Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Canada)

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Leader of the Opposition in the Senate
Chef de l'opposition au Sénat
Larry Smith.png
Larry Smith

since April 1, 2017
StyleThe Honourable
Member ofSenate of Canada
AppointerElected by the caucus of the official opposition in the Senate
Inaugural holderLuc Letellier de St-Just
Formation1 July 1867
DeputyDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate
Salary$186,900 (2017)[1]
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In Canada, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (French: Chef de l'opposition au Sénat) is the leader of the largest party in the Senate not in government.

Even though the position's name is very similar to the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons (the Opposition House Leader), the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate's role is more analogous to the Leader of the Official Opposition because its holder is the leader of the party's Senate caucus. The responsibilities that, in the House of Commons, are done by the house leaders—including day-to-day scheduling of business—are undertaken in the Senate by Government and Opposition deputy leaders and Opposition whips.[2]


Since it is the House of Commons of Canada that determines what party(ies) form government, the size of party caucuses in the Senate bear no relation to which party forms the government side in the Senate and which party forms the opposition. Thus, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate may lead more Senators than the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Since, normally senators have longer tenure than MPs, this is often the case immediately following a change in government, until the new prime minister can appoint more people from their party.

The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate is not necessarily from the same party as the opposition in the House of Commons. From 1993 until 2003 the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate was a Progressive Conservative despite the fact the Progressive Conservatives were not the Official Opposition in the House of Commons. The Official Opposition in the Commons; (Bloc Québécois, Reform, Canadian Alliance) did not have Senate representation. This scenario repeated itself following the results of the 2011 election that saw the Liberal Party lose Official Opposition status in the House to the New Democratic Party — since the NDP has no representation in the Senate (and favours abolition of the chamber) the Liberals would form the Official Opposition in the Senate.

There are no set rules governing the manner in which the position is filled from within caucuses. When the Conservative Party and its predecessor the Progressive Conservative party have been in opposition, the party's Senate caucus has historically elected its own leader, although as noted by John Williams in a 1956 book on the Conservative party it may choose to follow the wishes of the national leader.[3]

Senator Jacques Flynn was unopposed in 1967 after being encouraged to seek the position by the then national leader Robert Stanfield.[4] However, Senators John Lynch Staunton in 1993[5] and Noël Kinsella in 2004[6] were elected by their colleagues over other contenders. In a November 10, 2015 Canadian Press story, Senator Claude Carignan referenced his election to the position of Senate Opposition Leader.[7] Senator Larry Smith was elected Senate Opposition Leader on March 28, 2017, defeating Senators Linda Frum and Stephen Greene in a vote of the Conservative Senate caucus.[8]

The traditional practice of the Liberal party in opposition had been for their national leader to select their leader in the Senate.

On the morning of January 29, 2014, Justin Trudeau announced that Liberal Senators would no longer be members of the national Liberal caucus, and wrote to Senate Speaker Noël Kinsella to advise him that "Senators, who were previously members of the Liberal National Parliamentary Caucus, are no longer members of this Caucus, and as such, are independent Senators." (Debates of the Senate, January 29, 2014).

When the Senate met in the afternoon, the first order of business was a discussion of that status of the Liberal Senators, and that of their leader.

Senator Jim Cowan informed the Senate that the Liberal Senators remained Liberals, and that "when we met this morning following Mr. Trudeau's announcement, my colleagues voted to confirm our leadership team. Accordingly, I will continue to serve as Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. Senator Fraser was similarly elected to serve as deputy leader, Senator Munson as our caucus whip and Senator Hubley as deputy whip. As well, Senator Mitchell will continue as chair of our caucus." (Debates of the Senate, January 29, 2014).

Following a lengthy discussion, the Senate Speaker ruled that the Liberal Senators met the definition under the Senate rules of being a caucus of at least five Senators of the same political party, that the rules state that the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate is the head of the party other than the government party with the most Senators, and that "as has been indicated by Senator Cowan, he has been elected by his colleagues and, therefore, meets the definition of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate." (Debates of the Senate, January 29, 2014).

List of Leaders of the Opposition in the Senate[edit]

Name[9] Party Took Office Left Office
     Luc Letellier de St-Just Liberal July 1, 1867 November 5, 1873
     Alexander Campbell Conservative November 7, 1873 October 8, 1878
     Sir Richard William Scott Liberal October 8, 1878 April 27, 1896
     Sir Mackenzie Bowell Conservative April 27, 1896 March 1, 1906
     Sir James Alexander Lougheed Conservative April 1, 1906 October 6, 1911
     Sir Richard John Cartwright Liberal October 6, 1911 September 24, 1912
     Sir George William Ross Liberal September 24, 1912 March 7, 1914
     Hewitt Bostock Liberal March 19, 1914 January 1, 1919
     Raoul Dandurand Liberal January 1, 1919 December 31, 1919
     Hewitt Bostock (2nd time) Liberal January 1, 1920 December 28, 1921
     Sir James Alexander Lougheed (2nd time) Conservative December 28, 1921 November 2, 1925
     William Benjamin Ross Conservative January 1, 1926 June 28, 1926
     Raoul Dandurand (2nd time) Liberal June 29, 1926 December 31, 1926
     William Benjamin Ross (2nd time) Conservative December 31, 1926 January 10, 1929
     Wellington Bartley Willoughby Conservative January 11, 1929 August 7, 1930
     Raoul Dandurand (3rd time) Liberal August 7, 1930 October 22, 1935
     Arthur Meighen Conservative October 22, 1935 January 16, 1942
     Charles Colquhoun Ballantyne Conservative January 16, 1942 December 10, 1942
     Progressive Conservative December 11, 1942 September 11, 1945
     John Thomas Haig Progressive Conservative September 12, 1945 June 20, 1957
     William Ross Macdonald Liberal June 20, 1957 April 21, 1963
     Alfred Johnson Brooks Progressive Conservative April 22, 1963 October 31, 1967
     Jacques Flynn Progressive Conservative October 31, 1967 June 3, 1979
     Ray Perrault Liberal June 3, 1979 March 2, 1980
     Jacques Flynn (2nd time) Progressive Conservative March 3, 1980 September 16, 1984
     Allan MacEachen Liberal September 16, 1984 November 30, 1991
     Royce Herbert Frith Liberal November 30, 1991 October 25, 1993
     John Lynch-Staunton Progressive Conservative October 25, 1993 February 1, 2004
  Conservative February 2, 2004 September 30, 2004
  Noël A. Kinsella Conservative October 1, 2004 February 7, 2006
     Dan Hays Liberal February 8, 2006 January 18, 2007
     Céline Hervieux-Payette Liberal January 18, 2007 November 3, 2008
  Jim Cowan Liberal November 3, 2008 January 29, 2014
  Senate Liberal Caucus January 29, 2014 November 5, 2015
  Claude Carignan Conservative November 5, 2015 March 31, 2017
  Larry Smith Conservative April 1, 2017 Incumbent

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Indemnities, Salaries and Allowances". Parliament of Canada.
  2. ^ "Senate of Canada - Fact Sheet - Key roles in the Senate". Parl.gc.ca. Retrieved November 8, 2012.
  3. ^ John R. Williams, The Conservative Party of Canada 1920 to 1949, Duke University Press, 1956, pg. 193.
  4. ^ Jacques Flynn, Un Bleu du Québec à Ottawa, Editions Du Septentrion, 1998 pg. 207
  5. ^ Tories get new Senate leader; Toronto Star. Toronto, Ont.: December 15, 1993
  6. ^ Sean Gordon, Tories elect leader in Senate; National Post, September 30, 2004
  7. ^ http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/canadian-politics/conservative-senate-leader-vows-not-to-abuse-majority-to-thwart-trudeau-liberals-agenda
  8. ^ http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/larry-smith-conservative-leader-senate-1.4044188
  9. ^ "Political Officers - Senate - Leaders of the Opposition 1867 to Date". Parliament of Canada.