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The Speakers of the Canadian House of Commons

 

Hon. Gaspard Fauteux
P.C. (1945–1949)

In nominating Gaspard Fauteux as Speaker in 1945, Prime Minister Mackenzie King referred to his parliamentary experience, patience and impartiality. Moreover, he was the grandson of Honoré Mercier, former Premier of Quebec, and nephew of Sir Lomer Gouin, former Premier of Quebec and former federal Minister of Justice and Attorney General. Fauteux was well known for defeating Montréal’s Mayor Camillien Houde in the 1931 Quebec provincial election. Houde was interned for sedition during the Second World War, and Fauteux defeated him again in the 1945 federal general election. Fauteux was somewhat reticent about accepting the Speaker’s post, telling King that “I am a dentist, not a lawyer.”

The Prime Minister, however, had chosen not to consult the Progressive Conservative Leader of the Opposition, John Bracken, and acerbic debate preceded Fauteux’s nomination and unanimous election. It was not an auspicious start. During his four years in the Chair, a number of his rulings upset opposition members. He chided Bracken for reading his maiden speech; he pointedly ruled out non-urgent questions before the Orders of the Day (an issue that would bedevil future Speakers); opposition members protested his preventing certain questions from being asked; he cut off questions about his rulings; and he apparently decided arbitrarily whether or not he would recognize an MP — several times he left the Chair while MPs were seeking to speak.

At the same time, he was open to streamlining and updating many practices and procedures of the House. Acknowledging widespread criticism by MPs, in 1947 he tabled his own Report onProcedure making proposals on many controversial matters. Following the revelations concerning postwar Soviet espionage by Igor Gouzenko, a cipher clerk for the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa, Fauteux was Speaker when the House received interim reports from the Royal Commission established in 1946 to investigate espionage. When the House received the court judgement finding Fred Rose — a second-term Communist MP — guilty of conspiracy and violating the Official Secrets Act 1939, it expelled Rose on January 30, 1947.

Successful in the 1949 general election, Fauteux resigned the Speakership; the following year he was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Quebec.

The only dentist to become Speaker, in the First World War, Fauteux volunteered for the first military dental service in the Empire — the Canadian Army Dental Corps.

Next Speaker: Hon. William Ross MacDonald

Previous Speaker: Hon. James Allison Glen


Artist: Kenneth Keith Forbes
Date: 1946

Born: St-Hyacinthe, Quebec, 1898

Died: Montréal, Quebec, 1963

Professional Background:
Dentistry, Industry, Military

Political Affiliation: Liberal

Political Record:

Prime Minister During Speakership: