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The Speakers of the Senate of Canada


Hon. George William Allan
P.C. (1888–1891)

The son of a distinguished member of Toronto society, George Allan was a wealthy financier, benefactor, and patron of the Canadian arts, higher education and horticulture. When he was only 15, he volunteered as a private in the Bank Rifle Corps during the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837, and later became Lieutenant Colonel of the Militia in East Toronto. He enjoyed travelling internationally; as well as making the traditional European grand tour, he twice ventured into the Middle East and North Africa.

Allan’s political interests emerged early: he was a Toronto alderman by the age of 27, and was elected Mayor five years later. Like his father, he was elected to the Legislative Council of the Province of Canada, serving from 1858 to 1867. It was during this period that Allan decided to support the Canadian artist Paul Kane by commissioning 100 oil paintings for $20,000. Kane dedicated his book Wanderings of an Artist among the Indians of North America (1859) to him.

Allan was one of many Liberal–Conservative senators appointed in 1867 to the Senate. As he did in the Legislative Council, he chaired the Senate’s Private Bills Committee, and later the Standing Committee on Banking and Commerce. More than 20 years later, in 1888, Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald appointed him as Speaker, following the sudden death of Josiah Plumb.

The death of Plumb and the appointment of Allan to the Speakership raised an interesting question for the Senate. Some felt that a practice existed for the Senate to change Speakers at the same time as the House of Commons, and for the mother tongue of the Speakers of the two chambers to be different, one being English and one being French. Although these traditions were followed only intermittently, and sometimes wholly ignored, they seem to have motivated the decision to replace Allan as Speaker in 1891.

By the time he died in 1901, Allan had sat for nearly 34 years in the Senate.

Allan, an inveterate traveller, was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in London.

Next Speaker: Hon. Sir Alexandre Lacoste

Previous Speaker: Hon. Josiah Burr Plumb

Portrait of the Honourable George William Allan

Born: York, Upper Canada, 1822

Died: Toronto, Ontario, 1901

Professional Background: Law

Political Affiliation: Conservative

Political Record:

Prime Minister During Speakership: