Canada's electoral history from 1867 to today

The youngest and the oldest to become leader of the official opposition

by Maurice Y. Michaud (he/him)

LLouis St-Laurent
(Courtesy of Library and Archives Canada-C-10461)ouis St-Laurent, pictured here, is remembered more as Canada's 12th prime minister, but he finished his political career as the 19th leader of the official opposition in the House of Commons, a position he occupied for almost seven months before retiring from politics. He was 75-years-old in June 1957 when the Progressive Conservatives under John G. Diefenbaker (1895–1979) ended the Liberals' nearly 22-year hold on power, making him the oldest person to be named to that position.

Only two persons also appear on the list of the youngest premiers or prime minister: one at the federal level and the other in Québec. C. Joseph (Joe) Clark was 36-years-old when he became leader of the opposition on February 22, 1976; however, as is the case on that list, he was the oldest of the youngest, suggesting that party leaders at the federal level tend to be older than their counterparts at the provincial level. For his part, J. Robert Bourassa was the leader of the official opposition for three months before being elected to become Premier of Québec on April 29, 1970, aged 36 in both instances. Charles H. Cahan, Conservative leader of the opposition in the Nova Scotia Legislative Assembly for three years from January 2, 1891, continues to hold the record for the youngest to reach the position of opposition leader anywhere in Canada, aged 29 years and 2 months.

Just like St-Laurent, the colourful Joseph R. (Joey) Smallwood is remembered more as the first Confederation-era premier of Newfoundland, but the short-lived 35th Assembly displaced him to the position of opposition leader on February 5, 1972. Aged 71 at the time, he remains to this day the oldest to ascend (or descend?) to that position in that province. Nevertheless, one could argue that he was the first Liberal leader of the opposition of that province as well as its first premier.

Prince Edward Island Conservative Walter R. Shaw holds the record for the oldest person anywhere in Canada to become opposition leader, as he was well into his 78th year on May 30, 1966, when he lost the premiership to a 32-year-old Liberal, Alexander B.Campbell (1933– ), who, surprisingly, was not that province's youngest premier, for Liberal Louis H. Davies (1845–1924) was 31 and has held that record since 1876.

Note that the non-partisan assemblies are excluded from this list as they do not have a formal opposition.

Legend } Mandate: Date → Duration [yy.mm.dd]
Age at the time: (yy.mm.dd)
Alive: 9
Dead: 16
 PAR  Party
Currently in that office: 1
Died in that office: 0
Last column: Rank in category
Jurisdiction The Youngest The Oldest
1 CA
Canada
PC
From 22 February 1976 → 03.03.12
C. Joseph (Joe) Clark
(36.08.17)
13
LIB
From 21 June 1957 → 00.06.25
Louis S. St-Laurent
(75.04.20)
2
9 AB
Alberta
SC
From 15 September 1973 → 07.02.13
Robert C. Clark
(36.02.13)
10
WR
From 22 December 2014 → 00.04.12
Heather M. Forsyth
(64.04.21)
10
8 BC
British Columbia
CCF
From 21 October 1941 → 10.02.26
Harold E. Winch
(34.04.03)
8
SC
From 30 August 1972 → 00.09.06
W.A. Cecil (W.A.C.) Bennett
(71.11.24)
3
11 MB
Manitoba
PC
From 23 July 1892 → 01.01.09
William A. Macdonald
(31.07.16)
6
PC
From 9 December 1941 → 01.01.23
Huntly D.B. Ketchen
(69.06.17)
7
3 NB
New Brunswick
LIB
From 27 October 2012 → 01.10.25
Brian A. Gallant
(30.06.00)
3
LIB
From 3 January 1957 → 01.00.28
Joseph E. Connolly
(69.01.00)
8
7 NL
Newfoundland and Labrador
PC
From 20 August 1959 → 06.04.24
James J.L. Greene
(31.02.05)
4
LIB
From 18 January 1972 → 00.02.05
Joseph R. (Joey) Smallwood
(71.00.25)
4
2 NS
Nova Scotia
PC
From 2 January 1891 → 03.02.12
Charles H. Cahan
(29.02.02)
1
LIB
From 19 February 1980 → 00.03.19
Benoit Comeau
(63.06.27)
11
6 ON
Ontario
LIB
From 3 September 1867 → 04.03.16
D. Edward Blake
(33.10.21)
7
NDP
From 28 June 2022 → 00.01.20
Peter C. Tabuns
(70.08.25)
5
4 PE
Prince Edward Island
LIB
From 5 April 2003 → 04.01.22
Robert W.J. Ghiz
(29.02.15)
2
PC
From 30 May 1966 → 03.11.10
Walter R. Shaw
(78.05.10)
1
5 QC
Québec
QLP
From 17 January 1970 → 00.03.11
J. Robert Bourassa
(36.06.03)
12
CONS
From 3 November 1931 → 00.10.16
Charles E. Gault
(70.01.15)
6
10 SK
Saskatchewan
NDP
From 20 June 2017 → 00.08.10
Nicole Sarauer
(±31.05.19)
5
LIB
From 11 February 1954 → 00.01.22
Asmundur A. Loptson
(68.11.28)
9
12 YT
Yukon
NDP
From 17 April 2000 → 00.06.04
Trevor Harding
(34.07.28)
9
NDP
From 11 October 2011 → 05.00.26
Elizabeth Hanson
(±60.09.10)
12
15 NW
North-Western Territory
LIB
From 16 April 1903 → 02.04.15
Donald H. McDonald
(36.03.05)
11
LIB
From 16 April 1903 → 02.04.15
Donald H. McDonald
(36.03.05)
13
The last assembly of the North-Western Territory from 1902 to 1905 was the only to be partisan, which makes Donald H. McDonald both the youngest and the oldest leader of the official opposition.


© 2022 Maurice Y. Michaud :: PoliCan.ca
Pub.: 16 Jun 2022 07:57
Rev.: 23 Jul 2022 19:00 (but data revised dynamically)