Open main menu

Catherine Sophia Callbeck CM OPEI (born July 25, 1939) is a Canadian retired politician.

Catherine S. Callbeck

28th Premier of Prince Edward Island
In office
January 25, 1993 – October 9, 1996
MonarchElizabeth II
Lieutenant GovernorMarion L. Reid
Gilbert Clements
Preceded byJoe Ghiz
Succeeded byKeith Milligan
Leader of the Prince Edward Island Liberal Party
In office
January 23, 1993 – October 5, 1996
Preceded byJoe Ghiz
Succeeded byKeith Milligan
MLA (Assemblyman) for 4th Prince
In office
April 29, 1974 – April 24, 1978
Preceded byRobert Schurman
Succeeded byWilliam MacDougall
MLA (Councillor) for 1st Queens
In office
March 29, 1993 – November 18, 1996
Preceded byLeone Bagnall
Succeeded byriding abolished
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Malpeque
In office
December 12, 1988 – January 25, 1993
Preceded byMelbourne Gass
Succeeded byWayne Easter
Senator from Prince Edward Island
In office
September 23, 1997 – July 25, 2014
Appointed byJean Chrétien
Personal details
Born (1939-07-25) July 25, 1939 (age 79)
Central Bedeque, Prince Edward Island
Political partyLiberal (until 2014)
Independent Liberal
Other political
Prince Edward Island Liberal Party
Alma mater
OccupationBusinessperson, Teacher
CabinetMinister of Health and Social Services (1974–1978)
Minister responsible for Native Affairs (1974–1978)
Minister responsible for the Disabled (1974–1978)

She was the 28th premier of Prince Edward Island from 1993 to 1996, the third female premier in Canadian history, and the first to win a general election (the first female premier, Rita Johnston of British Columbia, became premier after winning the party leadership but lost the subsequent election; the second, Nellie Cournoyea of the Northwest Territories, was elected premier by MLAs following a non-partisan consensus government election). She was subsequently a member of the Senate of Canada from 1997 until her retirement in 2014.

Born in Central Bedeque, Prince Edward Island, the daughter of Ralph R. Callbeck and Ruth Campbell,[1] she received a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Mount Allison University in 1960 and a Bachelor of Education degree from Dalhousie University in 1962. She took post-graduate courses in business administration from Syracuse University.[2]

Callbeck was a business teacher in New Brunswick and Ontario before returning to the island to enter the family retail business.[1]


Early political careerEdit

A Liberal, she was first elected to the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island in 1974. She was appointed to Cabinet as Minister of Health and Social Services and Minister Responsible for Disabled Persons. She decided not to seek re-election in 1978 in order to work in the family business.

Callbeck returned to politics in 1988 when she was elected to the federal House of Commons as an MP for the Liberal Party of Canada.

Premier of Prince Edward IslandEdit

In January 1993 she returned to provincial politics to successfully run for the leadership of the Prince Edward Island Liberal Party and was appointed Premier on 25 January. Under her leadership the Liberals won the 1993 provincial election, making her the first female leader of a political party in Canada to lead her party to victory in a general election.

Callbeck was premier at the same time as the other three most important public offices in the province were also held by women: Elizabeth II was Sovereign in Prince Edward Island, Marion Reid was the Lieutenant Governor, and Patricia Mella was the Leader of the Official Opposition.

Callbeck's time in office was marked by significant progress. Spurred by new investments in food processing, manufacturing, aerospace and information technology, the rate of economic growth between 1993 and 1996 was the second highest in Canada. The number of people working in the province reached an all-time record high. The unemployment rate dropped by a whopping seven per cent, the largest reduction of any province in Canada.

Coming into office, the Callbeck government pledged to bring the high budget deficit under control. Under her predecessor, the deficit had risen to an all-time high of $89 million. Through a combination of rising revenues due to the stronger economy, and what a national accounting firm called one of the most aggressive deficit cutting strategies in the country, the Callbeck government brought in a surplus budget in 1995-96. it was the first budget surplus in a decade.

Reaching a surplus budget, however, did not come without a political cost. Public service salary rollbacks were widely opposed by public service unions - but no jobs were cut.

There were other accomplishments. A new agreement on electricity with New Brunswick resulted in lower electrical costs. A new waste management project put Prince Edward Island as a leader in Canada in reducing the amount of waste going into landfills. In keeping with Callbeck's commitment to strengthen social programs, new investments were made in health and education.

There were significant reforms. Municipal amalgamation reduced duplication and overlap in the province's larger municipalities. The number of government departments, agencies and crown corporations was reduced. A new electoral system replaced the previous 16 dual-member ridings to 27 single-member ridings. It was the first significant electoral reform in more than a century.

Callbecks' time in office saw the beginning of construction of the Confederation Bridge linking Prince Edward Island to New Brunswick. When Callbeck came into office, the project was stalled because of an impasse between federal and provincial officials. She worked closely with the federal public works minister to resolve the issues, and the resulting constitutional change paved the way for the largest capital project in the history of the province.

in just over three years, the Callbeck government achieved a major turnaround in the outlook of the province, and inspired renewed confidence in its people.


Callbeck resigned in October 1996 after only three and a half years as PEI's premier. The Liberal party lost the provincial election in November 1996 as well as the next two general elections, only returning to power in the 2007 election.


In September 1997 she was appointed on the recommendation of Jean Chrétien to the Senate.

On January 29, 2014, Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau announced all Liberal Senators, including Callbeck, were removed from the Liberal caucus, and would continue sitting as Independents.[3] The Senators referred to themselves as the Senate Liberal Caucus even though they were no longer members of the parliamentary Liberal caucus.[4]

Callbeck retired from the Senate on July 25, 2014, when she reached the upper house's mandatory retirement age.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Weeks, Blair (2002). Minding the House: A Biographical Guide to Prince Edward Island MLAs. Acorn Press. ISBN 1-894838-01-7.
  2. ^ "Canadian Who's Who 1997 entry". University of Toronto Press.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ Cudmore, James (January 29, 2014). "Justin Trudeau removes senators from Liberal caucus". CBC News. Retrieved January 28, 2018.
  4. ^ "Trudeau's expulsion catches Liberal senators by surprise". The Globe and Mail. January 29, 2014. Retrieved January 29, 2014.
  • MacKinnon, Wayne, Catherine Callbeck - the Politics of Principle, JHB Publishing, 2012

External linksEdit