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The Speakers of the Canadian House of Commons


Hon. Alan Aylesworth Macnaughton
P.C., O.C., Q.C., B.A., B.C.L., LL.D. (1963–1966)

Appointed to chair the Standing Committee on Public Accounts in 1958, Alan Macnaughton became the first opposition member to preside over that influential committee’s proceedings. His sense of fair play so impressed Lester Pearson that he nominated Macnaughton as Speaker in 1963, in Pearson’s first term as Prime Minister of a minority Liberal government.

Unassuming, courteous and tactful, Macnaughton generally displayed impartial firmness in handling a fractious House. Some Liberals objected to the latitude he allowed former Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition John Diefenbaker in questioning the government. Macnaughton responded by noting that the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition are both officers of the House of Commons, and are entitled to their own judgement in asking and responding to questions.

Macnaughton showed himself to be particularly adept in 1964 when the government decided to replace Canada’s official national flag (the Canadian Red Ensign) with a new design. What became known as the Canadian Flag Debate went on for many months and was particularly acrimonious. Macnaughton eventually split the main motion into two: one substituting the new design for the national flag, and the other establishing the Royal Union Flag (the Union Jack) as a symbol of Canada’s allegiance to the Crown and membership in the Commonwealth. In this attempt to moderate the acerbic debate, for the first time the Speaker used his own authority to split a motion.

He was also active in promoting greater parliamentary efficiency through recommendations of the Standing Committee on Procedure and Organization, such as allocating time for debates, shortening Question Period and creating research funding for MPs. In 1965, time-consuming appeals of the Speaker’s rulings were abolished. Diefenbaker proposed to Pearson that Macnaughton become the first permanent Speaker of the House, but Pearson’s government found the proposal too problematic.

Macnaughton did not run in the 1965 general election, and he was appointed to the Senate seven months after the next Parliament began.

As a pioneer of environmental concerns, Macnaughton founded the World Wildlife Fund Canada and was Deputy Chairman of the 1973 United Nations Conference on the Environment.

Next Speaker: Hon. Lucien Lamoureux

Previous Speaker: Hon. Marcel Joseph Aimé Lambert

Artist: Lilias Torrance Newton
Date: circa 1964

Born: Napanee, Ontario, 1903

Died: Montréal, Quebec, 1999

Professional Background: Law, Business

Political Affiliation: Liberal

Political Record:

Prime Minister During Speakership: