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The Speakers of the Canadian House of Commons

 

Hon. Gilbert Parent
P.C., B.Sc., M.A., M.Ed. (1994–2001)

Elected as a Liberal in five general elections before he decided to run for Speaker, in 1994 Gilbert Parent succeeded John Fraser as the second Speaker to be voted into the office directly by members of the House. The election went to six ballots — the fifth was a tie — over seven hours.

The House resulting from the 1993 election promised to be lively and controversial. Parent faced 199 first-time MPs and five political parties, of which two — Reform and Bloc Québécois — were newly recognized in the House. During this period, national feelings ran high over whether the Province of Quebec could separate from Canada, or be politically independent from Canada while maintaining an economic association with Canada. Initially, the Bloc Québécois, a sovereignist party, formed the Official Opposition, as it had the second highest number of seats. Parent was later required to decide whether the Reform Party or the Bloc Québécois would be the Official Opposition when, due to a resignation and a sudden death, their seat numbers drew even. He was called upon to rule on a wide variety of other issues as well, including the admissibility of amendments (hundreds, on one occasion) and recorded divisions that were used as delaying tactics. In March 1998 the Speaker was faced with ruling on the propriety of small flags on the Chamber desks of some government and opposition MPs, who were offended by a Bloc Québécois MP’s comment concerning the October 1992 national referendum on the Charlottetown Accord.

The Speaker — a former school teacher — stressed public information as a priority during his two terms. Together with Gildas Molgat, Speaker of the Senate of Canada, he was the driving force behind the establishment of the annual Teachers Institute on Canadian Parliamentary Democracy, an intensive professional development opportunity that brings 85 outstanding teachers from across Canada together in Ottawa for an insider’s view on how Parliament works. Under his Speakership, in 2000, the House of Commons published what would become the first edition of the authoritative guide to House precedents and rules of procedure: House of Commons Procedure and Practice, edited by the Clerk and the Deputy Clerk.

A former high-school teacher, Parent was the driving force behind the expansion of public outreach in Parliament.

Next Speaker: Hon. Peter Andrew Stewart Milliken

Previous Speaker: Hon. John Allen Fraser


Artist: David Goatley
Date: 2001

Born: Mattawa, Ontario, 1935

Died: Toronto, Ontario, 2009

Professional Background: Education

Political Affiliation: Liberal

Political Record:

Prime Minister During Speakership: