Senate (Canada)

Leader of the Government in the Senate (Canada)

The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Leader du gouvernement au Sénat) is a Canadian cabinet minister who leads the government side in the Canadian Senate and is chiefly responsible for promoting and defending the government's program in the Upper House. The government leader's counterpart on the Opposition benches is the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. The Leader of the Government in the Senate is selected by the Prime Minister.

Early Canadian cabinets included several senators who would be answerable to the Senate for government actions. In the nineteenth century, it was not considered unusual for a senator to be Prime Minister. Sir John Joseph Caldwell Abbott and Sir Mackenzie Bowell served as prime minister from the Senate. Abbott and Bowell both found it difficult to lead the government from the Senate, however, and over time, the perceived legitimacy of the Senate declined. As time progressed, it became less common for senators to occupy prominent positions in Cabinet. From 1935 on, it was typical for a Cabinet to have only one senator who would have the position of minister without portfolio and act as Government Leader in the Senate.

In 1969, the position of Leader of the Government in the Senate became an official cabinet position with the appointment of Paul Martin, Sr. (father of Canada's 21st prime minister, Paul Martin). Occasionally, senators still hold senior cabinet positions in order to ensure regional balance in Cabinet if the governing party is unable to elect members in a particular region or province, e.g., when the Progressive Conservative Party formed the government under the leadership of Joe Clark in 1979, and when the Liberal Party formed the government under the leadership of Pierre Trudeau in 1980. However, it is usually the case that the Leader of the Government in the Senate is the sole senator serving in Cabinet.

The responsibilities of the Leader of the Government in the Senate include:

  1. Planning and managing the government's legislative program in the Senate
  2. Answering all questions for the government during the Senate's Question Period
  3. Maintaining relations with the Opposition on all matters concerning Senate activities
  4. Working with the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons to ensure the effective coordination of the government's legislative programme.

The government side in the Senate is the party that forms the government in the Canadian House of Commons. This means that the government party in the Senate may have fewer seats than the Opposition, particularly when a general election results in a new party forming government.

The current Leader of the Government in the Senate is Marjory LeBreton

Leaders of the Government in the Senate

Government Leader Prime Minister Party Term 1. Paul Joseph James Martin Pierre Trudeau Liberal April 1, 1969 - August 7, 1974 2. Raymond Joseph Perrault Pierre Trudeau Liberal August 8, 1974 - June 3, 1979 3. Jacques Flynn Joe Clark Progressive Conservative June 4, 1979 - March 2, 1980 4. Raymond Joseph Perrault Pierre Trudeau Liberal March 3, 1980 - September 29, 1982 5. Bud Olson Pierre Trudeau Liberal September 30, 1982 - June 29, 1984 6. Allan MacEachen John Turner Liberal June 30, 1984 - September 16, 1984 7. Duff Roblin Brian Mulroney Progressive Conservative September 17, 1984 - June 29, 1986 8. Lowell Murray Brian Mulroney Progressive Conservative June 30, 1986 - June 24, 1993

* Lowell Murray (cont'd.) Kim Campbell Progressive Conservative June 24, 1993 - November 3, 1993 9. Joyce Fairbairn Jean Chrétien Liberal November 4, 1993 - June 10, 1997 10. Alasdair Bernard Graham Jean Chrétien Liberal June 11, 1997 - October 3, 1999

11. J. Bernard Boudreau Jean Chrétien Liberal October 4, 1999 - January 8, 2001 12. Sharon Carstairs Jean Chrétien Liberal January 9, 2001 - December 11, 2003 13. Jack Austin Paul Martin Liberal December 12, 2003 - February 6 2006 14. Marjory LeBreton Stephen Harper Conservative February 6 2006 - Present

Leaders of the Government in the Senate prior to 1969

Notes

1 Prime Minister of Canada from June 16, 1891 to November 24, 1892.

2 Prime Minister of Canada from December 21, 1894 to April 27, 1896.

3 Had no concurrent portfolio in Cabinet.

4 Minister without portfolio and de facto government leader in the Senate until April 1, 1969 when Leader of the Government in the Senate became an official ministerial office.


Sources

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