As a student at the University of Toronto in the early 1940s, Lloyd Francis had been Speaker of the annual Queen’s University model parliament. He regarded this as his introduction to the legislative process, as he went on to serve as an Ottawa city alderman, federal MP and Speaker of the House of Commons.
Much of Francis’s parliamentary reputation, unusually, originates from his almost four years as Deputy Speaker rather than his 10 months as Speaker. Nominated to the Deputy Speakership by Prime Minister Trudeau in 1980, he was in the last cycle of his electoral alternation between success (1963, 1968, 1974 and 1980) and defeat (1965, 1972, 1979 and 1984).
A notable incident occurred at 1:00 a.m. on October 24, 1980, when he was in the Chair replacing the Speaker, Jeanne Sauvé. At the government’s instigation Francis was responsible for implementing closure — a motion to curtail proceedings — during the debate about Canada’s constitution. As he started to put the motion, five opposition members walked up to the Speaker’s Chair and loudly demanded their right to be heard. Francis coolly continued, while close by on his left a Progressive Conservative member nearly came to fisticuffs while trying to protect former Prime Minister Clark from an angry member of the government.
Towards the end of 1983 Francis was effectively Speaker, as Sauvé suffered increasingly from ill health. Appointed Governor General, she resigned the Speakership in January 1984. Prime Minister Trudeau — impressed by Francis’s work as Deputy Speaker — nominated him as Speaker.
Previously as a Liberal MP, Francis had been something of a gadfly in opposing his own government’s policies that he felt were not in the best interests of his constituents, a large proportion of whom were federal public servants. While Speaker he turned more to improving the administration of the House and its employees, continuing work that he had begun with Sauvé. A man of strong principles, he tended to guide the House with a firmer hand than some other Speakers. His better-known rulings concerned the authority of the Chair, dilatory motions and the decorum of the House. After Francis’s defeat in the 1984 general election, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney appointed him Ambassador to Portugal.
A long-time Ottawa-area MP, Francis served with the Royal Canadian Air Force in the Second World War as a radar mechanic and an air navigator.
Next Speaker: Hon. John William Bosley
Previous Speaker: Right Hon. Jeanne Sauvé
Artist: Anita Elizabeth Kertzer
Born: Ottawa, Ontario, 1920
Died: Ottawa, Ontario, 2007
Professional Background: Economics, Military
Political Affiliation: Liberal
Prime Minister During Speakership: