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Prime Minister of Canada

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Prime Minister of Canada

Prime Minister of Canada
Logo of the Office of the Prime Minister of Canada
Stephen Harper

since February 6, 2006
Government of Canada
Office of the Prime Minister
Style The Right Honourable
Member of
Reports to Parliament
Seat Parliament Hill, Ottawa
Appointer Governor General of Canada
Term length At Her Majesty's pleasure
Inaugural holder Sir John A. Macdonald
Formation July 1, 1867
Salary $163,700 for being a member of Parliament + $163,700 (CAD) in Prime Ministerial wages for $327,400 total (CAD)
Website .ca.gc.pmwww
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of

The Prime Minister of Canada (French: Premier ministre du Canada) is the primary minister of the Crown, chairman of the Cabinet, and thus head of government for Canada, charged with advising the Canadian monarch or viceroy on the exercise of the executive powers vested in them by the constitution.[1] Not outlined in any constitutional document, the office exists only as per long-established convention (originating in Canada's former colonial power, the United Kingdom) that stipulates the monarch's representative, the governor general, must select as prime minister the person most likely to command the confidence of the elected House of Commons; this individual is typically the leader of the political party that holds the largest number of seats in that chamber.[n 1][2]

The current, and 22nd, Prime Minister of Canada is the Conservative Party's Stephen Harper, who was appointed on February 6, 2006, by Governor General Michaëlle Jean, following the general election that took place that year. Canadian prime ministers are styled as The Right Honourable (French: Le Très Honorable), a privilege maintained for life.


  • Origin of the office 1
  • Qualifications and selection 2
  • Term of office 3
  • Role and authority 4
  • Privileges 5
  • Style of address 6
  • Activities post-commission 7
  • See also 8
  • Notes 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11

Origin of the office

The position of prime minister is not outlined in any Canadian constitutional document and is mentioned only in passing in the

  • Official government Web site of the Office of the Prime Minister
  • Prime Minister of Canada on YouTube
  • Library of Parliament of Canada
  • Canada's Best Prime Ministers: 2011 Maclean's article

External links

  1. ^ Brooks, Stephen (2007). Canadian Democracy: An Introduction (5 ed.). Don Mills: Oxford University Press. pp. 233–234.  
  2. ^ a b Brooks 2007, p. 235
  3. ^ Privy Council Office. "Intergovernmental Affairs > About Canada > The Canadian Constitution". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved June 7, 2010. 
  4. ^  
  5. ^  
  6. ^ Office of the Governor General of Canada. "Media > Fact Sheets > The Swearing-In of a New Ministry". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved May 18, 2009. 
  7. ^ Pothen, Phil (2009), Disinformation as a Back Door to "Constitutional Revolution" in Canada, Toronto: Ontario Bar Association, retrieved September 13, 2010 
  8. ^  
  9. ^ a b Forsey 2005, p. 38
  10. ^ a b In the Wake of Constitutional Crisis: New Survey Demonstrates that Canadians Lack Basic Understanding of Our Country's Parliamentary System, Toronto: Ipsos Reid, December 15, 2008, p. 1, retrieved May 18, 2010 
  11. ^ a b Forsey 2005, p. 5
  12. ^  
  13. ^ Brooks 2007, pp. 233–235
  14. ^ a b Geddes, John (January 25, 2009). "Will the prorogation of Parliament set off a populist revolt?". Maclean's (Toronto: Kenneth Whyte).  
  15. ^ Brooks 2007, p. 258
  16. ^ "Time to address democratic deficit", Toronto Star, January 27, 2010, retrieved January 27, 2010 
  17. ^ Jackson, Michael D. (2009). "The Senior Realms of the Queen". Canadian Monarchist News (Toronto: Monarchist League of Canada). Autumn 2009 (30): 10. Retrieved January 17, 2010. 
  18. ^ Blair, Louisa (2001). Venne, Michel, ed. Vive Quebec!: new thinking and new approaches to the Quebec nation. Toronto: James Lorimer & Company. p. 91.  
  19. ^ Franks, C.E.S. (April 9, 2010), "Keep the Queen and choose another head of state", The Globe and Mail, retrieved January 23, 2011 
  20. ^ Savoie, Donald (1999). Governing from the Centre: The Concentration of Power in Canadian Politics. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. p. 260.  
  21. ^ Savoie, Donald (May 12, 2010), "Who has the power?", The Globe and Mail, retrieved May 12, 2010 
  22. ^ Savoie 1999, p. 362
  23. ^  
  24. ^ Foot, Richard (January 15, 2010), "Only in Canada: Harper’s prorogation is a Canadian thing", National Post, retrieved January 16, 2010 
  25. ^  
  26. ^ Cox, Noel (September 2002). "Black v Chrétien: Suing a Minister of the Crown for Abuse of Power, Misfeasance in Public Office and Negligence". Murdoch University Electronic Journal of Law (Perth: Murdoch University) 9 (3): 12. Retrieved May 17, 2009. 
  27. ^ Neitsch, Alfred Thomas (2008). "A Tradition of Vigilance: The Role of Lieutenant Governor in Alberta". Canadian Parliamentary Review (Ottawa: Commonwealth Parliamentary Association) 30 (4): 23. Retrieved May 22, 2009. 
  28. ^  
  29. ^  
  30. ^  
  31. ^ "GG reflects on mandate during farewell address". CTV. September 14, 2005. Retrieved August 8, 2007. 
  32. ^  
  33. ^ in addition to their salary of $163,700 for being a member of parliament.  
  34. ^ "How Much Do Canadian MPs And Senators Make?". The Huffington Post. Retrieved November 3, 2014. 
  35. ^ State Funerals in Canada. "Frequently Asked Questions on State Funerals in Canada". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved December 10, 2009. 
  36. ^ Waite, P.B. (2000), "Thompson, Sir John Sparrow David", in English, John, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online XII, Ottawa: University of Toronto/Université Laval, 1891-1900, retrieved January 18, 2010 
  37. ^  
  38. ^ [1] London Gazette, July 22, 1941.
  39. ^ a b c "Clark, Rt. Hon. Charles Joseph". Royal Heraldry Society of Canada. Retrieved May 27, 2011. 
  40. ^ a b "Trudeau, Rt. Hon. Pierre Elliot". Royal Heraldry Society of Canada. Retrieved May 27, 2011. 
  41. ^ a b "Turner, Rt. Hon. John Napier". Royal Heraldry Society of Canada. Retrieved May 27, 2011. 
  42. ^ a b "Mulroney, Rt. Hon. Martin Brian". Royal Heraldry Society of Canada. Retrieved May 27, 2011. 
  43. ^ a b "Campbell, Rt. Hon. Kim, PC". Royal Heraldry Society of Canada. Retrieved May 27, 2011. 
  44. ^  
  45. ^ "Canada's Premier Talks; Attitude of the Dominion on the Seal Question", New York Times, March 12, 1893: 9, retrieved January 25, 2010 
  46. ^ Grand Lodge of Canada (1884). Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free, & Accepted Masons of Canada. Hamilton: Spectator Printing Co. p. 15. Retrieved January 25, 2010. 
  47. ^ Hopkins, J. Castell (1901). "The Proposed Union of Canada with Newfoundland". The Canadian Annual Review of Public Affairs (Toronto: The Annual Review Publishing Company) 1902: 449–453. Retrieved January 25, 2010. 
  48. ^ "Premier Pledges Canada to Fight Until War is Won", New York Times, November 21, 1916: 1, retrieved January 25, 2010 
  49. ^ "The Santa Fe magazine, Volume 9". The Santa Fe (Santa Fe: Santa Fe Magazine) 9: 44. 1914.  
  50. ^ Freshfield, A. C. Haddon (May 1913). "The Distribution of Human and Animal Life in Western Arctic America". The Geographical Journal (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing) 41 (5): 459–460.  
  51. ^ "Sir John Sparrow David Thompson". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 2010. Retrieved January 25, 2010. 
  52. ^  
  53. ^ Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. "John Alexander MacDonald". Queen's Printer. Retrieved January 25, 2010. 
  54. ^ Waite, P.B. (2000), "Bennett, Richard Bedford, 1st Viscount Bennett", in English, John, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online XVII, Ottawa: University of Toronto/Université Laval, 1941-1950, retrieved January 18, 2010 
  55. ^ Neatby, H. Blair (2000), "King, William Lyon Mackenzie", in English, John, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online XVII, Ottawa: University of Toronto/Université Laval, 1941-1950, retrieved January 18, 2010 
  56. ^ a b Smith, Dennis (2000), "Diefenbaker, John George", in English, John, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online XX, Ottawa: University of Toronto/Université Laval, 1971-1980, retrieved January 18, 2010 
  57. ^ Bélanger, Réal (2000), "Laurier, Sir Wilfrid", in English, John, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online XIV, Ottawa: University of Toronto/Université Laval, 1911-1920, retrieved January 18, 2010 
  58. ^ a b Buckner, Phillip (2000), "Tupper, Sir Charles", in English, John, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online XIV, Ottawa: University of Toronto/Université Laval, 1911-1920, retrieved January 18, 2010 
  59. ^ Bothwell, Robert (2000), "St. Laurent, Louis", in English, John, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online XX, Ottawa: University of Toronto/Université Laval, 1971-1980, retrieved January 18, 2010 
  60. ^ Glassford, Larry A. (2000), "Meighen, Arthur", in English, John, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online XVII, Ottawa: University of Toronto/Université Laval, 1951-1960, retrieved January 18, 2010 
  61. ^ English, John (2000), "Pearson, Lester Bowles", in English, John, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online XX, Ottawa: University of Toronto/Université Laval, 1971-1980, retrieved January 18, 2010 
  62. ^ English, John (2000), "Trudeau, Pierre Elliott", in English, John, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, Volume XXII, Ottawa: University of Toronto/Université Laval, 1991-2000, retrieved January 18, 2010 


  1. ^ See majority and plurality.
  2. ^ A 2008 Ipsos-Reid poll found 42% of respondents thought the prime minister was head of state.[10]
  3. ^ Savoie offered the critique: "Cabinet has now joined Parliament as an institution being bypassed. Real political debate and decision-making are increasingly elsewhere—in federal-provincial meetings of first ministers, on central agencies which enable him to bring effective political authority to the centre, are about to change things. The Canadian prime minister has little in the way of institutional check, at least inside government, to inhibit his ability to have his way."[22]
  4. ^ See Note 1 at Queen's Privy Council for Canada.


See also

After exiting office, former prime ministers of Canada have engaged in various pursuits. Some remained in politics: Mackenzie Bowell continued to serve as a senator; R. B. Bennett moved to the United Kingdom after being elevated to the House of Lords;[54] and a number led Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition in the Canadian parliament: John A. Macdonald, Arthur Meighen, William Lyon Mackenzie King,[55] and Pierre Trudeau, all before being re-appointed as premier (Mackenzie King twice); Alexander Mackenzie and John Diefenbaker, both prior to sitting as regular Members of Parliament until their deaths;[56] Wilfrid Laurier dying while still in the post;[57] and Charles Tupper,[58] Louis St. Laurent,[59] and John Turner, each before they returned to private business. Meighen was also appointed to the Senate following his second period as prime minister, but resigned his seat to seek re-election and moved to private enterprise after failing to win a riding.[60] Following Meighen into civilian life were: Robert Borden, who served as Chancellor of Queen's and McGill Universities, as well as working in the financial sector; Lester B. Pearson, who acted as Chancellor of Carleton University;[61] Joe Clark and Kim Campbell, who became university professors, Clark also consultant and Campbell working in international diplomacy and as the director of private companies and chairperson of interest groups; while Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chrétien returned to legal practice.[62] Former prime ministers also commonly penned autobiographies—Tupper,[58] for example—or published their memoirs—such as Diefenbaker and Paul Martin.[56]

Activities post-commission

In the decades following Confederation, it was common practice to refer to the prime minister as Premier of Canada,[45][46][47] a custom that continued until the First World War, around the time of Robert Borden's premiership.[48][49][50] While contemporary sources will still speak of early prime ministers of Canada as premier,[51][52][53] the modern practice is such that the federal head of government is known almost exclusively as the prime minister, while the provincial heads of government are termed premiers (save for within Quebec and New Brunswick, where the premiers are addressed in French as Premier ministre du [province], literally translated as Prime Minister of [province]).

Canada continues the Westminster tradition of using the title Prime Minister when one is speaking to the federal head of government directly; this is in contrast to the United States protocol of addressing the federal head of government as mister (as in, Mister President). The written form of address for the prime minister should use his or her full parliamentary title: The Right Honourable [name], [post-nominal letters], Prime Minister of Canada. However, while in the House of Commons during Question Period, other members of parliament may address the prime minister as The Right Honourable, Member for [prime minister's riding] or simply The Right Honourable Prime Minister.[44] Former prime ministers retain the prefix The Right Honourable for the remainder of their lives; should they remain sitting MPs, they may be referred as The Right Honourable Member for [member's riding] or by their portfolio title (if appointed to one), as in The Right Honourable Minister of National Defence.

Kim Campbell, the 19th Prime Minister of Canada (1993) and only female and British Columbia-born individual to hold the office

Style of address

The Canadian Heraldic Authority (CHA) has granted former prime ministers an augmentation of honour on the personal coat of arms of those who pursued them. The heraldic badge, referred to by the CHA as the mark of the Prime Ministership of Canada,[39] consists of four red maple leaves joined at the stem on a white field ("Argent four maple leaves conjoined in cross at the stem Gules"); the augmentation has, so far, been granted either as a canton sinister or centred in the chief.[39][40][41][42][43] To date, former prime ministers Joe Clark,[39] Pierre Trudeau,[40] John Turner,[41] Brian Mulroney,[42] and Kim Campbell were granted arms with the augmentation.[43]

In earlier years, it was traditional for the monarch to bestow a Mickleham in the County of Surrey and of Calgary and Hopewell in the Dominion of Canada.[37][38]

The mark of the Prime Ministership of Canada, applied to the arms of prime ministers who pursue them

Should a sitting or former prime minister die, he or she is accorded a state funeral, wherein their casket lies in state in the Centre Block of Parliament Hill.[35] Only Mackenzie Bowell and the Viscount Bennett were given private funerals, Bennett also being the only former Prime Minister of Canada to die and be buried outside the country and Bowell the only whose funeral was not attended by politicians. John Thompson also died outside Canada, at Windsor Castle, where Queen Victoria permitted his lying-in-state before his body was returned to Canada for a state funeral in Halifax.[36]

Two official residences are provided to the prime minister—24 Sussex Drive in Ottawa and Harrington Lake, a country retreat in Gatineau Park—as well an office in the Langevin Block, across from Parliament Hill.[32] For transportation, the prime minister is granted an armoured car and shared use of two official aircraft—a CC-150 Polaris for international flights and a Challenger 601 for domestic trips. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police also furnish constant personal security for the prime minister and his or her family. All of the aforementioned is supplied by the Queen-in-Council through budgets approved by parliament, as is the prime minister's annual salary of CAD$163,700[33] Only about half of this income is specific to the role of prime minister, the remainder being the normal salary of a Member of Parliament.[34]

24 Sussex Drive, the official residence of the Prime Minister of Canada


There do exist checks on the prime minister's power: parliament may revoke its confidence in an incumbent prime minister; cabinet or caucus revolts can quickly bring down a sitting premier, and even mere threats of such action can persuade and/or compel a prime minister to resign his post, as happened with Jean Chrétien; the Senate may delay or impede legislation put forward by the Cabinet, such as when Brian Mulroney's bill creating the Goods and Services Tax (GST) came before the upper chamber; and, given Canada's federal nature, the jurisdiction of the federal government is limited to areas prescribed by the constitution. Further, as executive power is constitutionally vested in the monarch, meaning the Royal Prerogative belongs to the Crown and not to any of its ministers,[25][26][27] the sovereign's supremacy over the prime minister in the constitutional order is thus seen as a "rebuff to the pretensions of the elected: As it has been said, when the Prime Minister bows before the Queen, he bows before us [the Canadian people]."[28][29] Either the sovereign or his or her viceroy may therefore oppose the prime minister's will in extreme, crisis situations.[n 4][30] Near the end of her time as governor general, Adrienne Clarkson stated: "My constitutional role has lain in what are called 'reserve powers': making sure that there is a prime minister and a government in place, and exercising the right 'to encourage, to advise, and to warn'[...] Without really revealing any secrets, I can tell you that I have done all three."[31]

Pierre Trudeau is credited with, throughout his tenure as prime minister between 1968 and 1984, consolidating power in the PMO,[14] which is itself filled by political and administrative staff selected at the prime minister's discretion. At the end of the 20th century and into the 21st, analysts—such as Jeffrey Simpson, Donald Savoie, and John Gomery—argued that both parliament and the Cabinet had become eclipsed by prime ministerial power.[15] Indeed, the position has been described as undergoing a "presidentialisation",[14][16] to the point that its incumbents publicly outshine the actual head of state;[17][18] former governor general Adrienne Clarkson alluded to what she saw as "an unspoken rivalry" that had developed between the prime minister and the Crown.[19] Savoie quoted an anonymous minister from the Liberal Party as saying Cabinet had become "a kind of focus group for the Prime Minister,"[20][21] while Simpson called cabinet a "mini-sounding board".[n 3][23] It has been theorised that such is the case in Canada as its parliament is less influential on the executive than in other countries with Westminster parliamentary systems; particularly, Canada has fewer MPs, a higher turnover rate of MPs after each election, and an Americanised system for selecting political party leaders, leaving them accountable to the party membership rather than caucus, as is the case in the United Kingdom.[24]

William Lyon Mackenzie King, the 10th Prime Minister of Canada (1921–1926; 1926–1930; 1935–1948)

Because the prime minister is, in practice, the most politically powerful member of the Canadian government, he or she is sometimes erroneously referred to as Canada's head of state,[n 2] when, in fact, that post is held by the Canadian monarch, represented by the governor general.[12] The prime minister is, instead, the head of government,[2] and is responsible for advising the Crown on how to exercise the Royal Prerogative and its executive powers, which are governed by the constitution and its conventions. However, the function of the prime minister has evolved with increasing power. Today, as per the doctrines of constitutional monarchy, the advice given by the prime minister is ordinarily binding, meaning the prime minister effectively carries out those duties ascribed to the sovereign and/or governor general, leaving the latter to act in predominantly ceremonial fashions.[13] As such, the prime minister, supported by the Office of the Prime Minister (PMO), controls the appointments of many key figures in Canada's system of governance, including the governor general, the Cabinet, justices of the Supreme Court, senators, heads of crown corporations, ambassadors to foreign countries, the provincial lieutenant governors, and approximately 3,100 other positions. Further, the prime minister plays a prominent role in the legislative process—with the majority of bills put before parliament originating in the Cabinet—and the leadership of the Canadian Forces.

Canada's Prime Ministers from 1867 to 1968

Role and authority

Following parliamentary dissolution, the prime minister must run in the resulting general election if he or she wishes to maintain a seat in the House of Commons. Should the prime minister's party subsequently win a majority of seats in the House of Commons, it is unnecessary to re-appoint the prime minister or again swear him or her into office.[11] If, however, an opposition party wins a majority of seats, the prime minister may resign or be dismissed by the governor general. Should the prime minister's party achieve a minority while an opposition party wins a plurality (i.e., more seats than any other party but less than a majority), the prime minister can attempt to maintain the confidence of the House by forming a coalition with other minority parties. This option was last entertained in 1925.

The Canadian prime minister serves at Her Majesty's pleasure, meaning the post does not have a fixed term. Once appointed and sworn in by the governor general, the prime minister remains in office until he or she resigns, is dismissed, or dies.[11] The lifespan of parliament is limited by the constitution to five years and, though the governor general may still, on the advice of the prime minister, dissolve parliament and issue the writs of election prior to the date mandated by the Canada Elections Act; the King-Byng Affair was the only time since Confederation that the viceroy deemed it necessary to refuse his prime minister's request for a general vote.

Term of office

In a poll conducted by Ipsos-Reid following the first prorogation of the 40th parliament on December 4, 2008, it was found that 51% of the sample group thought the prime minister was directly elected by Canadians.[10]

Should a sitting prime minister today lose his seat in the legislature (or should a new prime minister be appointed without holding a seat), the typical process that follows is that a junior member in the governing political party will immediately resign to allow the prime minister to run in the resulting by-election.[9] A safe seat is usually chosen; while the Liberal and now defunct Progressive Conservative parties traditionally observed a convention of not running a candidate against another party's new leader in the by-election, the New Democrats and other smaller parties typically do not follow the same convention. However, if the governing party selects a new leader shortly before an election is due, and that new leader is not a member of the legislature, he or she will normally await the upcoming election before running for a seat in parliament.

Sir John A. Macdonald, the first Prime Minister of Canada (1867–1873, 1878–1891)

In rare circumstances individuals who are not members of the Commons can be appointed prime minister. Two former prime ministers—Sir John Joseph Caldwell Abbott and Sir Mackenzie Bowell—served in the 1890s while members of the Senate;[9] both, in their roles as Government Leader in the Senate, succeeded prime ministers who died in office (John A. Macdonald in 1891 and John Sparrow David Thompson in 1894), a convention that has since evolved toward the appointment of an interim leader in such a scenario. It should be noted that the Senate was considered a much more powerful body in the first half century after confederation. By the 1920s however the Senate had lost much of its original influence, and hence no sitting senator had been known to have serious aspirations of becoming prime minister whilst remaining in the Senate. Prime ministers who are not Members of Parliament upon their appointment (or who lose their seats while in office) have since been expected to seek election to the Commons as soon as possible. For example William Lyon Mackenzie King, after losing his seat in the same general election that his party won, briefly "governed from the hallway" before winning a by-election a few weeks later. Similarly, John Turner replaced Pierre Trudeau as leader of the Liberal Party in 1984 and subsequently was appointed prime minister even though he did not hold a seat in the lower chamber of parliament; Turner won a riding in the next election but the Liberal Party was swept from power. Turner was the last sitting prime minister to not hold a Commons seat.

The prime minister, along with the other ministers in cabinet, is appointed by the governor general on behalf of the Queen.[6] However, by the conventions of responsible government, designed to maintain administrative stability, the viceroy will call to form a government the individual most likely to receive the support, or confidence, of a majority of the directly-elected House of Commons;[7] as a practical matter, this is often the leader of a party whose members form a majority, or a very large plurality, of Members of Parliament (MPs).[8] Legally, this may be any citizen of Canada of voting age (18 years and over)—the requirements to gain election to the House of Commons. It is not actually clear as to whether there are age or citizenship restrictions on the position of prime minister itself, as it is not necessary for the incumbent to be a sitting MP.

Qualifications and selection

. same office in the United Kingdom The office and its functions are instead governed by constitutional conventions and modelled on the [5]

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