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The Speakers of the Canadian House of Commons

 

Hon. Rodolphe Lemieux
P.C. (1922–1930)

When he was elected Speaker at the age of 55, Rodolphe Lemieux had already distinguished himself in a remarkable variety of careers. By 1922 he had been a lawyer, a law professor, and a federal cabinet minister heading five different departments. In total he was elected 10 times as a Liberal MP (actually 12, because twice he ran for and won two seats simultaneously, allowable under the legislation at the time). As a student at the University of Ottawa he had often gone to the House to listen to the debates rather than studying, and he soon turned his substantial oratorical gifts to campaigning for the Liberal party.

Lemieux had Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier’s complete confidence. He entered the House in 1896, when Laurier was forming his first government, and was his loyal lieutenant until Laurier’s defeat by Conservative Robert Borden in 1911. Relations with Prime Minister Mackenzie King were not nearly as warm (in 1921 King had defeated Borden’s successor as Prime Minister, Arthur Meighen). Perhaps jealous of Ernest Lapointe’s position as King’s Quebec lieutenant, Lemieux declined a cabinet post but accepted King’s nomination for Speaker.

Lemieux’s first election as Speaker in 1922 did not go smoothly. Leader of the Opposition Arthur Meighen acknowledged that Lemieux was a superlative candidate, with a quarter-century of continuous service in the House. But he strongly objected to King’s announcement two months earlier that Lemieux would be selected as Speaker, as if the Prime Minster were making an appointment rather than a nomination. He also raised the fact that it had been Canadian practice to nominate the Deputy Speaker to succeed the former Speaker (though this had not been consistently applied).

Lemieux was re-elected as Speaker in both the 15th and 16th Parliaments. In the December 1926 election for Speaker, the Conservative acting Leader of the Opposition, Hugh Guthrie, formally protested the nomination of Lemieux because it violated the practice since Confederation of alternating between French- and English-speaking Speakers. After extended debate Lemieux was re-elected nonetheless, the first Speaker to preside over three consecutive Parliaments.

Although he had been fiercely Liberal for decades, as Speaker he tried to remove himself entirely from partisan politics. His approach would come in very useful when he was in the Chair in 1926 during the heated King–Byng constitutional crisis. On Lemieux’s retirement in 1930 King appointed him to the Senate.

After a career as a journalist with La Patrie, La Presse, and the Montreal Times, Lemieux wrote two legal texts and many political pamphlets.

Next Speaker: Hon. George Black

Previous Speaker: Hon. Edgar Nelson Rhodes


Artist: Jacqueline Comerre Paton
Date: circa 1924

Born: Montréal, Quebec, 1866

Died: Montréal, Quebec, 1937

Professional Background: Law

Political Affiliation: Liberal

Political Record:

Prime Minister During Speakership: