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The Speakers of the Canadian House of Commons


Joseph-Godric Blanchet

W hen Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald nominated Dr. Joseph-Godric* Blanchet as Speaker in 1879, the Conservative MP from Quebec had already served as Speaker of the Quebec Legislative Assembly for eight years. He was the first and only Canadian to be Speaker of both the House of Commons and a provincial legislature. Blanchet had substantial parliamentary experience as a Quebec Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) from 1867 to 1875, and sat simultaneously as a federal MP in the House of Commons from 1867 to 1873 (double mandates were allowed until 1873). He was elected again as an MP in the general elections of 1875, 1878 and 1882. He had a reputation for political honesty and for being approachable.

Not unexpectedly, the Prime Minister spoke highly of Blanchet’s qualifications. Sir Leonard Tilley, Minister of Finance, seconded his nomination, and Alexander Mackenzie, Leader of the Opposition and former Prime Minister, expressed full confidence in Blanchet.

In addition to maintaining his medical practice, Blanchet was actively involved in the Canadian militia for some two decades. Like many Canadians, including Macdonald, he was concerned about the American Civil War spilling over the Canadian border. He was a supporter of the (defeated) 1862 Militia Bill introduced in the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada, and in 1863 he raised the 17th (Lévis) Battalion of Infantry. Lieutenant-colonel of the battalion until 1884, he commanded on the front lines during the 1866 and 1870 Fenian raids.

Blanchet’s four-year term as Speaker of the House of Commons, it has been reported, was “probably the least eventful of any 19th-century Speaker”: “no major scandals, no parliamentary crises and no English–French conflicts.” Perhaps the most controversial issue over which he presided — debate that prompted at least one all-night session in the House — concerned the federal disallowance of Ontario’s Rivers and Streams Act of 1881. Macdonald did not renominate him as Speaker following the 1882 general election, and Blanchet resigned his seat the next year to accept a government post in Quebec.

Blanchet advocated for the establishment of an official record of the deliberations of the House of Commons several years prior to Hansard’s introduction in the House in 1875.

Next Speaker: Hon. Sir George Airey Kirkpatrick

Previous Speaker: Timothy Warren Anglin

The names Godric, Godéric and Goderic are used interchangeably in different sources.Return to text ]

Artist: John Colin Forbes
Date: 1880

Born: St-Pierre, Lower Canada, 1829

Died: Lévis, Quebec, 1890

Professional Background:
Medicine, Military

Political Affiliation: Conservative

Political Record:

Prime Minister During Speakership: