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The Speakers of the Canadian House of Commons


Hon. William Ross MacDonald
P.C., Q.C., LL.D. (1949–1953)

Liberal Prime Minister Mackenzie King appointed William Ross MacDonald as Deputy Speaker of the House in September 1945, the first of a series of public offices held by MacDonald over 30 years. He was 82 when he retired as Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario in 1974, the conclusion of a life of public service that had nearly come to a premature end in 1916 when he suffered grievous wounds as a Canadian infantry officer at the Battle of the Somme. He was successively an MP, Deputy Speaker and Speaker of the House, three times a cabinet minister, senator, twice Leader of the Government in the Senate, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and finally Lieutenant-Governor.

Noting to the House that MacDonald had already served with distinction as Deputy Speaker for four years, in 1949 Prime Minister Louis St-Laurent nominated him for the Speakership. Progressive Conservative Leader of the Opposition George Drew seconded the nomination, adding that MacDonald had earned the respect of the House by his unfailing courtesy and modesty. On his unanimous election the new Speaker began learning French, although it was reported that his difficulties with the language were a good-humoured joke in the House.

At a meeting of Commonwealth Speakers in London in 1950, protocol officials advised MacDonald not to wear his Speaker’s tricorne hat in the presence of King George VI. Citing precedent, he proved that the officials were wrong, and wore his hat.

The Speaker chose not to run in the 1953 general election, and Louis St-Laurent appointed him to the Senate. In a tribute to MacDonald, the Prime Minister said that “No Speaker has been greater — and few have been his peer.”

MacDonald resigned as Speaker to be appointed to the Senate, where he served as Leader of the Government for nearly five years.

Next Speaker: Hon. Louis-René Beaudoin

Previous Speaker: Hon. Gaspard Fauteux

Artist: Lilias Torrance Newton
Date: 1951

Born: Toronto, Ontario, 1891

Died: Brantford, Ontario, 1976

Professional Background:
Law, Military

Political Affiliation: Liberal

Political Record:

Prime Minister During Speakership: