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The Speakers of the Canadian House of Commons

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Hon. John Allen Fraser
P.C., O.C., O.B.C., C.D., Q.C., LL.B. (1986–1994)

John Fraser was the first Speaker to be elected directly by members of the House of Commons. He was a former infantry officer, lawyer, Progressive Conservative MP successful in six general elections and three times a cabinet minister under two prime ministers. In 1985, Fraser had been forced to resign as Minister of Fisheries and Oceans over the Tunagate scandal in which he had ignored warnings that a million cans of tuna were unsafe for consumption.

The 1986 Speakership election, with voting by secret ballot, followed an amendment to the Standing Orders of the House in June 1985. The election had 39 MP candidates, and went to 11 ballots over some 11 hours. Among 12 candidates at the second election in 1988, Fraser was elected on the first ballot: a reflection of the confidence and popularity he had earned during his first term.

Among Fraser’s many noteworthy rulings was one chastising the Progressive Conservative government for prematurely publishing advertisements about the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in 1989: the GST legislation had not yet passed Parliament. He rejected the government’s attempt at imposing closure to debate on the 1988 Canada–United States Free Trade Agreement (while allowing greatly extended sitting hours). And he affirmed the validity of the oath of allegiance to the Queen taken by Independent (later Bloc Québécois) MP Gilles Duceppe in 1990.

Fraser’s sense of history, his environmentalism — he had been Minister of the Environment — and his knowledge of the importance of Parliament and Canadian institutions all supported his activities to expand the educational mission of Parliament. He created the House of Commons’ Public Information Office, instituted the Greening the Hill environmental program, set up a task force on Parliament’s accessibility and employment opportunities for disabled people, established a program of parliamentary co-operation with emerging democracies in Eastern and Central Europe, and in 1993 published his book The House of Commons at Work.

Following his decision to retire from the Speaker’s Chair and not run in the 1993 general election, Fraser remained active in environmental and military matters. Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chrétien appointed him Canada’s Ambassador for the Environment (1994–1998), and he chaired the Minister’s Monitoring Committee on Change in the Department of National Defence (1997–2003) as well as the Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council (1998–2005).

In 1990, Fraser championed the “Greening the Hill” initiative, an action plan designed to ensure that the House of Commons became more environmentally friendly and sensitive.

Next Speaker: Hon. Gilbert Parent

Previous Speaker: Hon. John William Bosley


Artist: Gregory Furmanczyk
Date: 1994

Born: Yokohama, Japan, 1931

Professional Background: Law, Military

Political Affiliation: Conservative

Political Record:

Prime Ministers During Speakership: