Catherine Callbeck was born on the 25th of July 1939, the daughter of Ruth and Ralph Callbeck of Central Bedeque.
She received her early education at Central Bedeque School and Summerside High School. She later received a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Mt. Allison University and a Bachelor of Education degree from Dalhousie University in 1960 and 1963 respectively. She also completed post-graduate courses in business administration at Syracuse University.
After a period of teaching business in New Brunswick & Ontario, Ms. Callbeck returned to Prince Edward Island where she became involved with the family business, Callbeck’s Limited of Central Bedeque and Callbeck’s Furniture of Charlottetown.
She was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island in 1974 as the Member for the Fourth District of Prince. From 1974 to 1978 she served as Minister of Health & Social Services; Minister Responsible for Native Affairs, as well as Minister Responsible for the Disabled. In 1978 she left provincial politics and returned to the family business.
Ms. Callbeck was elected as the Member of Parliament for Malpeque in 1988. During her time
in the House of Commons she served as the official opposition critic for Consumer and Corporate Affairs; Energy, Mines & Resources; Financial Institutions, as well as, Associate Critic for Privitization and Regulatory Affairs. She was also Vice-Chair for the Caucus Committee on Sustainable Development.
She was elected Leader of the Liberal Party of Prince Edward Island on January 23, 1993 and was sworn in as Premier and President of the Executive Council on January 25, 1993. She was elected as the Member of the Legislative Assembly for the First District of Queens in the general election of March 29, 1993. She was the first woman in Canada to be elected as Premier. While in office she was presented with a Honourary Doctorate of Laws by Mt. Allison University of New Brunswick and was named Sponsor of the HMCS Charlottetown. In October 1996 she retired from provincial political life and returned to the family business.
On September 23, 1997, Ms. Callbeck was called to the Senate of Canada. She has served as a Member of the Senate Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets & Administration; Banking, Trade and Commerce and Transport and Communications. She is presently a Member of Agriculture and Forestry Committee and Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee. In November 2002, she was appointed by the Prime Minister as Vice-Chair of the Task Force on Women Entrepreneurs. On June 28, 2005, Ms Callbeck was elected as Vice-Chair of the National Liberal Caucus. Ms Callbeck was elected on May 30, 2006, as Vice-President of the Canada Cuba Inter-Parliamentary Group
In the fall of 1997, Ms. Callbeck was presented with the prestigious Rural Beautification Shaw Award for her contribution to the enhancement of the rural life on Prince Edward Island.
On November 21, 2006, Ms Callbeck was named as one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women by the Women’s Executive Network WXN) in Toronto. Every year, the WXN honours and recognizes the most accomplished Canadian women in a variety of fields.
Ms. Callbeck has had a long and active involvement with charitable and public service groups and organizations at all levels. Among other positions, she has served as Chairperson of the Board of Confederation Centre of the Arts; as a Member of the Board of Regents of Mt. Allison University; as Honorary Chair of Mt. Allison Alumni; as a Member of the Board of Governors of the University of Prince Edward Island; as a Member of the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission, and as a Board Member of the Institute for Research in Public Policy; and former Director of the Mutual Fund Dealers Association. Her charitable activities include being a Director of the PEI United Fund, a Director of the Canadian Heart Foundation (PEI Division), and a Member of the provincial Committee for the International Year of the Disabled and an Honorary Board Member of the Glaucoma Research Society of Canada. She also served on several committees and in several capacities in and around her home village of Central Bedeque. She presently is a Member of the National Advisory Council of Family Resource Programs Canada; Member of the Child Alliance Advisory Committee of PEI; Member of the Mt. Allison National Advisory Committee; Honorary Patron of the PEI District Canadian Bible Society; Honorary Chair of the Financial Campaign for Camp Abby; and Patron for the PEI Business Women’s Association (PEIBWA).
Ms. Callbeck is a member of the Bedeque United Church. She has served as an Elder and a Member of the Prince Edward Island Presbytery.