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Mike Aiken

Speakers of the Senate, Grant Purves (Library of Parliament: Ottawa, 1989)

This collection of biographies makes a handy starting point for anyone interested in doing research of the upper house. The biographies are chronological, but are more than a recitation of awards. Most cover two pages, including the speaker's portrait.

This is not meant to be a comprehensive guide to the Senate speakers office nor are there any juicy details on scandals or financial ruin. The downfall of the Hon. John Ross due to his indecision during the Riel affair is slickly glossed over, as is the colourful career of the Hon. Jean Marchand.

One of the hypotheses of this work is that the speakers chair is not the end of a career. It is not convincing. For most individuals the Senate speakership is only attained at the end of an illustrious public career.

In the end, it is the omissions which detract from the book more than anything. It would be so much better to see such a collection expanded to include the colourful detail and the controversies that first enticed these men and women into public life and inspired them to new heights or contributed to their demise.

Mike Aiken, School of Journalism, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario


Canadian Parliamentary Review Cover
Vol 12 no 4

Last Updated: 2020-03-03