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The Speakers of the Canadian House of Commons

 

Right Hon. Daniel Roland Michener
P.C., C.C., C.M.M., CD, Q.C., O.Ont., LL.D.(1957–1962)

A year after Roland Michener was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in 1945, Premier George Drew appointed him to the Cabinet — a decision that would have an unintended and long-lasting effect on Michener’s political future. In 1948 Drew successfully ran for the leadership of the federal Progressive Conservative party, defeating John Diefenbaker on the first ballot. When Diefenbaker became leader and then Prime Minister in 1957, he was still irritated that Michener — by now a Progressive Conservative MP — had not supported him nearly a decade earlier. Diefenbaker did not invite Michener to join his Cabinet, and only after Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) MP Stanley Knowles turned down his offer to be nominated for Speaker did the Prime Minister nominate Michener instead.

During his more than four years as Speaker in the 23rd and 24th Parliaments, Michener garnered a reputation for even-handedness and sensible flexibility in interpreting the procedural rules of the House. A measure of his success may be the occasional complaints by government members — and by the Prime Minister himself — that he was too fair to the opposition parties. An important achievement for which he was responsible was the smooth introduction of simultaneous interpretation in the House on January 15, 1959.

Michener was defeated in the general election of 1962, the first time since Confederation in 1867 that a Speaker had lost his riding in an election in which his party formed the government. He was offered neither a seat in the Senate nor any other patronage appointments, often seen as appropriate recognition of the Speaker’s service to the House and country. In the tributes that followed, Diefenbaker noted that if Michener had not been defeated, he would have been nominated as permanent Speaker. In his memoirs, however, Diefenbaker characterized Michener as lacking political courage for leaving politics instead of running again.

When Lester Pearson won a minority Liberal government in the general election of 1963, he offered to nominate his old friend — they had known each other since both played hockey at Oxford in the 1920s — for the permanent Speakership of the House. Michener declined, but the following year he accepted Pearson’s appointments as High Commissioner to India and later as simultaneous High Commissioner to Nepal.

In 1967, on the centenary of Confederation, Pearson nominated Michener for appointment as the Queen’s representative in Canada — the first former MP to become Governor General.

Michener was the second Canadian in history to be awarded the Royal Victorian Chain, a personal token of high esteem from Queen Elizabeth II.

Next Speaker: Hon. Marcel Joseph Aimé Lambert

Previous Speaker: Hon. Louis-René Beaudoin


Artist: Cleeve Horne
Date: 1962

Born: Lacombe, Alberta, 1900

Died: Toronto, Ontario, 1991

Professional Background: Law

Political Affiliation: Conservative

Political Record:

Prime Minister During Speakership: