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Suzanne Verville

Speakers of The Legislative Assembly of The Province Of New Brunswick 1786-1985, Legislative Assembly, Fredericton, New Brunswick, 1985, 72 p.

The forward to this compendium of biographies quotes an extract from the New Brunswick Journal of Debates (February 16, 1939) referring to a statement by former Speaker F.C. Squires describing what this function involved: "The Speaker, more than any other member of the House, represents the will of the people of the country. He is the barrier which any subversive attack on democratic institutions must break. He is the First commoner. The power placed in his hands by the House is great. Without his consent, even the Representative of the King cannot enter this chamber. He represents in no small way the supreme will of the people... His decisions cannot be questioned except by a vote of the House. He maintains decorum in debate and sees to it that each representative of the people has the exercise of freedom of speech within the Rules of the House".

Unfortunately, most of these biographies provide very little information on the careers of the men who held the position of Speaker in New Brunswick. The Honourable Amos Botsford, the first Speaker occupied the position for twenty-six consecutive years, from January 3, 1786 to March 7, 1812. His son, William, and grandson, Bliss Botsford, succeeded him. But their careers as Speakers remain largely unexplored.

As regards James Edward Lynott, the book quotes from an editorial in The Gleaner of January 8, 1890 which indicated that, as Speaker of the House, he acted with courtesy and impartiality, and his decisions were never questioned. No events illustrating this statement and no highlights of his career are reported. The same is true with regard to the Honourable George Johnson Clarke. A quotation taken from The Cleaner of February 27, 1917 indicates that he fulfilled his role with dignity and won the confidence and respect of members from both sides of the House.

One career which seems to have been rather extraordinary was that of Frederick Charles Squires. Appointed Deputy Speaker of the House during the 1926 session he became Speaker on February 12, 1931, a position he retained until April 4, 1935. On March 5, 1936, he was chosen as parliamentary leader of the opposition and later became head of the Conservative Party. In 1953 he was appointed Clerk of the New Brunswick Legislative Assembly and Law Clerk. He performed these roles until 1959. The Telegraph Journal of December 17, 1960 described him as having acquired a reputation as a first-class expert on parliamentary procedure in New Brunswick.

This book is not intended for those interested in the evolution of parliamentary procedure in New Brunswick or Canada as a whole. It does not provide a comprehensive description of the mandates and responsibilities of those who occupied the position of Speaker. It is, however, a very useful reference tool for those who want more information on the major stages in the fives of these politicians. More information would be required concerning their duties and the events which distinguished their careers as Speakers in order to bring these individuals to life. It could then prove to be a most valuable tool for those working in the field of parliamentary procedure.

Suzanne Verville, Table Research Branch, House of Commons Ottawa

Canadian Parliamentary Review Cover
Vol 9 no 4

Last Updated: 2019-11-29