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The Speakers of the Canadian House of Commons

 

Hon. Louis-René Beaudoin
P.C. (1953–1957)

Louis-René Beaudoin was elected Speaker in 1953 with high expectations. Three times successful as a Liberal in the general elections of 1945, 1949 and 1953, and with a year’s seasoning as Deputy Speaker, he was nominated by Prime Minister Louis St-Laurent and seconded by Progressive Conservative leader George Drew. Beaudoin soon became recognized for his fairness, procedural knowledge (he started but did not finish writing a book on parliamentary procedure), wit and urbanity: perhaps even as one of the best Speakers in Canadian history.

Beaudoin’s career as Speaker was irrevocably damaged in late May and early June of 1956 during the infamous “Pipeline Debate.” An American-owned company needed additional funds to complete a natural gas pipeline from Burstall, Saskatchewan, to Montréal. On May 31, 1956, the government decided to impose closure on debate of a bill to provide the loan.

Following a confused sitting, the next day the Speaker sought to reverse several procedural mistakes, and to revert to earlier business, nullifying part of the previous afternoon’s debate. The result was chaos on the floor of the House. The outraged opposition parties claimed that the Speaker had succumbed to government pressure, and some members stormed the Chair. Government members sang songs to counter catcalls. The normally calm leader of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), M.J. Coldwell, mounted the Speaker’s dais shaking his fist. The Speaker’s rulings were sustained on appeal, and the government eventually passed the loan legislation. In this acrimonious environment, however, a motion of censure was moved against the Speaker for the first time in Canadian parliamentary history; while it was ultimately defeated, Beaudoin was unable to recover fully from the experience.

Beaudoin resigned the speakership at the end of the session, and although he retained his seat in the 1957 general election, he did not run again. Later he unsuccessfully attempted a political comeback.

During the Second World War, Beaudoin translated and broadcast speeches by wartime leaders, and became the host of his own radio show.

Next Speaker: Right Hon. Daniel Roland Michener

Previous Speaker: Hon. William Ross MacDonald


Artist: Kenneth Keith Forbes
Date: 1960

Born: Montréal, Quebec, 1912

Died: Montréal, Quebec, 1970

Professional Background: Law

Political Affiliation: Liberal

Political Record:

Prime Minister During Speakership: