^ , as

Digitized by the Internet Archive in 2016


. . . [I] t would seem that this Speakership . . . involves a decided self-sacrifice on the part of the member who accepts it. The position has heretofore only been looked upon as an honor in the gift of the House, second only to the Prime Minister’s office. It is given only to men of undoubted ability, integrity and political fairness [and] every member of the House feels it his duty to look after the interests of the Speaker’s constituents, because the Speaker has assumed a higher duty.

“The Speakership,” [Editorial— referring to the Office of the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of the North-West Territories] , Moose Jaw Times, October 26, 1894, p. 4.

Legislative Assembly of Alberta: The Centennial Series

On Behalf of The Crown:

Lieutenant Governors of the North-West Territories and Alberta, 1 869—2005

The Mantle of Leadership:

Premiers of the North-West Territories and Alberta, 1897—2005

A Higher Duty:

Speakers of the Legislative Assemblies of the North-West Territories and Alberta, 1888—2005

A Century of Democracy:

Elections of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, 1905—2005

Centennial Series


AL J-figfier Duty

Speakers of the Legislative Assemblies of the North-West Territories and Alberta, 1888-2005


Sandra E. Perry, BA BEd MLIS


Valerie L. Footz, BA MLIS

Editor and Historical Consultant Philip A. Massolin, BA MA PhD

Legislative Assembly of Alberta

Published under the authority of the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta.

A Higher Duty: Speakers of the Legislative Assemblies of the North-West Territories and Alberta, 1888-2005

By Sandra E. Perry and Valerie L. Footz

Editor and Historical Consultant: Philip A. Massolin

Typesetting, Cover and Book Design: Tracey L. Sales

Copyright © 2006 Legislative Assembly of Alberta

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, stored in a retrieval system or otherwise without the prior written consent of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta.

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

Perry, Sandra E.

A higher duty : speakers of the Legislative Assemblies of the North-West Territories and Alberta, 1888-2005 / authors:

Sandra E. Perry and Valerie L. Footz ; editor and historical consultant: Philip A. Massolin.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN 0-9689217-3-6 (bound)-ISBN 0-9689217-6-0 (leather bound).

1 . Alberta. Legislative Assembly— Speakers— Biography.

2. North-West Territories. Legislative Assembly— Speakers— Biography.

3. Legislative bodies— Alberta— Presiding officers— Biography.

4. Alberta. Legislative Assembly— Rules and practice. I. Footz, Valerie II. Massolin, Philip A. (Philip Alphonse), 1967- III. Alberta. Legislative Assembly IV. Title. V. Title: Speakers of the Legislative Assemblies of the North-West Territories and Alberta, 1888-2005.

JL334.S65P47 2005 328.7123'0762'0922 C2005-903341-X

Every effort has been made to trace the source of copyright material contained in this book.

The publisher will appreciate any additional information regarding rights and will rectify any errors or omissions in future editions.


Preface vii

Acknowledgements ix

Note on Sources and Scope xiii


History of the Speakership 3

Role of the Speaker 13

Role of the Clerk 23

The Mace 31

The Chair 39

Election of the Speaker 49

Authorities 59

Parliamentary Privilege 67

Unparliamentary Language 77

Hansard 83

Broadcasting of Proceedings 91

Galleries 101

Strangers Addressing the Assembly 113

Speakers Apparel 117

Speaker’s Procession 123

Prayers 127

Speaker’s Suite 133

Portraits 139

Protocol 145

History of Governance of the North-West Territories 151


Speakers of the Legislative Assembly of the North-West Territories

Herbert Charles Wilson, 1888-1890 179

James Hamilton Ross, 1891—1892, 1892—1894 199

John Felton Betts, 1895-1898 215

William Eakin, 1899—1902 231

Archibald Beaton Gillis, 1903-1904 245

Speakers of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta

Charles Wellington Fisher, 1906—1919 261

Charles Steuart Pingle, 1920-1921 279

Oran Leo McPherson, 1922—1926 293

George Norman Johnston, 1927-1935 311

Nathan Eldon Tanner, 1936—1937 325

Peter Dawson, 1937—1963 343

Arthur Johnson Dixon, 1963-1972 363

Gerard Joseph Amerongen, 1972—1986 379

David John Carter, 1986-1993 399

Stanley Stanford Schumacher, 1993-1997 421

The Hon. Kenneth Reginald Kowalski, 1997- 437


List of Appendices 458

Photograph Credits 549

Index 559



It gives me great pleasure to dedicate this book to the people of Alberta as we together celebrate the Centennials of the Province and of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta. It is my hope that you will find in the pages of this book a better understanding of how privileged we are to live in a parliamentary democracy, which permits and encourages all of us to participate in so many different ways according to our particular talents and interests.

This volume is one in a series of four books that documents the rich history of our province and our remarkable system of governance. The individuals whose lives and careers are profiled in this volume cared profoundly about this Province and the North- West Territories from which it was born and in which its system of governance has its roots. These legislators believed in their ability to govern themselves and build a strong autonomous province within the Canadian Confederation. They wanted to contribute their energy and their talents to strengthening and defending the parliamentary process. They came from a great variety of family, ethnic and professional backgrounds. They were doctors, pharmacists, farmers, businessmen, clergymen, lawyers and teachers, but they had in common the fact that they all understood the great privilege that was theirs to serve as parliamentarians, and the additional honour that was bestowed on them when they were elected to serve as Speakers in the Legislative Assemblies of the North-West Territories and Alberta.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank and congratulate Sandra Perry, Legislature Librarian; Valerie Footz, Project Coordinator on this project; Philip Massolin, Historian; and the fine team of librarians and researchers who developed and researched this book: Heather Close, Sherry Bell, Jody Grismer Rempel, Ronda Alberts, Stephanie Christensen, Darren Maltais, Jessica Craig, Christine Bourchier, Michelle Altheim, Eileen Cardy and Cathy Duxbury. Their dedication to the task and their thorough and scholarly research have resulted in a work of which we can all be justly proud.

On behalf of the Members of the 26th Legislature may I wish all Albertans everywhere truly enjoyable and memorable Centennial years, and may we all look forward to the promise of the even greater achievements that will come about as Alberta’s second century unfolds.

Kenneth R. Kowalski

Member for Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta


The following individuals played very significant roles in the researching and writing of this volume, and the authors would like to give special acknowledgement to their contributions:

Heather J. Close Staff Librarian

First researcher on the project Historical and parliamentary research Early drafts

Researching and writing of Background sections Interviewer

Sharon K. Bell Librarian and Project Researcher

Second researcher on the project Family history and genealogical research Drafts of family history and related sections in the biographies

Jody C. Grismer Rempel Project Researcher

Historical and parliamentary research

Researching and drafting of Background sections and


Ronda L. Alberts Librarian and Project Researcher

Historical and parliamentary research

Drafts of political and legislative sections in the


Tracey L. Sales Communications Consultant [Office of the Clerk]

Artistic design and direction Book design, layout and formatting


We would also like to express our appreciation to a number of people who generously provided assistance in the preparation of this book.

Firstly, we would like to gratefully acknowledge the assistance of the Speakers themselves: Mr. Arthur J. Dixon, Mr. Gerard J. Amerongen, QC, Dr. David J. Carter, Mr. Stanley S. Schumacher, QC and the Hon. Kenneth R. Kowalski. They generously provided their time, reflections and knowledge. The assistance of the staff of the Office of the Speaker, Bev Alenius, Susan Purdie and Jocelyn Sywolos, is also gratefully acknowledged.

The information provided by the relatives and families of the Speakers was invaluable, and we would like to thank: Margaret Amerongen, Muriel Buller, Helen Carver, David G. Dawson, Earland M. Dawson, Brian Fisher, Marjorie Fisher, Richard J. Fisher, Donald Gillis, Barbara Krol, Donna Mort, Sara ‘Isabelle’ Jensen, James ‘Jim’ Jensen, Toni McPherson and Charles S. Pingle.

The services and resources from the following organizations and institutions were instrumental to our research: Alberta Genealogical Society, Edmonton Branch; Alberta Family History Society; Alberta Historical Society; Alton Museum; Beaton Institute; City of Edmonton Archives; City of Victoria Archives and Records Division; Edmonton Public Library; Glenbow Museum and Archives; Grand Lodge of Saskatchewan, Ancient Free & Accepted Masons; Legal Archives Society of Alberta; Moose Jaw Public Library; Museum of the Regiments Library and Archives; Ontario Genealogical Society, Ottawa Branch; Provincial Archives of Alberta; Royal Alberta Museum; University of Alberta Archives; University of Alberta Libraries; and University of Calgary Archives. We would like to thank the staff of all of these organizations and institutions for their generous assistance.

We would especially like to acknowledge the assistance of the staff of both the Saskatchewan Archives Board and the Saskatchewan Legislative Library who provided us with extensive material on the Speakers of the Legislative Assembly of the North-West Territories.

We would like to thank the members of the Association of Parliamentary Librarians in Canada/L’Association des bibliothecaires parlementaires au Canada for their assistance in providing us with comparative information for their respective jurisdictions.

Our appreciation is extended to Dr. Alvin Finkel of Athabasca University, who reviewed early drafts of this book and provided insight and advice, and to Dr. Ronald A. Burwash of the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Science of the University of Alberta for providing information about Alberta’s Mace.

The following individuals went to extraordinary lengths to provide us with information and assistance: Amanda Bahr-Evola, Maurice F. V. Doll, Dennis W. Domoney, Yvonne M. Footz, Diana Gaiger, Tim McGarger, Brian J. Perry, Donald J. Sucha, Harry M. Sanders and Ken Tingley.

Last, but certainly not least, we would like to acknowledge the assistance and support of all the Branches of the Legislative Assembly Office (LAO) in the writing and editing of this book. We would like to thank the Clerk, Dr. W. J. David McNeil and his staff, with special recognition to Tracey Sales and the Communications staff; Senior Parliamentary Counsel Robert Reynolds and Shannon Dean; House Services including Alberta Hansard: Louise Kamuchik, Vivian Loosemore, Liz Sim, Micheline Orydzuk and staff; the Financial Management and Administrative Services Branch: Bill Gano, Scott Ellis, Jacqueline Breault, Dan Dunlop, Darren Joy and staff; Human Resource Services: Cheryl Scarlett, Moyra Johnson and staff; Information Technology Services: Cheryl Scarlett, Val Rutherford, Jillian Tilley and staff; and Visitor, Ceremonial and Security Services: including the Sergeant-at-Arms Brian Hodgson, Kerri Button and staff. We would especially like to thank Alberta Hansard management and staff for the provision of transcription and proofreading services. The support of the entire staff of the Legislature Library is greatly appreciated— from those directly involved in the book’s production to all of those who took on extra duties to ensure that all Library services continued to function effectively during the preparation of this volume.

Sandra E. Perry Legislature Librarian Edmonton, Alberta May 31, 2005



I he increasing availability of resources in electronic format has had an impact on the length and depth of each biography. The advent of the publication of Alberta Hansard in 1972 allowed us to gain important insights into the activities of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta and the rulings of the Speakers. Scrapbook Hansard, compiled by Legislature Library staff prior to the establishment of the official Alberta Hansard, was an invaluable resource supplementing the description of events recorded in the Journals of the Legislative Assembly. The Internet has provided an important medium for accessing online databases of digitized historical documents newspapers, periodicals, census and genealogical records and the research of other parliamentary libraries.

Also influencing the extent of each biography was the length of tenure in public service of each individual and the expansion of the position of Speaker to include year-round administrative duties. While this expansion was only officially recognized in 1983, it had been occurring since early in Speaker Gerard J. Amerongen’s tenure (1972—1986).

Our goal has been to cite primary sources (such as the Alberta Hansard and the Journals of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta) whenever possible. However, we have used newspaper accounts, local histories, biographies and family stories to supplement and enhance the descriptions of events.

All election results were derived from A Report on Alberta Elections 1 905—1 982 and the official returns, as provided by the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer or his predecessors: the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta and the Clerk of the Executive Council. There are no official returns available from the North-West Territories, and therefore all results from elections occurring prior to 1905 were compiled from the Saskatchewan Executive and Legislative Directory, newspaper reports, the Canadian Parliamentary Companion and the Canadian Parliamentary Guide.

Although the census has been very useful in confirming names, birth dates and birth order, it has also occasionally had limitations. Birth years had to be estimated in some instances because only ages were recorded in the census. In some cases, only the head of the household was recorded, not permitting us to verify the names of the children or specific years of birth (see, for example, the 1861 Census for the Archibald B. Gillis family). Another problem encountered was inconsistent information. Both surnames and first names were recorded variously (for example, the surname of Gillis was recorded as both ‘Gillis’ and ‘Gillies’). Also, ages recorded on successive decennial censuses were sometimes a disproportionate number of years apart (for example, according to the


Censuses of 1881 and 1891, Archibald B. Gillis advanced 20 years in age during that 10-year period). The legibility of the handwriting of the census recorder was at times also an issue.

Based on the advice received from Senior Parliamentary Counsel, end dates of Speakers’ tenures were calculated on the date of dissolution of the Legislature in the cases of Speakers Charles S. Pingle (1920-1921) and George N. Johnston (1927-1935). Dates of prorogation, as indicated in the Journals of the Legislative Assembly of the North-West Territories , were used as end dates for the tenures of Speakers of the Legislative Assembly of the North-West Territories Herbert C. Wilson (1888-1890) and Archibald B. Gillis (1903-1904). This approach was necessitated by the fact that dissolution dates were not available in either the Journals or the North-West Territories Gazette.

Source of Quotes

The authors were pleased to adopt an imaginative suggestion from book designer, Tracey Sales, to insert significant phrases or quotes into the title pages of each Speaker’s biography. We feel that these add significantly to the understanding of a Speaker’s character and to the book design. Brief explanations as to the context and sources of these phrases or quotes are listed below:

Wilson - with impartiality to all

In his address of thanks, the new Speaker said, “I feel that I also leave all political or partizan [sic] feelings, in order that I may discharge with impartiality to all , and to the best of my ability, the various and important duties pertaining to the high office of the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of the North-West Territories.”

Source: North-West Territories. Legislative Assembly, Journals of the Legislative Assembly of the North-West Territories, 1st Legislature, 1st Session, 31 October 1888, p. 8.

Ross - unique in parliamentary annals

Ross’ resignation as Speaker in August 1892 and re-election as Speaker in December 1892 “was, and remains, unique in parliamentary annals T

Source: John Hawkes, The Story of Saskatchewan and Its People, vol. I (Regina: S. J. Clarke, 1924), p. 492.

Betts - real service in the upbuilding of a new country

Betts was “perhaps better known throughout the Prince Albert district than any other man” due to his service to the people of the Saskatchewan District, but he was “less conscious of the honors than of the opportunities for real service in the upbuilding of a new country .”

Source: Norman Fergus Black, History of Saskatchewan and the North West Territories, vol. II (Regina: Saskatchewan Historical Company, 1913), p. 851.


Eakin - presiding with fairness, dignity and tact

As Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of the North-West Territories, Eakin presided over some interesting sessions with fairness, dignity and tact.”

Source: “William Eakin Passes Away at Saltcoats Home,” Regina Morning Leader, 16 March 1918, p. 15.

Gillis - custodian of a sacred trust

Gillis was a “prominent member of [the] remarkable group that taught the early settlers of the northwest that patriotism came before party, and that the elected representatives of the people were the custodians of a sacred trust A

Source: Z. M. Hamilton, “Senator Gillis Among Those Who Built West,” Regina Leader- Post, 20 January 1940, p. 3.

Fisher - the provincial legislature, much as he shaped it

“The Alberta legislature is characterized by less false dignity and foolish ceremony than any other law-making body in Canada. It has a free and easy method of debate, with less red tape and fringe than most bodies of that kind. This has been the work of the man who had the direction of it. The provincial legislature is much as he shaped it.”

Source: “Death and Burial of Hon. Chas. W. Fisher, Speaker of Alberta Legislature,” Cochrane Advocate, 8 May 1919, p. 6.

Pingle - sterling qualities and unfailing fairness

Pingle’s election as Speaker was “a recognition of his sterling qualities and of his unfailing fairness when dealing with political questions.”

Source: “Capt. Pingle Ex-Speaker of House Passes,” Edmonton Journal, 1 1 January 1928,

p. 1.

McPherson - man of vision, thoroughly democratic

At various times throughout his life, McPherson was lauded as a man of vision,'

thoroughly democratic ,' and an ‘able legislator.’

Source: “O. L. McPherson,” Western Lndependent (Calgary), 19 November 1919, p. 7.

Johnston - unclouded vision of the conduct of legislative matters

George H. Webster, Member for Calgary and leader of the Liberal Party (1930-1932), stated that Johnston “had brought to the Speaker’s Throne an infinite capacity for taking pains and a clear unclouded vision of the conduct of legislative matters,''

Source: “Speaker is Re-Elected Unanimously,” Edmonton Bulletin, 30 January 1931,

P. 7.


Tanner - inspired confidence

Provincial Secretary and future Premier Ernest C. Manning observed that Tanner was “an excellent Speaker. He was completely fair and scrupulously careful not to be biased to one side or the other. He inspired confidence. I would say he was one of our best Speakers.”

Source: Quoted in George Homer Durham, N. Eldon Tanner: His Life and Service (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Co., 1982), p. 64.

Dawson - a just balance

Liberal Member for Calgary (1955—1960) and future Lieutenant Governor of Alberta (1966—1974) J. W. Grant MacEwan praised Dawson for his comprehensive knowledge of parliamentary procedure and his endeavour to “maintain a just balance between freedom of speech on the one hand and such restraint as might be necessary to ensure legislative progress on the other.”

Source: Grant MacEwan, Poking Into Politics (Edmonton: Institute of Applied Art, Ltd., 1966), p. 145.

Dixon - expediter of the business of the House

Dixon held an unassuming view of his role as Speaker, seeing himself “as an ' expediter of the business of the House” and stating modestly, “I’m the servant of the House, not the master.”

Source: Laurie Mackay, Order in the House: A Historical Account of Two Past Speakers of the Alberta Legislature (Edmonton: Legislative Assembly of Alberta, 1992), p. 2.

Amerongen - strengthening of the speakership

Amerongen left a strong personal mark on the role of the Speaker. Philip A. C. Laundy, former Clerk Assistant in the Canadian House of Commons (1983—1994) and author of several books on Parliaments of the British Commonwealth, notes that, “from the beginning [Amerongen] applied himself to the strengthening of the speakership .” He changed some of the traditional elements of the role in order to make the legislative process more meaningful to modern times.

Source: Philip Laundy, The Office of Speaker in the Parliaments of the Commonwealth (London: Quiller Press, 1984), p. 138.


Carter - defending the rights and privileges of parliament

This statement comes from an amalgam of Carter’s view of the role of the Speaker as a “defender of parliament” and the role he played as intervener in the case of New Brunswick Broadcasting v. Nova Scotia (Speaker), which affirmed the exclusive jurisdictions of provincial legislatures over the application of their inherent privileges, a decision that Carter cites as the most significant event in his tenure as Speaker.

Source: David John Carter, “Seven Years in the Speaker’s Chair,” Canadian Parliamentary Review vol. 17, no. 1 (Spring 1994): pp. 16, 17.

Schumacher - fair, consistent and honourable

Members of the Legislative Assembly were in agreement about Schumacher’s suitability for the role of Speaker. Many Liberals described him as ‘fair, consistent and honorable .’ Source: Corinna Schuler, “Schumacher Ready for Speaker’s Job,” Edmonton Journal, 31 August 1993, p. Al.

Kowalski - meticulously fair, parliamentary precise

The media were impressed with Kowalski’s commitment and his ability to run the Legislative Assembly in an orderly manner. Calgary Herald columnist Don Martin noted, “He’s meticulously fair. He’s parliamentary precise. He’s even funny at times. The only sign of ruthlessness is his stubborn adherence to the rules of order he quotes by memory.” Source: Don Martin, “Kinder, Gentler Kowalski Runs an Orderly House,” [Editorial], Calgary Herald, 21 June 1997, p. J5.


Every attempt has been made to resolve issues that have arisen during the course of our research. However, some inconsistencies remain and are outlined in the endnotes in the individual biographies. This publication is current up to and including May 31, 2003.

Valerie L. Footz Project Coordinator Legislature Library Edmonton, Alberta May 31, 2005



History of the Speakership


In the United Kingdom, the Office of the Speaker played a central role in the historical struggle for supremacy between the monarch and Parliament. The role of the Speaker has been intricately linked with the evolution of parliamentary democracy over many centuries. When the role came into being, the pre-eminent power in England was the Crown, and the position of Speaker was closely tied to the monarch. A precursor position, that of Presiding Officer in Parliament, was recorded as early as 1258 when Peter de Montfort* presided over England’s ‘Mad Parliament.’1 The first presiding officers were described as Parlour , Prolocuter and Procurator T The first two of these titles have roots that mean ‘to speak,’ providing a link to the later title of ‘Speaker.’3 Initially, the monarch, not Parliament, selected the Speaker.4 In 1376, Sir Peter de la Mare* became the first known presiding officer to have been selected by the House from its membership.5 The first Speaker so named and recorded on the Rolls of Parliament was Sir Thomas Hungerford,5 appointed in 1377.6

Despite having been selected from amongst the Members in the Commons, the Speaker’s primary allegiance remained with the Crown until the mid- 17th century.7 Originally, the primary function of the Speaker was to present the claims of Parliament to the monarch and his or her advisers.8 During this era of subservience to the Crown, the Speaker’s position was not an enviable one. Many Speakers incurred the wrath of the monarch after bringing news that displeased the Sovereign.9 Even in the face of such peril, successive Speakers were able to set many precedents with regard to the powers and privileges of Parliament and the role of the Speaker. In the late 1300s, for example, Sir Peter de la Mare established an important precedent that allowed errors or misrepresentations made by the Speaker to be corrected, attributing any mistakes made by the Speaker to the individual, and thus casting no aspersions on the institution of Parliament.10 Other precedents set from this period to the early 1600s included: the right of the House to approve public expenditure;11 freedom of speech for Members;12 immunity of the Members from arrest for debt or trespass;13 the use of the Speaker’s vote, the casting vote, when necessary to break a tie;14 and right of access to the Crown.'1

Over several centuries of struggle between the monarch and Parliament, the bond between the Speaker and the Crown gradually weakened. During the 17th century, the shift in the Speaker’s

* Peter de Montfort belonged to a faction that opposed the Royal Court and was a member of the commission that prepared the plan of reform known as the ‘Provisions of Oxford.’ Supporters of Henry III (1216—1272) coined the name ‘Mad Parliament’ although in actuality the proceedings were very businesslike.

* Procurator is a Latin word meaning administrator or finance agent.

* Peter de la Mare, a knight of Herefordshire, served as presiding officer and Speaker during the 1300s, which included the ‘Good Parliament,’ so named because the Commons prevailed in refusing to grant the monarch any supplies until the grievances of the Commons had been addressed.

§ Thomas Hungerford was a knight of Wiltshire and the steward of John of Gaunt. He took on the role of Speaker while de la Mare was imprisoned and presided over what was named the ‘Bad Parliament,’ which reversed most of the gains made by the Good Parliament in the previous year.

Background - History of the Speakership 5


allegiance from the Crown to Parliament became clear.16 The Speaker’s role became more closely associated with the political power of parliamentary government, and the Speaker often held an office within the government.17 In 1642, Speaker William Lenthall* uttered one of the most eloquent and well-known descriptions of this new parliamentary allegiance. After Charles I (1625— 1649) forced his way into the House of Commons and demanded the immediate arrest of five Members on charges of treason, Lenthall faced the angry King and declared:

May it please Your Majesty, I have neither eyes to see, nor tongue to speak in this place, but as the House is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am here; and I humbly beg Your Majesty’s pardon that I cannot give any other answer than this to what Your Majesty is pleased to demand of me.18

This eloquent and courageous declaration summarizes the role of the Speaker as it emerged in England at this time and remains relevant to Speakers in modern Parliaments throughout the Commonwealth.

In the centuries of parliamentary government that followed Lenthall’s statement, a new dimension was added to the Speaker’s role. This dimension related to the non-partisan role of the Speaker in the parliamentary system; the idea that, once selected, the “Speaker should refrain from involvement in party politics either inside or outside the House.”19 Arthur Onslow, Speaker of the House of Commons from 1728 to 17617 is credited with raising the Office above politics by asserting the independence and impartiality of the Chair.20 Onslow also contributed to the codification of contemporary procedure and the concept of the dignity of the Speaker “as inseparable from that of the House.”21 In 1841, Liberal Speaker Charles Shaw-Lefevre* was re- elected to the Chair by a Conservative majority government, thereby setting the most significant and lasting precedent of the non-partisanship of the Speaker.22 While the degree to which the Speaker establishes the independence of the Office and the manner in which this is done is still evolving and under debate, the neutrality of the Speaker is a key aspect of the position in the United Kingdom and in Canada. By the mid- 19th century, the many conventions of the Office were well-established, and the era of the modern Speaker had begun.

The role of Speaker, as inherited from the United Kingdom, is essential to the Canadian parliamentary system, although distinct traditions have developed both federally and provincially. With the adoption of the British North America Act, 1867 (BN A Act, 1867), the Canadian model of governance was firmly established. The Canadian style of government, parliamentary democracy, was based on the conventions of responsible government and on the system of governance in place in the United Kingdom. Included in this system, and codified in section 44 of the BNA Act, 1867, is the position of Speaker. Here it states, “The House of Commons on its

* William Lenthall served as Speaker on several occasions between 1640 and 1660. Although he asserted the independence of the Speaker from the Crown, he was also involved in the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660.

t Having served 33 years in total, Arthur Onslow is the longest-serving Speaker to date in the history of the Commonwealth.

* First elected Speaker in 1839, Charles Shaw-Lefevre was subsequently re-elected on three occasions. Upon his retirement in 1857, he was made a viscount.

A Higher Duty

first assembling after a General Election shall proceed with all practicable Speed to elect One of its Members to be Speaker.”23

Although firmly rooted in the British tradition, the Office of the Speaker in Canada evidences a degree of involvement in partisan activity that differs appreciably from that of the modern Speaker in the United Kingdom. The Speaker in both countries is expected to oversee the business of the House in an impartial manner; however, Canadian Speakers maintain their party membership and participate in partisan politics when not acting as Speaker. Once a Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom is elected Speaker, all party ties and affiliations are relinquished.24 Like their federal counterparts, Speakers in Alberta refrain from attending caucus meetings while the Legislative Assembly is sitting.

In the United Kingdom, the impartiality and independence of the Office of the Speaker is further entrenched by the principle of continuity. This convention, established during the tenure of Speaker Charles Shaw-Lefevre, requires that the Speaker renounce all political affiliation upon assuming office.25 Having cut all partisan ties, the Speaker does not actively campaign and stands as ‘the Speaker seeking re-election.’26 While the Speaker has not always run unopposed in general elections, “no Speaker seeking re-election in his constituency has ever been defeated at the polls [and] no incoming majority following a change of government has ever attempted to violate the continuity principle.”27 This convention has not been adopted in the Canadian parliamentary system, although it has been proposed and debated on various occasions over the years.*28 Nor has this practice been adopted in Alberta; however, the distinctively long tenures of some of the province’s Speakers have provided the benefit of continuity and the opportunity to develop expertise in the Office^

Another key difference between British and Canadian practice relates to the nomination procedure. In the United Kingdom, it is customary for the Speaker to be nominated by Private Members, a reflection of the Speaker’s role as the representative of the entire Housed In contrast, Canadian Speakers have traditionally been nominated by the Prime Minister and seconded by either a Government Minister or the Leader of the Opposition.29 Having the Leader of the Opposition second the Speaker’s nomination is another method of emphasizing the non-partisan nature of the Speaker’s role. In 1985, when the House of Commons changed its procedures to elect the Speaker by secret ballot, the nomination convention also changed. Now all Members of

* Speaker Lucien Lamoureux (1966-1974) resigned from the Liberal Party and ran as an Independent in 1968 in the Ontario constituency of Stormont-Dundas, unopposed by Liberals or Progressive Conservatives. Lamoureux subsequently won the 1972 general election as an Independent in the same constituency and was elected Speaker. Progressive Conservative Prime Minister C. Joseph ‘Joe’ Clark (1979-1980) nominated Lamoureux’s successor, Liberal James Jerome (1974—1980), to continue as Speaker following the 1979 election of Clark’s minority government. This was the first time an Opposition Member was elected Speaker of the House of Commons.

t The average tenure of all Speakers in office in the period from 1978 to 1998 in all 13 legislative assemblies in Canada was 1,185 days. The average tenure, by province, ranged from Alberta as the highest at 2,398 days (with Saskatchewan next at 1,648 days) to British Columbia as the lowest at 917 days.

* The procedure for nominating and electing a Speaker was established in about 1700.

Parliament, excluding Ministers of the Crown and party leaders, are listed on the ballot unless a Member makes a written request to the Clerk that his or her name be withdrawn.30

One Canadian tradition, which has no precedent in the United Kingdom, is the custom in the Canadian House of Commons of alternating between Anglophone and Francophone Speakers, reflecting Canadas two official languages. It should be noted, however, that this tradition has not prevented several Speakers from being re-elected to serve for multiple successive Parliaments, and that this practice is not followed by most provincial legislative assemblies.*31 It has been suggested that recent changes, including the election of the Speaker by secret ballot and the simultaneous translation of proceedings into both official languages, could contribute to the demise of this tradition.32

In Canada, the Office of the Speaker is substantially similar at the federal and provincial levels, and from one province to another.33 Despite these similarities, it is important to realize that Alberta is a distinct political entity that does not derive its power from the federal Parliament, but is sovereign in its own areas of jurisdiction.14 While the three essential functions of the Office of Speaker, those of representative, impartial arbiter and administrator, have not changed in any fundamental way since the turn of the century, various practices continue to evolve.

With respect to the nomination of the Speaker, Alberta has adhered to the approaches in the British and Canadian Houses of Commons at different points in its history. Initially, the Premier nominated a candidate. The nomination was seconded by a Government Minister. It was not until 1945 that the Leader of the Opposition first seconded the Speaker’s nomination. This occurred on four occasions thereafter: in 1968, 1972, 1986 and 1989. In 1949, 1975f and 1979, Private Members of the Opposition seconded the nomination. Additionally, in 1975, Speaker

Gerard J. Amerongen (1972—1986) was nominated by a Government Member, rather than by the Premier, in order to more closely reflect the practice in the United Kingdom.35 Private Members have nominated the Speaker on six occasions since that time. In 1983, a Private Member also seconded the nomination. Even after the introduction of election by secret ballot to Alberta in 1993, Speakers continued to be nominated by Members of the Legislative Assembly, unlike the practice in the federal Parliament, in which all eligible Members are listed on the ballot. Since 1968, the procedure in Alberta has been for a Private Member of either the governing caucus or the Opposition to take part in the nomination of the Speaker, thereby

Opening of the First Legislature of the Province of Alberta at the Thistle Rink (March 15, 1906).

* In New Brunswick, Canadas only officially bilingual province, there was a tradition of alternating between Anglophone and Francophone Speakers, when possible, prior to the introduction of a secret ballot in 1994. There is an ongoing tradition to elect two Deputy Speakers: one Francophone and one Anglophone.

1 In 1975, the Leader of the Social Credit Party failed to win a seat, therefore no Opposition Leader was recognized a:t the opening of the Legislature.

A Higher Duty

emphasizing that the Speaker is a servant of the House as whole.

Since the 1970s, Alberta has developed a number of additional procedures intended to strengthen the independence of the Legislative Assembly. In May 1973, a Select Committee of the Legislative Assembly was struck “to study, simplify, update and modernize the Rules, Orders and Forms of Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta.”*36 The Committee noted that, “from the administrative point of view, there is a growing awareness and desire to reinforce the office and function of the Speaker, in the belief that this will also reinforce the identity and concept of ‘parliament’ in provincial legislatures.”37 One of the most significant reforms to be approved was the abolition of the right to appeal a Speaker’s ruling without a substantive motion from the floor of the House, as the previous practice of appeal without notice was seen as a constant threat to the Speaker’s authority.*38 The federal Parliament had brought in this reform in 1965, and Alberta was one of the first provinces to follow suit.39

i ML y '

vpa yiii1


Ptjj n

M - jrj.


Legislative Assembly of Alberta, McKay Avenue School (May 1906). Speaker ON. Fisher seated right rear, under window.

In 1973, an organizational support structure was established for the Legislative Assembly of Alberta to “accommodate accounts, personnel, equipment and the general administration services.” This support structure would, in 1983, formally become the Legislative Assembly Office (LAO).*40 Also adopted from the 1973 Select Committee’s Report on House Rules was the recommendation that the Legislative Assembly establish a fiscal structure to sustain the support services required by the Members. Thus the Special Select Committee of the Legislature on Members Services, chaired by the Speaker, was formed.41 In general terms, the Committee provides “the broad quality framework that really relates to [services to] the Members.”42 Currently, the mandate of this all-party Committee is to set Members’ allowances and benefits as well as constituency office allowances. The Committee also approves the annual estimates of the Legislative Assembly and establishes policy on human resources, library services, information technology and financial management for the ‘Speaker’s department’ (LAO).4’ In order to ensure administrative continuity during an election, the Legislative Assembly Act was amended in 1983 so that the Speaker continues to hold Office until the day before the next Legislature begins.44 In

* The Rules, Orders and Forms of Proceedings were commonly referred to (and are now officially titled) the Standing Orders.

* The only incident of a Speaker’s ruling being appealed and overturned in Alberta occurred on March 19, 1972, during the Bennett Dam controversy. On the following sitting day. Speaker Arthur J. Dixon (1963—1972) received a unanimous vote of confidence, and his initial ruling was subsequently upheld.

* This “would include the ‘Library’ [established 1906], ‘Hansard,’ ‘Sergeant-at-Arms,’ ‘Law Clerk,’ ‘Services to Members,’ and ‘Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’.” Alberta. Legislative Assembly. Select Committee on the Rules, Orders and Forms of Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly, Report on House Rules, vol. 1 (Edmonton, Legislative Assembly of Alberta: 1973), p. vi.

short, with the evolution and growth of the LAO, and the increasing complexity of modern society, the role of the Speaker has grown substantially and has incorporated a variety of additional responsibilities.


1 Arthur Irwin Dasent and John Lane, The Speakers of the House of Commons: From the Earliest Times to the Present Day, with a Topographical Description ofWestminster at Various Epochs & A Brief Record of the Principal Constitutional Changes During Seven Centuries (New York: John Lane Co., 1911), p. 342; Philip Laundy, The Office of Speaker (London: Cassell, 1964), p. 447.

2 Philip Laundy, The Office of Speaker in the Parliaments of the Commonwealth (London: Quiller Press, 1984), p. 11.

3 James A. H. Murray, ed., A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles (Oxford: Claredon Press, 1909), s.v. “Parlour,” “Prolocutor,” “Procurator.”

4 Laundy, The Office of Speaker in the Parliaments of the Commonwealth, p. 20.

5 Laundy, The Office of Speaker, pp. 138, 448; Dasent and Lane, The Speakers of the House of Commons, pp. 346-347.

6 Laundy, The Office of Speaker, pp. 139, 448; Dasent and Lane, The Speakers of the House of Commons, pp. 348-349.

7 Robert Marleau and Camille Montpetit, eds., House of Commons Procedure and Practice (Ottawa: Cheneliere/McGraw-Hill, 2000), p. 256; United Kingdom. House of Commons Information Office, The Speaker, rev. ed., FactSheet M2, Members Series (London: House of Commons Information Office, September 2003), p. 5; Gary Levy, Speakers of the Canadian House of Commons (Ottawa: Library of Parliament, 1996), p. L

8 Robert J. Fleming and J. Thomas Mitchinson, “The Speakership in Canada,” Canadian Parliamentary Review v ol. 6, no. 1 (Spring 1983): p. 21.

9 Norman W. Wilding and Philip Laundy, An Encyclopaedia of Parliament, 4th rev. ed. (London: Cassell, 1972), p. 708; Laundy, The Office of Speaker in the Parliaments of the Commonwealth, p. 20.

10 Laundy, The Office of Speaker in the Parliaments of the Commonwealth, p. 13.

11 Laundy, The Office of Speaker, p. 42.

12 Ibid., p. 35.

13 Ibid.

14 Laundy, The Office of Speaker in the Parliaments of the Commonwealth, p. 87.

15 Laundy, The Office of Speaker, p. 35.

16 United Kingdom. House of Commons Information Office, The Speaker, p. 5; Levy, Speakers of the Canadian House of Commons, p. 1; Marleau and Montpetit, eds., House of Commons Procedure and Practice, p. 256.

17 United Kingdom. House of Commons Information Office, The Speaker, p. 5.

18 Ibid; Wilding and Laundy, An Encyclopaedia of Parliament, pp. 430-431 .

19 Levy, Speakers of the Canadian House of Commons, p. 1.

20 Wilding and Laundy, An Encyclopaedia of Parliament, p. 506; Laundy, The Office of Speaker in the Parliaments of the Commonwealth, p. 42.

21 Laundy, The Office of Speaker in the Parliaments of the Commonwealth, pp. 42-43.

22 Wilding and Laundy, An Encyclopaedia of Parliament, p. 709; Laundy, The Office of Speaker in the Parliaments of the Commonwealth, p. 50; R. B. Land, “Foreword,” in “Whose Servant I Am:” Speakers of the Assemblies of the Province of Upper Canada, Canada and Ontario, 1792—1992, ed. Clare A. Dale (Toronto: Ontario Legislative Library, 1992), p. ii.

23 British North America Act, 1867 { U.K.), 30 & 31 Viet., c. 3, s. 44. Note that the name of the British North America Act, 1867 was changed in 1982 to the Constitution Act, 1867. For more information, see the Glossary.

24 United Kingdom. House of Commons Information Office, The Speaker, p. 4.

25 Marleau and Montpetit,