Allan MacEachen

Mitchell Sharp Jean Chrétien Pierre Trudeau

Allan MacEachen

Allan MacEachen.jpg
MacEachen shortly after first being elected to the House of Commons.
1st Deputy Prime Minister of Canada
In office
March 3, 1980 – June 29, 1984
Prime MinisterPierre Trudeau
Preceded byHimself
Succeeded byJean Chrétien
In office
September 16, 1977 – June 4, 1979
Prime MinisterPierre Trudeau
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byHimself
Secretary of State for External Affairs
In office
September 10, 1982 – June 29, 1984
Prime MinisterPierre Trudeau
Preceded byMark MacGuigan
Succeeded byJean Chrétien
In office
August 8, 1974 – September 13, 1976
Prime MinisterPierre Trudeau
Preceded byMitchell Sharp
Succeeded byDonald Jamieson
Minister of Finance
In office
March 3, 1980 – September 9, 1982
Prime MinisterPierre Trudeau
Preceded byJohn Crosbie
Succeeded byMarc Lalonde
Minister of Labour
In office
April 22, 1963 – December 18, 1965
Prime MinisterLester B. Pearson
Preceded byMichael Starr
Succeeded byJohn Robert Nicholson
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Cape Breton Highlands—Canso
In office
June 25, 1968 – June 28, 1984
Preceded byRiding created
Succeeded byLawrence O'Neil
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Inverness—Richmond
In office
June 18, 1962 – June 24, 1968
Preceded byRobert MacLellan
Succeeded byRiding abolished
In office
August 10, 1953 – March 30, 1958
Preceded byWilliam F. Carroll
Succeeded byRobert MacLellan
Personal details
Allan Joseph MacEachen

(1921-07-06)July 6, 1921
Inverness, Nova Scotia, Canada
DiedSeptember 12, 2017(2017-09-12) (aged 96)
Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada
Political partyLiberal
ProfessionEconomist, 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.[1]

Early political career

He was elected for the first time to the House of Commons of Canada 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. Over the course of his career, MacEachen held the following portfolios: Labour, 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 the latter's 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".[2]

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 Conservatives, 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 in a vote of confidence of his budget, and the Liberals' return to power with a majority government on February 18, 1980.

MacEachen took the role of Finance Minister, and announced the National Energy Policy as part of his 1980 budget. He also angered public sector unions in his 1982 budget by imposing a wage restraint package dubbed "six and five"—limiting wage increases to six and five percent in the following two years.[3] (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 the Conservative 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 Conservative 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. ^ "Allan MacEachen, overseer of social reform and skilled politician, dies at 96". National Post. The Canadian Press. September 13, 2017. Retrieved February 8, 2018.
  2. ^ Trudeau, Pierre Elliott (1993). Memoirs. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart. pp. 176–177. ISBN 0-7710-8588-5.
  3. ^ "The Leader-Post". 29 June 1982. Retrieved 2020-06-17.
  4. ^ Tutton, Michael (September 13, 2017). "Allan MacEachen, former federal Liberal cabinet minister, dies at age 96". The Globe and Mail. The Canadian Press. Retrieved February 8, 2018.
  5. ^ [1] Archived 2007-09-29 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ McMillan, Elizabeth (September 13, 2017). "Former Nova Scotia politician Allan J. MacEachen dead at 96". CBC News. Retrieved February 8, 2018.
  7. ^ "Former federal Liberal cabinet minister Allan MacEachen dies at age 96". National Post. The Canadian Press. September 13, 2017. Retrieved February 8, 2018.
  8. ^ "Governor General Announces New Appointments to the Order of Canada". Archived from the original on 2009-01-21.
  9. ^ Pottie, Erin (September 13, 2017). "Political giant Allan J. MacEachen remembered as the 'Laird of Lake Ainslie'". Cape Breton Post. Archived from the original on September 15, 2017. Retrieved February 8, 2018.
  10. ^ "MacEachen Institute for Public Policy and Governance". Dalhousie University. Retrieved February 8, 2018.