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|
|Leader of the Second Opposition in the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba|
|Preceded by||Gary Doer|
|Succeeded by||Paul Edwards|
|Born||April 26, 1942|
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
|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 and federal Senator 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 came second to Progressive Conservative candidate Charlie Birt in a 1984 by-election in the south Winnipeg electoral district of Fort Garry, but was elected for the central Winnipeg district of 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, which saw the New Democratic Party of Manitoba under Howard Pawley reduced from government to third party status, and the election of a Progressive Conservative minority government under Gary Filmon. Carstairs' Liberals won 20 of 57 seats for their best showing since 1953, largely by drawing many centre-left voters from the NDP. Carstairs became leader of the opposition, the first woman to hold such a position in any Canadian legislature.
Having led the party out of almost 20 years in the political wilderness, it initially seemed that Carstairs had a strong opportunity to lead the Liberals to victory in the following election. Had she done so, she would have become the first woman elected in her own right as a provincial premier in Canada. 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. Many Liberals felt Carstairs had squandered their best chance in three decades 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 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 was succeeded by MLA Paul Edwards. The party has continued to decline since her departure, and has never come anywhere near as close to winning government as it did in 1988; it has only briefly held official party status for slightly more than a year in 2018–19 since.
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 Senate of Canada. 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 retirement, she and her husband intended to remain in Ottawa to be close to their children. Carstairs became chair of the board for a network centre of excellence on caring for the frail elderly, pending the approval of a grant from the federal government.
Honours and awards
- Sharon Carstairs – Parliament of Canada biography
- "Carstairs announces retirement from politics". Winnipeg Free Press. March 26, 2011. Retrieved 2014-04-28.
- "People" (PDF). Canadian Parliamentary Review: 37. Winter 1984–1985. Retrieved 2014-04-28.
- "River Heights". Manitoba Votes 2003. CBC News. Retrieved 2014-04-28.
- "Sharon Carstairs: voice of the Liberals". CBC Digital Archives. CBC News. Retrieved 2014-04-28.
- Rabson, Mia (October 7, 2011). "Carstairs retiring from Senate, politics". Winnipeg Free Press. Retrieved October 26, 2011.
- "2015 June Report of the Auditor General of Canada to the Senate of Canada: Senators' Expenses: Appendix A—Files recommended for referral to other authorities: Senator Sharon Carstairs (resigned)". Government of Canada. 2015. Retrieved May 7, 2021.
- "Former Manitoba senators Sharon Carstairs and Rod Zimmer under scrutiny". CBC. June 5, 2015. Retrieved April 23, 2016.
- Thibedeau, Hannah (2 March 2017). "Sharon Carstairs asks Senate to reimburse legal fees after expenses scandal". CBC.
- CBC News (10 March 2017). "Sharon Carstairs loses appeal to have $80K legal fees covered by Senate". CBC.
- Globe and Mail Staff (June 30, 2016). "Canada's Honour Roll". Globe and Mail.