Allan MacEachen

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The Honourable
Allan MacEachen
Allan MacEachen.jpg
MacEachen shortly after first being elected to the House of Commons.
1st Deputy Prime Minister of Canada
In office
16 September 1977 – 4 June 1979
Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau
Preceded by None
In office
3 March 1980 – 30 June 1984
Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau
Succeeded by Jean Chrétien
Member of Parliament
for Inverness—Richmond (1953–1958; 1962–1968);
Cape Breton Highlands—Canso (1968–1984)
In office
Preceded by William F. Carroll
Succeeded by Robert MacLellan
In office
Preceded by Robert MacLellan
Succeeded by Lawrence O'Neil
Personal details
Born Allan Joseph MacEachen
(1921-07-06)July 6, 1921
Inverness, Nova Scotia
Died September 12, 2017(2017-09-12) (aged 96)
Antigonish, Nova Scotia
Political party Liberal Party of Canada
Profession Economist, professor

Allan Joseph MacEachen, PC OC (July 6, 1921 – September 12, 2017) was a Canadian politician, a many-time Cabinet minister, a Senator, and one of Canada's elder statesmen. He was the first Deputy Prime Minister of Canada, serving from 1977 to 1979 and 1980 to 1984.

Early life

Born in Inverness on Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Island, MacEachen graduated from St. Francis Xavier University, and lectured in economics for several years at the school. His parents were Scottish Gaelic speakers who both spoke the language at home and MacEachen, himself, was a fluent Gaelic speaker.[2]

Enters politics

He was elected for the first time to the Canadian House of Commons in the 1953 election, as a Liberal under the leadership of Prime Minister Louis St-Laurent. He was re-elected in the 1957 election, but was defeated in the Progressive Conservative Diefenbaker sweep in the 1958 election—the largest federal electoral victory in the history of Canada.

MacEachen was re-elected to parliament in the 1962 general election and was re-elected again in the 1963, 1965, 1968, 1972, 1974, 1979 and 1980 elections.

Cabinet minister

When Lester B. Pearson formed a Liberal government in 1963, he appointed MacEachen to cabinet as Minister of Labour. This was the beginning of a lengthy career in cabinet in which MacEachen served in several portfolios under prime ministers Pearson, Pierre Trudeau and John Turner. In addition to Labour, MacEachen held the following portfolios: National Health and Welfare, Manpower and Immigration, Privy Council, External Affairs and Finance.

In addition to his ministerial responsibilities, MacEachen served as Government House Leader on three occasions, and became the first Deputy Prime Minister of Canada in 1977 under Trudeau, a post he held whenever Trudeau was in office from that time until his retirement.

In his memoirs, published in 1993, Trudeau wrote that MacEachen "had a very good strategic sense, both in and out of Parliament, and he lived and breathed politics." For Trudeau, he "was always a source of shrewd advice", and "was the kind of man I respected, because he had no ulterior motives; he said what he thought, and the reasons he would give were always his real reasons".[3]

In 1968 MacEachen contested the leadership of the Liberal Party, but did not do well largely because there was a second Nova Scotian on the ballot. He was courted to run for leader again in 1984 but opted to support John Turner, the eventual winner.

In 1979, when the Liberals lost the election to Joe Clark's Tories, MacEachen served as interim Leader of the Opposition when Trudeau announced he would retire from politics. Trudeau's short-lived retirement ended with the defeat of Clark's government and the Liberals' return to power with a majority government on February 18, 1980. MacEachen resumed his job as Finance Minister, and in 1982 angered public sector unions by imposing a wage restraint package dubbed "six and five"—limiting wage increases to six and five per cent in the following two years. (This was at a time when double-digit interest rates and inflation were common.)


Turner, the new party leader and prime minister, recommended him for appointment to the Senate where he became Leader of the Government in the Senate. Although he was only in this position briefly, as Turner lost the 1984 election, he started the practice of allowing opposition senators to chair a number of committees, a practice that continues today.

From 1984 to 1991 he served as leader of the opposition in the Senate, where he was regarded as the primary opposition to Brian Mulroney's first term due to Mulroney's substantial majority in the Commons, with an opposition that was spread nearly equally between Turner's Liberals and Ed Broadbent's New Democratic Party. In 1988, after a request by Turner, MacEachen blocked the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement in the Senate to force an election before the issue was settled. The agreement was the main issue of the 1988 election. After Mulroney's victory, MacEachen and the Senate passed the agreement.

After the election, MacEachen again used the Senate to block the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax. Brian Mulroney recommended for appointment several new senators, and used an emergency power in the Constitution Act, 1867 that allowed him to recommend for appointment eight new Senators. MacEachen then led a filibuster against the bill, with Liberal members defying speaker Guy Charbonneau. Charbonneau voted for Tory motions. The Liberal senators used other tactics to delay Senate business. Soon, the motion was passed, and the Progressive Conservative majority passed new rules for the Senate forbidding such actions.

MacEachen retired from the Senate in 1996 upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75, and became a one-dollar-per-year adviser to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. Further controversy ensued in 1998 when it was discovered he was still using a full Senate office.

Retirement and death

After leaving the Senate, MacEachen retired to Nova Scotia spending the rest of his life at his house on Lake Ainslie in Inverness County, Cape Breton and in Antigonish.[4]

In 2006, MacEachen endorsed Bob Rae's candidacy to lead the Liberal Party, and was appointed honorary campaign chair of Rae's campaign.[5]

MacEachen died at the age of 96 on September 12, 2017 at St. Martha's Hospital in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.[6][7]


In 2008, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.[8]

St. Francis Xavier University holds the annual Allan J. MacEachen lecture in his honour. In 2000, the Allan J. MacEachen International Academic and Cultural Centre was opened in Mabou, Nova Scotia. The complex consists of a secondary school, Dalbrae Academy, and Strathspey Place, a performing arts centre. Dalhousie University's MacEachen Institute for Public Policy and Governance is also named after him.[9][10]


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2005-09-14. Retrieved 2007-03-12. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Memoirs, by Pierre Elliott Trudeau, McClelland & Stewart publishers, Toronto, 1993, pp. 176-177.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Archived 2007-09-29 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ Former Nova Scotia politician Allan J. MacEachen dead at 96 [1]
  7. ^ "Former federal Liberal cabinet minister Allan MacEachen dies at age 96". National Post. Ottawa. September 13, 2017. Retrieved September 13, 2017. 
  8. ^ "Governor General Announces New Appointments to the Order of Canada". Archived from the original on 2009-01-21. 
  9. ^
  10. ^

External links

  • Allan MacEachen – Parliament of Canada biography
23rd Ministry – Cabinet of John Turner
Cabinet post (1)
Predecessor Office Successor
Bud Olson Leader of the Government in the Senate
June 30, 1984 – September 17, 1984
Duff Roblin
22nd Ministry – Second cabinet of Pierre Trudeau
Cabinet posts (3)
Predecessor Office Successor
Mark MacGuigan Secretary of State for External Affairs
September 10, 1982 – June 30, 1984
Jean Chrétien
John Crosbie Minister of Finance
March 3, 1980 – September 9, 1982
Marc Lalonde
himself, then vacant Deputy Prime Minister of Canada
March 3, 1980 – June 30, 1984
Jean Chrétien
20th Ministry – First cabinet of Pierre Trudeau
Cabinet posts (8)
Predecessor Office Successor
position created / previous Senior Minister Paul Hellyer Deputy Prime Minister of Canada
September 16, 1977 – June 4, 1979
vacant, then himself
Mitchell Sharp President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada
September 14, 1976 – June 4, 1979
Walter David Baker
Mitchell Sharp Secretary of State for External Affairs
August 8, 1974 – September 13, 1976
Donald Jamieson
Donald Stovel Macdonald President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada
September 24, 1970 – August 7, 1974
Mitchell Sharp
Jean Marchand Minister of Manpower and Immigration
July 6, 1968 – September 23, 1970
Otto Lang
Pierre Trudeau President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada (acting)
May 2, 1968 – 5 July 1968
Donald Stovel Macdonald
cont'd from 19th Min. Minister of Amateur Sport
April 20, 1968 – July 5, 1968
cont'd from 19th Min. Minister of National Health and Welfare
April 20, 1968 – July 5, 1968
John Munro
Special Parliamentary Responsibilities
Predecessor Title Successor
Mitchell Sharp Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
(September 14, 1976 – March 26, 1979)
Walter David Baker
Donald Stovel Macdonald Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
(September 24, 1970 – May 9, 1974)
Mitchell Sharp
19th Ministry – Cabinet of Lester B. Pearson
Cabinet posts (3)
Predecessor Office Successor
Judy LaMarsh Minister of National Health and Welfare
18 December 1965 – 20 April 1968
cont'd into 20th Min.
' Minister of Amateur Sport
18 December 1965 – 20 April 1968
cont'd into 20th Min.
Michael Starr Minister of Labour
22 April 1963 – 17 December 1965
John Robert Nicholson
Special Parliamentary Responsibilities
Predecessor Title Successor
George James McIlraith Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
(May 4, 1967 – April 20, 1968)
Donald Stovel Macdonald
Party political offices
Preceded by
position created
Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada
Succeeded by
Jean Chrétien
Parliament of Canada
Preceded by
William F. Carroll
Member of Parliament for Inverness—Richmond
Succeeded by
Robert MacLennan
Preceded by
Robert MacLennan
Member of Parliament for Inverness—Richmond
Succeeded by
riding abolished
Preceded by
riding created
Member of Parliament for Cape Breton Highlands—Canso
Succeeded by
Lawrence O'Neil
Government offices
Preceded by
Jacques Flynn
Leader of the Opposition in the Senate of Canada
September 16, 1984 – November 30, 1991
Succeeded by
Royce Herbert Frith
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