The Right Honourable
Louis Stephen St. Laurent

1948-1957
Liberal

"Our nation was planned as a political partnership of two great races. It was planned by men of vision, of tolerance, as a partnership in which both of the partners would retain their essential characteristics, their religion, their culture." Louis St. Laurent, August 6, 1948


Private Life

Did You Know?

Louis St. Laurent was the first prime minister to create a 'media image'. Concerned that his shy, reserved personality would not appeal to post-war Canadians, the media picked up on one other trait - St. Laurent's love of and easy rapport with children. He became affectionately known to Canadians as 'Uncle Louis'.

  • Born: February 1, 1882, Compton Québec.
    • His father was Québecois and his mother was Irish. He grew up speaking French to his father and English to his mother. This fluency allowed him to gain support of both cultures when he was PM.
  • Education: St. Charles Seminary, Sherbrooke, B.A., 1902; Laval University, LL.L., 1905. (Turned down a Rhodes Scholarship in 1905 to begin practicing law.)
  • Marriage: Jeanne Renault (1886-1966) in 1908.
    • Two sons and three daughters born.
  • Called to the Quebec Bar, 1905.
    • His bilingualism soon had St. Laurent representing French clients in Ottawa, Great Britain, and the United States where he excelled in corporate and constitutional law.
  • St. Laurent's father had run as a Liberal candidate in provincial election. Louis even met and shook hands with Wilfrid Laurier in 1896 during Laurier's campaign, but St. Laurent had no personal interest in politics.
  • Professor of Law, Laval University, 1914.
  • Batonnier of the Quebec Bar, 1929.
  • President of the Canadian Bar Association, 1930-1932.
  • Counsel to Rowell-Sirois Commission on Dominion-Provincial Relations, 1937-1940.
  • Died: July 25, 1973 in Quebec City, Québec, of heart failure. Buried in the Cemetery of St. Thomas Aquinas (Saint-Thomas d'Aquin Cemetery), Compton, Québec.

Political Career

Did You Know?

Normally a man of impeccable dress, St. Laurent capitalized on his 'common touch' attitude by often giving speeches dressed in shirt sleeves. Once, while travelling by train, St. Laurent put on a pair of coveralls and and engineer's cap and drove the locomotive part of the way.

  • Constituencies: Quebec East, Québec.
  • Fate Lends a Hand: In 1941, World War II was just beginning. St. Laurent was 59 years old and he already had a very distinguished and lucrative law career behind him. However, when Ernest Lapointe (Minister of Justice and PM Mackenzie King's Quebec lieutenant) died, King searched for a suitable replacement in his caucus. While none of those approached could take on the responsibility, most recommended Louis St. Laurent. St. Laurent was very hesitant in the beginning, claiming his political inexperience was a handicap. However, he soon discovered the importance of the position being offered and accepted with the stipulation that he would retire as soon as the war was over. He won a by-election in 1942 and took his seat in the House of Commons and in the Cabinet. His political career had begun when he should have been considering retirement.
  • Minister of Justice and Attorney General, 1941-1946, 1948.
  • Became personally involved in the creation the United Nations following WWII.
  • Minister of External Affairs, 1946-1948.
  • PM Mackenzie King persuaded St. Laurent to postpone his retirement to stand as a candidate in the Liberal leadership convention, 1948. St. Laurent won.
  • President of the Privy Council, 1948-1957.
  • Created the Trans-Canada Highway Act, 1949.
  • Instrumental in Canada becoming a member of NATO (North American Treaty Organization), 1949.
  • Over-saw the joining of Newfoundland into Confederation as the 10'th and last province, 1949.
  • Over-saw Canada's UN participation in the Korean War, 1950-1953.
  • Appointed Vincent Massey (brother of actor Raymond Massey) as the first Canadian-born Governor General, 1952.
  • Began construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway, 1954.
  • Established equalization payments to all provinces and improved pensions and health insurance, 1956.
  • Established the Canada Council, 1957.
  • The Pipeline Debate (a natural gas pipeline from Alberta to central Canada) was the Liberal's 'Waterloo'. Attempts to pass legislation were met with fierce disagreement in the House and the introduction of closure discredited the Liberals in the public eye.
  • Leader of the Opposition, 1957-1958.
  • St. Laurent finally retired from politics and resigned his party leadership in 1958 and spent the last 15 years of his life enjoying quiet time with his family and many grandchildren. He died in 1973 at the age of 91.

*(Progressive) Conservative *Liberal *Unionist/Conservative

* Macdonald * Mackenzie * Abbott * Thompson * Bowell
* Tupper * Laurier * Borden * Meighen * King
* Bennett * St. Laurent * Diefenbaker * Pearson * Trudeau
* Clark * Turner * Mulroney * Campbell * Chrétien

Canadiana