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The Speakers of the Canadian House of Commons


Hon. Charles Marcil
P.C. (1909–1911)

A journalist for 20 years before his first election victory as a federal MP in 1900, Charles Marcil would go on to sit in the House for 36 unbroken years. Well-regarded rather than a rising star, he was appointed Deputy Speaker by Liberal Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier in 1905. He was impeccably bilingual, and had a dignity of manner and speaking that appealed to many.

His nomination as Speaker in 1909 was welcomed by the government side of the House, but Conservative Leader of the Opposition Robert Borden was less impressed. Without being overly specific, Borden alluded to press reports of Marcil’s “methods of campaigning” in the context of the vicious “system of offering bribes to constituencies” in Canada. Borden concluded by noting that anyone filling the position of Speaker could not “be a suppliant from day to day in respect of his constituency.”

Veiled references or not, Marcil was one of the most successful suppliants in the House, and known for his unwavering attention to his constituents in his eastern Quebec riding of Bonaventure. His 1904 campaign speech, for example, included a long list itemizing the money he had brought to the riding for 32 projects since the last election, totalling more than $13 million by today’s standards.

Marcil presided over the last days of Laurier’s administration until its defeat in the 1911 general election. He resigned as Speaker, and Laurier appointed him a Privy Councillor. Mackenzie King later said that Marcil’s “last word was one of grateful acknowledgement to a minister of the Crown for something the minister had been able to do which was of assistance to the constituency.” A month before his death, while suffering from heart trouble, Marcil told the Prime Minister that he was concerned about leaving the riding. King told him not to worry: “We’ll look after Bonaventure.”

Marcil was the first Speaker to be made a Knight of the French Légion d’honneur, in 1911, for his tireless promotion of the rights of French-speaking Canadians.

Next Speaker: Hon. Thomas Simpson Sproule

Previous Speaker: Hon. Robert Franklin Sutherland

Artist: Ulric Lamarche
Date: 1912

Born: Ste-Scholastique, Canada East, 1860

Died: Westboro, Ontario, 1937

Professional Background: Journalism

Political Affiliation: Liberal

Political Record:

Prime Minister During Speakership: