Allan MacEachen, former federal cabinet minister from Nova Scotia, dead at 96


Allan J. MacEachen, a long-serving Liberal MP and senator from Nova Scotia who was a driving force behind many Canadian social programs, has died at the age of 96.

The news was announced on Twitter late Tuesday by former Ontario premier and federal MP Bob Rae.

“Have just learned that my dear friend and mentor Allan J. MacEachen has passed away — he was a magnificent parliamentarian, scholar,” said Rae.

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Finance Minister Allan MacEachen in the House of Commons during budget night, Nov. 12, 1981. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

MacEachen was one of Canada’s most powerful cabinet ministers of the postwar era and held a variety of posts, including a term as minister of national health and welfare from 1965-1968 during the creation of medicare.

As labour minister, MacEachen was also instrumental in reforming the labour code and establishing a new standard for the minimum wage. 

His portfolios also included finance and he twice served as Secretary of State for External Affairs.

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Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, centre, shares a laugh with fellow Liberal MPs Allan MacEachen, left, and John Munro, right, during voting on amendments to the constitution in the House of Commons, Ottawa, April 23, 1981. (Andy Clark/Canadian Press)

Born in Inverness on Cape Breton Island in 1921, MacEachen was first elected in 1953 in Nova Scotia’s Inverness-Richmond riding under Liberal prime minister Louis St. Laurent.

MacEachen won again in 1957, but lost his seat in 1958 before winning eight more elections, including the last five while representing Cape Breton-Highlands Canso. 

He also served as deputy prime minister and was appointed to the Senate in 1984 where he remained until 1996.

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Former Senator and cabinet minister Allan MacEachen is invested as Officer of the Order of Canada as by Governor General Michaelle Jean during a ceremony in Ottawa in 2009. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

MacEachen, who ran an unsuccessful campaign for the leadership of the Liberal Party in 1968, was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2008.