Céline Hervieux-Payette, PC (born April 22, 1941, L’Assomption, Quebec) is a former Canadian Senator and the former Leader of the Opposition in the Senate of Canada (2007-2008), the first woman ever to hold this position. She was previously a Liberal Member of Parliament from 1979 to 1984 and a cabinet minister in the government of Pierre Trudeau in the 1980s. She retired from the Senate on April 22, 2016 upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75.
In the 1970s, Hervieux-Payette served as a political aide to the Quebec government of Premier Robert Bourassa. She also served as an administrator, as president and commissioner of the Le Gardeur School Board, and director of public relations for Steinberg Inc., a Quebec grocery and department store business.
Hervieux-Payette was first elected to the House of Commons of Canada in the 1979 election as the Liberal Member of Parliament for Mercier. She was re-elected in the 1980 election, and became parliamentary secretary to the Solicitor General of Canada. In 1983, she was appointed by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau to the Canadian Cabinet as Minister of State (Fitness and Amateur Sport). She then served as Minister of State (Youth) from January to June 1984.
She was not appointed to the Cabinet of John Turner, who succeeded Trudeau as Liberal leader and prime minister in June 1984. She stood as a candidate in the 1984 election, but was defeated.
She returned to the private sector and served as vice-president, business ventures at the SNC Group, an engineering and manufacturing firm, from 1985 to 1989. From 1991 to 1995, she was Vice-President, Regulatory and Legal Affairs for Fonorola Inc., a telecommunications firm. She has been counsellor for Fasken Martineau DuMoulin since 1995.
Hervieux-Payette attempted to re-enter the House of Commons in the 1988 and 1993 elections but was defeated in both attempts. In 1995, she returned to Parliament when she was appointed to the Senate of Canada by Jean Chrétien. She is expected to remain in the Senate until she reaches the mandatory retirement age of 75 in 2016.
On January 18, 2007, Hervieux-Payette was appointed Leader of the Opposition in the Senate by Liberal leader Stéphane Dion, whom she had supported during the leadership race. She also became Quebec lieutenant for Stéphane Dion in October 2007.
On November 3, 2008 she was succeeded as Leader of the Opposition by Jim Cowan.
On October 30, 2014, she tabled Bill S-224 to propose a National Seal and Seafood Products Day.
On June 11, 2015, she tabled Bill S-231 ‘An Act to amend the Firearms Act, the Criminal Code and the Defence Production Act’, which would have changed a number of provisions for private ownership of firearms. The bill died on the order paper on August 2, 2015 when Parliament was dissolved.
On April 12, 2016, ten days before her mandatory retirement date, she tabled Bill S-223 ‘An Act to amend the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code and to make consequential changes to other Acts’, which revisited many of the same measures in the previous Bill S-231.