|Born||April 4, 1925|
Shawinigan, Quebec, Canada
|Died||July 11, 1979(aged 54)|
|Political party||Progressive Conservative (from 1972)|
|Quebec Liberal (before 1972)|
Life and career
Wagner was born in Shawinigan, Quebec, as the son of Corona (née Saint-Arnaud) and Benjamin Wagner. His father, a violinist, was a immigrant from the city of Sucheva in the region of Bukovina, Romania. His mother was French-Canadian.
In 1963, Wagner was appointed as a Sessions Court judge. Subsequently, he was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Quebec in a by-election in Montréal-Verdun on October 5, 1964, and was re-elected in the 1966 general election in Verdun. He earned a "law-and-order" reputation when he served successively as Solicitor General, Attorney General, and Minister of Justice from its creation in 1965 to 1966 in the government of Quebec Premier Jean Lesage.
After losing the 1970 Quebec Liberal Party leadership election to Robert Bourassa, Wagner left electoral politics to return to the bench, receiving appointment once more as a Sessions Court judge. He then entered federal politics, and was elected as the Progressive Conservative Member of Parliament for Saint-Hyacinthe in the 1972 federal election, serving in the 29th Parliament as an Opposition MP. He was re-elected in the 1974 election, and after Robert Stanfield resigned as leader of the party, he stood as a candidate at the Progressive Conservative leadership convention of 1976.
Wagner attracted support from Tories who believed that having a leader from Quebec would enable the party to break the federal Liberal Party's stranglehold on the province and from right-wing Tories attracted by his law-and-order reputation. He was hurt by revelations of a slush fund that was funded by supporters so that he would be financially solvent if he lost in 1972. Wagner led on the first three ballots of the convention, but Joe Clark won the leadership by 65 votes out of 2,309 on the fourth ballot.
In 1978, he was nominated to the Senate of Canada by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau; he accepted the appointment and sat as a Progressive Conservative. One reason for his departure from the House of Commons was that he could not get along well with Clark. He died of cancer the next year at the age of 54, during Clark's brief premiership.
His son, Richard, also pursued a career in the judiciary, eventually being nominated to sit on the Supreme Court of Canada in 2012 by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and who became Chief Justice of Canada in 2017 during the government of Justin Trudeau. On January 21, 2021, Richard Wagner assumed the role of Administrator of Canada, following a workplace review of Rideau Hall and the resignation of Julie Payette as Governor General of Canada, pending the appointment of a new Governor General.
- "Opening the Supreme Court". www.canadianlawyermag.com. Retrieved January 29, 2021.
- "Claude Wagner - Assemblée nationale du Québec".
- "Richard Wagner: The political son not named Justin". Retrieved January 31, 2023.
- "The Vancouver Sun - Google News Archive Search".
- "The Calgary Herald - Google News Archive Search".
- Ian MacDonald (January 8, 1966). "Watch Quebec's Own Gangbuster". The Vancouver Sun. Retrieved April 21, 2009.
- "Pepin's defeat, Wagner victory fail to stop Liberals from retaining majority in Quebec". The Globe and Mail, October 31, 1972.
- "Trudeau finds a Senate seat for Claude Wagner". The Globe and Mail, April 22, 1979.
- Sawatsky, Mulroney: The Politics of Ambition.
- "Quebec senator was ex-Tory MP". The Globe and Mail, July 12, 1979.
- Sean Fine (December 12, 2017). "Richard Wagner named new Supreme Court Chief Justice". The Globe and Mail.
- Graham Slaughter (January 21, 2021). "Canada's top judge is now Governor General, but expert urges speedy replacement". CTVNEWS.
- Office known as "Attorney General for Quebec" from 1867 to 1965.