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Elementary Kinship Structures in Parliament since 1867
Jacques P. Gagnon

The title of this study is a nod to the distinguished ethnologist Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908–2009) who demonstrated that multiple family structures (monogamous, polyandrous or polygynous; patrilineal, matrilineal or bilateral, extended or restricted) all serve the same social functions to varying degrees. Since 2000, the Library of Parliament’s PARLINFO service has made available on its website kinship ties of senators and MPs from 1867 to the present on its website. This database is the source for this article. It allows us to look at the considerable number of parliamentarians who are spouses, brothers, sons or daughters of other parliamentarians.

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

Total 105

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

Total 256

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.

Notes

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).

 

Husbands and Wives in Parliament

Couple

Province

Riding

Party

Start of Mandate

Age

Wilson, Norman Frank

ON

Russell

Liberal

1904

28

Wilson, Cairine Reay

ON

Senate

Liberal

1930

45

Casgrain, Pierre-François

Qc

Charlevoix-Montmorency

Liberal

1917

31

Casgrain, Thérèse Forget

Qc

Senate

Independent

1970

74

Black, George

YK

Yukon

Conservative

1921

48

Black, Martha Louise

YK

Yukon

Independent-Conservative

1935

69

Casselman, Arza

ON

Grenville

Conservative

1921

30

Wadds, Jean Casselman

ON

Grenville-Dundas

Conservative

1958

38

MacInnis, Angus

BC

Vancouver-South

Independent Labour

1930

46

MacInnis, Grace

BC

Vancouver-Kingsway

NDP

1965

60

Casselman, Frederic

AB

Edmonton-East

Liberal

1940

55

Casselman, Cora

AB

Edmonton-East

Liberal

1941

53

Hardie, Mervyn

NT

Mackenzie River

Liberal

1953

35

Hardie, Isabel J. Tibbie

NT

Northwest Territories

Liberal

1962

46

Jones, Henry

SK

Saskatoon

Conservative

1957

37

Jones, Eloise

SK

Saskatoon

Conservative

1964

47

Macdonald, John

PE

King’s

Conservative

1957

44

Macdonald, Margaret

PE

King’s

Conservative

1961

51

Rideout, Sherwood

NB

Westmorland

Liberal

1962

45

Rideout, Margaret Isabel

NB

Westmorland

Liberal

1964

41

Sauvé, Maurice

Qc

Îles-de-la-Madeleine

Liberal

1962

39

Sauvé, Jeanne

Qc

Ahuntsic

Liberal

1972

50

Moores, Frank

NT

Bonavista-Trinity-Conception

Conservative

1968

35

Johnson, Janis

MB

Senate

Conservative

1990

44

Cossitt, Thomas

ON

Leeds

Conservative

1972

45

Cossitt, Jennifer

ON

Leeds-Grenville

Conservative

1982

34

Milne, William

ON

Peel-Dufferin-Simcoe

Liberal

1974

42

Milne, Lorna

ON

Senate

Liberal

1995

61

Cadman, Chuck

BC

Surrey-North

Reform

1997

49

Cadman, Dona

BC

Surrey-North

Conservative

2008

58

Grewal, Gurmant

BC

Surrey Central

Reform

1997

40

Grewal, Nina

BC

Fleetwood-Port Kells

Conservative

2004

46

Jaffer, Rahim

AB

Edmonton-Strathcona

Reform

1997

26

Guergis, Helena

ON

Simcoe-Grey

Conservative

2004

35

Finley, Diane

ON

Haldimand-Norfolk

Conservative

2004

47

Finley, Doug

ON

Senate

Conservative

2009

63

Layton, Jack

ON

Toronto-Danforth

NDP

2004

54

Chow, Olivia

ON

Trinity- Spadina

NDP

2006

49

Thi Lac, Ève-Mary Thaï

Qc

Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot

Bloc québécois

2007

35

Guimond, Claude

Qc

Rimouski-Neigette-Témiscouata-Les Basques

Bloc québécois

2008

45

Note: Because of the difficulty in tracing past parliamentarians’ family relations and the inadequacy of printed sources, the present listing may not be complete.



Brothers in Parliament

By Province

By Party

Québec

44

Liberal

65

Ontario

34

Conservative

26

Nova Scotia

6

Liberal-Conservative

6

Prince Edward Island

6

Progressive

2

New Brnswick

4

NDP

2

British Columbia

4

Independent

2

Alberta

3

Anti-Confederate

1

Saskatchewan

2

Unionist

1

Manitoba

2

Total

105

105



Fathers and Daughters in Parliament

Father-Daughter

Province

Riding

Party

Start of Mandate

Age

Forget, Joseph David

Québec

Charlevoix

Conservative

1904

43

Casgrain, Thérèse Forget

Québec

Senate

Independent

1970

74

Woodsworth, James

Manitoba

Winnipeg-Centre

Labour

1921

47

MacInnis, Grace

British Columbia

Vancouver-Kingsway

NDP

1965

60

Rowe,William Earl

Ontario

Dufferin-Simcoe

Conservative

1925

31

Wadds, Jean Casselman

Ontario

Grenville-Dundas

Conservative

1958

38

Bissett, Edgar

Manitoba

Springfield

Liberal-Progressive

1926

36

Neiman, Joan

Ontario

Senate

Liberal

1972

52

Jackman, Harry

Ontario

Rosedale

Conservative

1940

40

Nancy Ruth

Ontario

Senate

Conservative

2005

63

Drope, Robert

Ontario

Northumberland

Conservative

1945

47

Browes, Pauline

Ontario

Scarborough

Conservative

1984

46

Connolly, Harold

Nova Scotia

Senate

Liberal

1955

54

Carstairs, Sharon

Manitoba

Senate

Liberal

1994

52

Whelan, Eugene

Ontario

Essex-South

Liberal

1962

38

Whelan, Susan

Ontario

Essex-Windsor

Liberal

1993

30

Note: Because of the difficulty in tracing past parliamentarians’ family relations and the inadequacy of printed sources, the present listing may not be complete.



Fathers and Sons in Parliament

By Province

Fathers (Sons)

By Party

Fathers (Sons)

Québec

47 (48)

Liberal

59 (68)

Ontario

34 (31)

Conservative

46 (52)

New Brunswick

16 (15)

Liberal-Conservative

6 (2)

Nova Scotia

12 (12)

National Government

1 (1)

Prince Edward Island

2 (3)

Anti-Confederate

4 (0)

Newfoundland and Labrador

1 (1)

CCF/NDP

3 (4)

British Columbia

5 (10)

Social Credit

2 (1)

Alberta

4 (5)

Unionist

2 (1)

Saskatchewan

3 (5)

Nationalist

1 (2)

Manitoba

1 (3)

Independent/None

3 (1)

Northwest Territories

1 (0)

Reform Party

0 (1)

Yukon

1 (0)

Total

127 (133)

Total

127 (133)


Canadian Parliamentary Review Cover
Vol 34 no 3
2011






Last Updated: 2020-03-03