People who share both a bedchamber and a parliamentary chamber are rare worldwide. Only about twenty married couples over three quarters of a century have sat in the Parliament of Canada. Intuitively, we would expect these couples to share the same ideology and to be more common among the less conservative parties. We would also expect that increasing numbers of couples were elected as more women left the home and entered the workforce and that they would be more common in urban areas than rural ones.
Our Canadian sample shows that most of our intuitions are wrong. Of 20 couples, half are from conservative parties. The two periods with the most couples in Parliament were the 1960s and the 2000s, with no gradual progression from 1930 to 2008. The urban-rural divide is no more apparent: we note only that Ontario sent the most couples to Ottawa (6 of 20).
Nonetheless, we do note the following trends; husbands and wives always shared the same political philosophy; the husband’s political career usually preceded the wife’s (18 of 20); the wife’s career often began later in life than her husband’s (14 of 20). Half the time, a riding was a “political legacy” passed on from husband to wife.
Am I my Brother’s Keeper?
Since 1867, 105 parliamentarians (92 MPs and 13 senators) have held office alongside their brothers. They were part of 50 families, 5 of which had three parliamentarians each (the Dorions, Geoffrions, Horners, Macdonalds and Prices). Most often, the older brother began his career before (35 cases) or at the same time (5 cases) as his brother(s). There was no significant difference in the ages of the brothers when they began their parliamentary career.1 Most held office in the same province (43 of 50), if not in the same riding. The brothers most often represented the same party (42 of 50). The exceptions are most often from the 19th century, when party discipline was less strict than it is today.
Let us now look at the provincial and party distribution for the 105 brothers. Brothers were clearly more frequently elected in Quebec than in Ontario and more often in the Maritimes than in the Western provinces. The Liberal Party had more brothers in its ranks than the Conservatives or the other parties.
The more complicated question is how the representation of brothers in Parliament changed over time. To find out, we divided history into four “political generations” that correspond to four periods of hegemony of one of the two major parties or alternation between them. How many brothers started their parliamentary careers in each period?
- 1867–1896 Quasi-hegemony of Conservatives 48
- 1896–1935 Liberals and Conservatives alternate 33
- 1935–1968 Quasi-hegemony of Liberals 15
- 1968–2008 Liberals and Conservatives alternate 9
The trend is very clear: the frequency of brothers in Parliament has noticeably diminished over time.
Like Father (or Mother), Like Son (or Daughter)
Now we will consider the daughters, who number only eight. Let us compare their situation with that of the parliamentary wives. There is only one senator who had a senator daughter but four female senators had a father who was an MP or senator. Daughters and fathers shared the same ideology; as many daughters represented the Conservative Party as the Liberal Party; the daughter’s career began at a more advanced age than (5 cases) or the same age (2 cases) as her father’s did. Moreover, the father did not pass on his riding to his daughter except in one case. One or two daughters began their political careers in each decade over the last fifty years. Ontario has the most parliamentary daughters (5 of the 8).
What about the sons of parliamentarians? They are far more numerous: 133 from 127 families, for a total of 260 parliamentarians—fathers and sons—comprising 210 MPs and 50 senators. This means that some fathers had two sons in Parliament (the Barnards, Crawfords, Moffats and Sinclairs). Ralph Horner even had three sons sit in Parliament. George Rideout was the son of two parliamentarians. Another female parliamentarian, Marion Dewar, was the mother of a MP, Paul Dewar.
Of course, the provinces and parties represented were more or less the same for father and son. As with brothers in Parliament, Quebec had more than Ontario, and the Maritimes more than the West. However, the Liberals’ lead over the Conservatives is not as large for fathers and sons in Parliament.
We will now look at the change in fathers and sons in Parliament over time by comparing the entry dates of the 256 parliamentarians.2
- 1867–1896 Quasi-hegemony of Conservatives 94
- 1896–1935 Liberals and Conservatives alternating 68
- 1935–1968 Quasi-hegemony of Liberals 57
- 1968–2011 Liberals and Conservatives alternating 37
As with brothers in Parliament, the trend is toward fewer fathers and sons over time.3
Do these sons of parliamentarians take up their political careers early? It seems to be the case given that 85 sons began their career at an earlier age than their fathers did.4 Of course, the voters in ridings elect MPs, and the prime minister chooses senators, but the numbers are clear.
How many sons inherited their ridings from their fathers? This trend has been significant; it was the case with over 100 father and son parliamentarians. Quebec had the most of these, followed by Ontario and the Maritimes.
Let us conclude with a few remarks on names. Fifteen of the 20 parliamentary wives had the same name as their husbands; just 1 daughter kept her father’s name; 9 of 133 sons had the same first name as their father.
1. In 20 cases, the older brother started his parliamentary career at a more advanced age than his brother; in 24 cases, the opposite occurred; in 11 cases, the brothers began at the same age or within two years. (This makes for a total of 55 cases, including the five families with three brothers who sat in Parliament.)
2. Not 260 as in the preceding table. Four parliamentarians were counted twice since they are both sons and fathers of other parliamentarians. They are MPs Charles-Eugène Pouliot and Charles-Gavan Power and senators Charles-Philippe Beaubien and Louis-Athanase David.
3. In the present House of Commons the following had fathers who were also MPs: Maxime Bernier, Jack Layton, Dominic Leblanc, Peter MacKay, Geoff Regan, Mark Strahl and Justin Trudeau.
4. Thirty fathers began their careers at a younger age than their sons, 11 at roughly the same age (plus or minus two years).