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The Speakers of the Senate of Canada


Hon. Guy Charbonneau
P.C., B.A. (1984–1993)

Born and educated in Quebec, Charbonneau served overseas during the Second World War in the historic French-language Fusiliers Mont-Royal. After the war, he established himself as an insurance company executive, businessman and political fundraiser, and worked on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party in Quebec for three decades.

Appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Joe Clark in 1979, Charbonneau supported Brian Mulroney in the 1983 Progressive Conservative leadership convention. After Mulroney won and became Prime Minister the following year, he appointed Charbonneau as Speaker. Although the Progressive Conservative government held a majority of seats in the House of Commons, it was in a minority in the Senate. As Speaker, Charbonneau presided over many acrimonious debates, including the debate over the proposed Canada–U.S. Free Trade Agreement in 1988.

Matters came to a head in 1990, with the debate over the proposed Goods and Services Tax (GST). After being passed by the House of Commons, the bill ran into difficulties in the Senate, where it was opposed by the Liberal majority. To resolve the deadlock, the Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney, invoked section 26 of the Constitution Act, 1867, which allowed an additional number of senators to be appointed. During the ensuing 11-week filibuster, Charbonneau was the target of insults and threats, but maintained his dignity. The GST legislation was eventually passed by the Senate and, in the aftermath of the acrimonious debate, the Rules of the Senate were significantly amended, the most extensive changes since 1906. Among other things, the new Rules clarified and expanded the Speaker’s authority.

The longest-serving Speaker of the Senate in Canadian history, Charbonneau presided over one of the most disruptive Senate debates ever witnessed: the GST debate.

Next Speaker: Right Hon. Roméo LeBlanc

Previous Speaker: Hon. Maurice Riel

Portrait of the Hon. Guy Charbonneau

Born: Trois-Rivières, Quebec, 1922

Died: Montréal, Quebec, 1998

Professional Background:
Insurance, Military

Political Affiliation: Conservative

Political Record:

Prime Ministers During Speakership: