Parliamentary Relatives: The Langs of Yukon, Alberta and Ontario

Article 1 / 9 , Vol 46 No. 1 (Spring)

Parliamentary Relatives: The Langs of Yukon, Alberta and Ontario

Twin brothers Archibald Donald Lang and Hector Daniel Lang, known as Archie and Dan, were well-known fixtures of Yukon territorial politics for decades. And, when Dan made the switch to federal politics upon his appointment to the Senate in 2009, he was not the first member of his family to serve in the Upper Chamber. In fact, he wasn’t even the first member of his family who bore the name Daniel Lang to serve as a senator. The twins, their grandfather, their great uncle, and their first cousin once removed, were part of a family with a long history of public service. As Dan notes, “Public affairs was always the first topic discussed at the dinner table.”

Members of the family had served at the municipal level of government prior to Malcolm Lang’s election to the Ontario Assembly in 1914. A prospector prior to his time in politics, as a Liberal MPP for Cochrane, he served on numerous standing committees during three consecutive terms. Although an initial attempt to win election as a Labour candidate for Timisakaming South in 1925 proved unsuccessful, in 1926 he was elected with the tacit support of local Liberals. Generally supporting Prime Minister Mackenzie King’s government, he ran as a Liberal-Labour candidate in 1930 but was defeated.

A few provinces to the west, Malcom’s brother Hector joined him as a parliamentarian in 1928 after winning a by-election for the Liberal Party of Alberta in the Medicine Hat constituency. Hector won re-election in 1930, but was defeated in 1935 as the Social Credit Party swept to power. Four years later he began a lengthy tenure as the city’s mayor, holding office for all but two years between 1939 AND 1950.

Hector’s son (also named Hector) and his wife Margaret (Campbell) Lang were living near Dawson Creek, British Columbia, when Archie and Dan were born in 1948. A carpenter by trade, their father found employment working on the fish ladder in Whitehorse 10 years later. Hector, his wife, the twin boys and their older sisters initially all lived together in a 14-foot trailer.

After graduating from high school, Archie worked as a carpenter for several years before trying his hand at entrepreneurship. Following stints as a restaurateur, store owner and innkeeper, at age 25 he purchased the Watson Lake Hotel. For a quarter of a century Archie worked to make “the Watson” an institution in southeast Yukon. Moving to back to Whitehorse in 1994, Archie operated the Super A grocery stores and the Capital Hotel, as well as Sgt. Preston’s motel in Skagway, Alaska. At one point, he operated grocery stores across Northern British Columbia, the Yukonand the Northwest Territories.

Elected under the Yukon Party banner as the MLA for Porter Creek Centre in 2002, Archie served tenures as the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, the Minister of Highways and Public Works and the Minister of Community Services until retiring from politics in 2011. He then returned to the grocery store business until his death in March, 2021, aged 72.

Remembering Archie as a colleague and friend, Yukon Party leader Currie Dixon noted that “his tales of days gone by were legendary and he loved offering anyone who would listen a glimpse into the old days of the territory. His presence alone attracted people, and it was never uncommon to see anyone in earshot keeled over with laughter when Archie would recant one of his stories.”

Although the younger of the brothers (by minutes), Dan was the first to be bitten by the political bug. Local issues inspired him to enter public life and he became a candidate, running successfully in the 1974 Yukon territorial general election to become the MLA for Whitehorse Porter Creek. The territorial general election of 1978 saw the advent of party politics, and Dan ran as the Progressive Conservative (as the Yukon Party was then known) candidate for Whitehorse Porter Creek East. He was subsequently re-elected as the Member for that riding in 1982, 1985, and 1989. During his 18 years in territorial office, Dan played an integral role in devolving power from Ottawa to Yukon. Serving in a variety of ministerial roles, including tourism, economic development, renewable resources, housing, and government services. When the Progressive Conservative government was defeated in 1985, Dan began a successful career in real estate and became a top-selling agent for REMAX for many years. Following his tenure as a territorial MLA, he also served as Vice Chairman on the Board of Governor’s for Yukon College (now a recognized university) and as President of the Yukon Real Estate Board.

Appointed to the Upper Chamber by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2009 on the recommendation of Premier Dennis Fentie, Dan was proud to sponsor a bill in the Senate to repeal the long-gun registry – a registry that had been unpopular among many in the territory. As Chairman of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence for four years, Daniel oversaw numerous reports on subjects ranging from sexual harassment in the RCMP, ballistic missile defence, the Canada Border Services Agency, and threats to the security of Canada, including terrorism. He retired from the Senate in 2017.

Dan’s namesake, Daniel Aiken Lang, his first cousin, once removed, coincidentally also served as a Senator. The son of Daniel Webster Lang, the co-founder of the famed Lang Michener law firm, Daniel Aiken planned to follow in his father’s footsteps as a lawyer. However, before being called to the bar and joining the firm in 1947 to practice corporate and tax law, he served as a lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve during WWII. Interested in politics, from 1957 to 1961, he was a councillor in Forest Hill, Ontario. After chairing the federal Liberal Party’s 1962 and 1963 election campaigns, in 1964 he was appointed to the Senate to represent South York. A member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce from 1964 to 1983, Daniel Aiken served as a senator for over 30 years. Although initially sitting as a Liberal, in 1986 when he switched his affiliation to Independent, a designation he retained until his retirement in 1994.

Will Stos

Editor, Canadian Parliamentary Review