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The Speakers of the Senate of Canada


Hon. William Miller
P.C., K.C. (1883–1887)

W illiam Miller was a 28-year-old lawyer when he was elected to Nova Scotia’s House of Assembly in 1863. This was the beginning of a political career that would last more than 48 years. A Reformer at first, he supported the principle of the union of all British North American colonies and opposed the more limited Maritime union proposal of Sir Charles Tupper, the Premier and later the Prime Minister of Canada. He also opposed the financial arrangements for smaller colonies that emerged from the 1864 Quebec Conference. As he saw that Confederation might flounder, however, he made an impassioned speech in the House of Assembly that influenced Nova Scotia’s legislators to reverse their anti-Confederation position.

His proposal that a conference be convened in London was accepted by the Province of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and the British North America Act, 1867 became a reality by February 1867. As a reward for his efforts, the following October Miller was appointed to the new Senate of Canada at the age of 32, making him the youngest senator in Canadian history. His view of the Senate was that it “was constituted as a check on the larger Provinces, and a protection for the weaker ones.” Commentators regarded him as “one of the most ready and effective debaters” in the chamber who “generally takes a leading place in all great discussions.”

In part because of his growing expertise in parliamentary procedure and broad experience in committee business, he was appointed Speaker of the Senate in 1883 and remained in the chair until 1887.

Although Miller’s increasing deafness meant that he rarely participated in debates, he remained in the Senate until his death in 1912. He served longer than any other senator to that point.

The youngest person appointed to the Senate, at age 32, Miller went on to serve in the Senate for 44 years, making him the third-longest-serving senator in history.

Next Speaker: Hon. Josiah Burr Plumb

Previous Speaker: Hon. David Lewis Macpherson

Portrait of the Honourable William Miller

Born: Antigonish, Nova Scotia, 1835

Died: Ottawa, Ontario, 1912

Professional Background: Law

Political Affiliation: Conservative

Political Record:

Prime Minister During Speakership: