The Prime Minister of Canada

roadtrip-ottawa-ontario-3129123-o The Prime-Minister of Canada is the single most powerful person in the country. The Prime-Minister exercises near-dictatorial powers over government, law, finance, the economy and the military, through a combination of 40 years of power centralization, loopholes in the various Acts that makeup the Canadian constitution, and a passive electorate who have lost faith in democratic institutions. As the world’s fifth richest country and the third biggest exporter of natural resources, the power of the Prime-Minister of Canada shouldn’t be underestimated.

The position of the Prime-Minister of Canada is an important one. Technically the PM is only the head of government, and the British Monarch is the head of state, but over the past century the role of the Monarch, and their representative in Canada the Governor-General, has dwindled while the powers of the PM has grown. Today the Prime-Minister is responsible for making laws, enforcing laws, creating the national budget, managing the banks and the economy, signing trade deals, declaring war, handling foreign affairs, appointing judges and Senators and a thousand other myriad responsibilities. On top of all of this, the PM is also responsible for the leadership and direction of his/her own political party and the all the politicking of parliamentary democracy.

The PM is responsible for Canada's banking system.

The PM is responsible for Canada’s banking system.

Law and the appointment of justices is a Prime-Minister responsibility.

Law and the appointment of justices is a Prime-Minister responsibility.

The PM is responsible for the central bank and the national currency.

The PM is responsible for the central bank and the national currency.

The Prime-Minister controls the Parliament and must answer opposition questions.

The Prime-Minister controls the Parliament and must answer opposition questions.

The Prime-Minister is responsible for Canada's foreign affairs.

The Prime-Minister is responsible for Canada’s foreign affairs.

Trade deals with foreign countries is an important part of the Prime-Minister's life.

Trade deals with foreign countries is an important part of the Prime-Minister’s life.

The Prime-Minister today is nominally, if not officially, the head of the military.

The Prime-Minister today is nominally, if not officially, the head of the military.

The Prime-Minister also has ultimate control over the government's crown corporations, such as Canada Post, VIA Rail and others.

The Prime-Minister also has ultimate control over the government’s crown corporations, such as Canada Post, VIA Rail and others.

The Prime-Minister is head of the federal cabinet and is responsible for the national budget.

The Prime-Minister is head of the federal cabinet and is responsible for the national budget.

Those are just a few of the Prime-Minister’s job functions. In all, today the Prime-Minister of Canada is responsible for 3,100 different jobs! That’s a mighty lot of responsibility!

It wasn’t always thus. Originally the Prime-Minister was just an afterthought. There is no mention of a Prime-Minister in the Canadian constitution. The Governor-General represented the reigning monarch in Canada and acted as the executive head of state. Parliament was the legislative body and the Supreme Court of Canada was the judicial. Party politics meant that the party that won the most parliament seats in any election tended to dominate the legislature, and they naturally rallied around their leader. As this leader gained more and more influence, he was named as the Prime-Minister, or “First among equals” and was given the task of representing Parliament to the monarch. As the size of Canada grew in the late 19th Century to encompass 3 oceans and everything in between, the Prime-Minister found himself with more and more responsibilities.

The two world wars thrust Canada into a prominent role in the British Empire, and to execute the wars efficiently Parliament granted Canada’s Prime-Ministers (first Robert Borden in WWI and then MacKenzie-King in WWII) with more and more executive powers. London changed the role of the Governor-General to a more symbolic one, acting on the “advice” of the Canadian PM (or, more realistically, simply becoming the channel through which the PM imposed his will).

Nevertheless, through most of these turbulent years the Prime-Minister, although now a very powerful figure in Canadian politics and the recognized head of state if not the official one, still answered to Parliament. Parliament controlled the laws, bills, budgets and activities of the Prime-Minister. All of that changed in the late 1960’s when Pierre Trudeau became Prime-Minister and aggressively centralized power into the Prime-Minister’s office in his vision of a “just society” and unified Canada that included Quebec.

Pierre Trudeau nationalized energy with his National Energy Program, creating the Petro-Canada crown corporation and establishing himself as the man who would appoint the heads of all of the government’s entitites. He was a strict disciplinarian and enforced caucus obedience through vicious party whips. Until Trudeau MP’s in Parliament had exercised a relatively fair amount, if diminishing, of freedom in voting. Not so anymore. The free vote in Parliament was abolished and caucus members of all parties were henceforth forced to vote along party lines. This one change, along with the changes to the role of the Governor-General, suddenly gave the Prime-Minister immense power. With a majority of seats in Parliament and strict party discipline, the Prime-Minister was suddenly able to control every aspect of the federal system.

PM Pierre Trudeau was not the first to centralize power, but he was the most dramatic.

PM Pierre Trudeau was not the first to centralize power, but he was the most dramatic.

Queen Elizabeth II signs the Constitution Act into force, centralizing immense power into the office of the Prime-Minister.

Queen Elizabeth II signs the Constitution Act into force, centralizing immense power into the office of the Prime-Minister.

Parties have always used Party Whips to keep caucus MP's in line, but under Trudeau MP's lost all rights to free votes and party whips gained immense power.

Parties have always used Party Whips to keep caucus MP’s in line, but under Trudeau MP’s lost all rights to free votes and party whips gained immense power.

Today, in a majority government, the Prime-Minister exercises near-total control over the country through the strict discipline of party whips.

Today, in a majority government, the Prime-Minister exercises near-total control over the country through the strict discipline of party whips.

With great power comes great responsibility, and the Prime-Minister has several offices to delegate these responsibilities to. The first is the Federal Cabinet, made up of sitting MP’s chosen by the PM to represent various branches of government, such as the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Defense. The Prime-Minister also has the PMO, or the Prime-Minister’s Office, where executive decisions and party decisions are made. The PMO is staffed by non-elected officials loyal to the Prime-Minister, and is responsible for things such as managing appointees (like Senators, heads of Crown Corporations, etc), coordinating with the party executive, keeping caucus in line and controlling the budget and schedule of the Prime-Minister. The PMO is also responsible for press releases, meetings, travel and other public events the Prime-Minister may be involved in. The PMO is a highly-partisan office and one of the most powerful offices in the country.

The PMO has always existed although it was usually just meant to provide aides to the Prime-Minister. In 1968 Trudeau enlarged the PMO to make it the main executive office of the government, and subsequent Prime-Ministers, particularly Jean Chretien and Stephen Harper, have centralized so much political power into the office that it is nearly a separate government entity, albeit one not answerable to the voters.

Today the Prime-Minister is the most powerful person in Canada. The Canadian Prime-Minister exercises more personal power than any other western democratic leader, making even the US President blush! With a first-past-the-post voting system, strict party discipline enforced by party whips, a castrated Governor-General and the all-powerful PMO, the Prime-Minister of Canada is a dictator in all but name, whose only opportunity to be kicked out of office comes once every four years at election time.

Comprising one full block on Parliament Hill, the Prime-Minister's Office (PMO) is one of the most powerful institutions in Canada.

Comprising one full block on Parliament Hill, the Prime-Minister’s Office (PMO) is one of the most powerful institutions in Canada.

Inside the PMO is the Prime-Minister's actual office. Built in 1890, every PM since Wilfrid Laurier has sat in here.

Inside the PMO is the Prime-Minister’s actual office. Built in 1890, every PM since Wilfrid Laurier has sat in here.

Canada is the world's third largest exporter of natural resources, with trillions of dollars annually coming into the economy. Through law, appointees and the PMO, the Prime-Minister has ultimate control over this vast economy, making him/her one of the more influential leaders in the world.

Canada is the world’s third largest exporter of natural resources, with trillions of dollars annually coming into the economy. Through law, appointees and the PMO, the Prime-Minister has ultimate control over this vast economy, making him/her one of the more influential leaders in the world.

The Prime-Minister's official residence is at 24 Sussex Drive, in Ottawa. This house was built in 1866 and has been home to every Canadian Prime-Minister.

The Prime-Minister’s official residence is at 24 Sussex Drive, in Ottawa. This house was built in 1866 and has been home to every Canadian Prime-Minister.

The living room of 24 Sussex Drive.

The living room of 24 Sussex Drive.

The Prime-Minister's dining room, where family, friends and VIP guests are entertained.

The Prime-Minister’s dining room, where family, friends and VIP guests are entertained.

In Canada, at least, this spiral staircase at 24 Sussex Dr is famous.

In Canada, at least, this spiral staircase at 24 Sussex Dr is famous.

The Prime-Minister travels in an armored limousine that is usually part of a well-guarded motorcade.

The Prime-Minister travels in an armored sedan that is usually part of a well-guarded motorcade.

A special RCMP detail guards the Prime-Minister 24 hours a day.

A special RCMP detail guards the Prime-Minister 24 hours a day.

These RCMP officers are highly-trained and hand-picked for their task. If needed, they must give their lives for the PM.

These RCMP officers are highly-trained and hand-picked for their task. If needed, they must give their lives for the PM.

For international travel, the Prime-Minister uses a specialized Airbus reserved for his/her use only.

For international travel, the Prime-Minister uses a specialized Airbus reserved for his/her use only.

The PM certainly travels in style!

The PM certainly travels in style!

 

The Prime-Minister has a busy schedule of meetings, public announcements, deal-making and leading.

The Prime-Minister has a busy schedule of meetings, public announcements, deal-making and leading.

The Prime-Minister has become the head of state, even if there is no constitutional power to do so.

The Prime-Minister has become the head of state, even if there is no constitutional power to do so.

 

Canada’s Prime-Ministers

Harper_Stephen_L     Stephen Harper, Conservative, 2006 Рpresent

 

 

 

 

Paul-Martin Paul Martin, Liberal, 2003 Р2006

 

 

 

 

 

 

jeanchretien.jpeg.size.xxlarge.letterboxJean Chretien, Liberal, 1993 – 2003

 

 

 

 

KimCampbell Kim Campbell, Conservative, 1993 Р1993

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MulroneyBrian Mulroney, Conservative, 1984-1993

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4795-004-AA1A82FAJohn Turner, Liberal, 1984-1984

 

 

 

 

pierre_trudeau_1447297cPierre Trudeau, Liberal, 1968 Р1984

 

 

 

 

clarkJoe Clark, Conservative, 1979-1980

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

download Lester Pearson, Liberal, 1963-1968

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

john-diefenbaker-mobile-wallpaper John Diefenbaker, Conservative, 1957-1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

original.921 Louis St Laurent, Liberal, 1948-1957

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rt._Hon._William_Lyon_Mackenzie_King William Lyon MacKenzie-King, Liberal, 1921-1926, 1926 Р1930, 1935-1948 (21 years)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a_151 R. B. Bennett, Conservative, 1930-1935

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

pm_arthur_meighen_largeArthur Meighen, Conservative, 1920-1921, 1926-1926

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

robert_borden Robert Borden, Conservative, 1911-1920

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sir Wilfred Laurier, 1906.Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Liberal, 1896-1911

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

tupper_quick Sir Charles Tupper, Conservative, 1896-1896

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SirMackenzieBowell Sir MacKenzie Bowell, Conservative, 1894-1896

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ithompp001p1 Sir John Thompson, Conservative, 1892-1894 (died in office)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

pm_john_joseph_caldwell_abbott_large Sir John Abbott, Conservative, 1891-1892 (died in office)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

clip_image001_001 Alexander MacKenzie, Liberal, 1873-1878

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

220px-Macdonald1878 Sir John A. MacDonald, Conservative, 1867-1873, 1878-1891 (first PM)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

office_prime_minister

Office of the Prime-Minister logo

Canadian+PM+Harper+Visits+Israel+lXNyvox0Tkll

 

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3 thoughts on “The Prime Minister of Canada

  1. Wow Wonderful blog, I just love it. I love history and politics. Correct me anyone if I’m wrong though, but just a couple of things that I think I noticed. The photo of the PMO’s actual office,I do believe, is actually that of the PM’s Centre Block office on Parliament Hill. Past PM’s utilized many different locations outside of the Centre Block, but the Langevin Block, (pictured along above), was not utilized in housing the Office of the Prime Minister and the Privy Council until the mid 70s. Also the PM’s residence at Sussex, I don’t believe, was always as such. It was built in 1866 by a local Lumberman and expropriated in 1943 by the Crown for the purpose of consolidating public lands in that area. The first to take residence was Prime Minister St Laurent in 1951.

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