945||November 15, 1948|
|November 15, 1948||October 14, 1953||Louis St. Laurent
|William Ross Macdonald (1st time)||October 14, 1953||June 20, 1957|
|John Thomas Haig||October 9, 1957||May 11, 1958||John Diefenbaker
|Walter Morley Aseltine[n 1]||May 12, 1958||August 31, 1962|
|Alfred Johnson Brooks[n 1]||August 31, 1962||April 21, 1963|
|William Ross Macdonald (2nd time)||April 22, 1963||February 2, 1964||Lester B. Pearson
|John Joseph Connolly||February 3, 1964||April 20, 1968|
|Paul Joseph James Martin[n 2]||April 20, 1968||August 7, 1974||Pierre Trudeau
|Ray Perrault (1st time)||August 8, 1974||June 3, 1979|
|Jacques Flynn||June 4, 1979||March 2, 1980||Joe Clark
|Ray Perrault (2nd time)||March 3, 1980||September 29, 1982||Pierre Trudeau
|Bud Olson||September 30, 1982||June 29, 1984|
|Allan MacEachen||June 30, 1984||September 16, 1984||John Turner
|Dufferin Roblin||September 17, 1984||June 29, 1986||Brian Mulroney
|Lowell Murray||June 30, 1986||June 24, 1993|
|June 24, 1993||November 3, 1993||Kim Campbell
|Joyce Fairbairn||November 4, 1993||June 10, 1997||Jean Chrétien
|Alasdair Bernard Graham||June 11, 1997||October 3, 1999|
|J. Bernard Boudreau||October 4, 1999||January 8, 2001|
|Sharon Carstairs||January 9, 2001||December 11, 2003|
|Jack Austin||December 12, 2003||February 6, 2006||Paul Martin
|Marjory LeBreton||February 6, 2006||July 14, 2013||Stephen Harper
|Claude Carignan[n 1]||August 20, 2013||November 3, 2015|
|vacant||November 4, 2015||present||Justin Trudeau
- Not in the Cabinet
- 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.
- "4 issues hanging on Justin Trudeau’s plans for the Senate". Toronto Star, November 8, 2015.
- "Readying a shuffle, Harper severs Senate's connection to cabinet". Globe and Mail. July 4, 2013. Retrieved July 5, 2013.