Prime Minister

… a core concept in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100

Click for PM website

Click for Prime Minister of Canada website

Concept description

Wikipedia (reference below) defines a prime minister in a Westminster parliamentary system as the presiding and actual head of government and head of the executive branch, whereas the head of state or the head of state’s official representative (i.e., the monarch, president, or governor-general) usually holds a largely ceremonial position, although often with reserve powers.

Powers and responsibilities

In the Canadian Encyclopedia, W.A. Matheson (reference below) writes:

“Although the position and responsibilities of being prime minister are not defined in any written law or constitutional document, the prime minister has always been the most powerful position in Canadian politics. The prime minister controls the governing party, speaks for it, and after appointment to office has at his or her disposal a large number of patronage appointments with which to reward the party faithful. The prime minister names senators and senior judges for appointment, and appoints and dismisses all members of Cabinet – through the governor general – and decides on their responsibilities.

“As chair of Cabinet, the prime minister controls the agenda and discussions at meetings and selects the members of Cabinet committees. Because of these factors, and the convention of party solidarity, the prime minister has great influence over the activities and agenda of Parliament.

“The prime minister also enjoys a special relationship with the Crown, as he or she is the only person who can consult with the governor general, and advise the governor general to dissolve or prorogue Parliament and call an election.”

Archived Prime Minster of Canada websites
Click for archived website

Click for 18 Jan 2006 website

Library and Archives Canada has a website that has archived the Canadian Office of the Prime Minister website for selected dates between 18 January 2006 an 10 November 2015. See*/


Click for 4 April 2007 website

Click for 4 April 2007 website

Here are the sites for Prime Minister Paul Martin on 18 January 2006 and for Prime Minister Stephen Harper on 4 April 2007.

In none of these websites is there information on the structure or staffing of the Prime Minister’s Office. Indeed, the current website for Prime Minister Trudeau has dropped reference to “Office of the Prime Minister.”

Prime Minster’s use of social media
Click for @JustinTrudeau

Click for @JustinTrudeau

Click for @CanadianPM

Click for @CanadianPM

Martin Patriquin (Maclean’s 26 August 2016) describes the way that Prime Minister Trudeau uses social media. He notes differences in the Prime Minster’s two Twitter accounts:


“@JustinTrudeau account is overseen and largely written by a small team headed up by Dave Sommer, a PMO staffer with the title of “digital creative lead.” Less frivolous and far more bilingual [than the account before Mr Trudeau became Prime Minister], the account nonetheless provides a breezy account of Trudeau’s thoughts, activities and pronouncements. It is also a repository of soft focus (and often partisan) pictures of Trudeau scooping ice cream in P.E.I. and polishing the Grey Cup with his sleeve in Ottawa.

“If @JustinTrudeau is the party, @CanadianPM is the suit and tie. Maintained by the Privy Council Office, the account is a far more straightforward take on the Prime Minister, from trade missions to visits with foreign dignitaries and politicians to commemoration ceremonies. It has 51,000 followers. @JustinTrudeau has nearly two million.”

The Twitter outputs for the two accounts on 26 August 2016 are shown above. Note the gracious comment by @JustinTrudeau on the occasion of the resignation by former Prime Minister Stephen Harper of his seat in the House of Commons!

Prime Ministers of Canada since Confederation

The following table is from the Canadian Encylopedia:

Name Party Term
Sir John A. Macdonald Conservative 1867-73
Alexander Mackenzie Liberal 1873-78
Sir John A. Macdonald Conservative 1878-91
Sir John J.C. Abbott Conservative 1891-92
Sir John Sparrow Thompson Conservative 1892-94
Sir Mackenzie Bowell Conservative 1894-96
Sir Charles Tupper Conservative 1896
Sir Wilfrid Laurier Liberal 1896-1911
Sir Robert Borden Conservative 1911-17
Sir Robert Borden Union Gov 1917-20
Arthur Meighen Conservative 1920-21
W.L. Mackenzie King Liberal 1921-26
Arthur Meighen Conservative 1926
W.L. Mackenzie King Liberal 1926-1930
R.B. Bennett Conservative 1930-35
W.L. Mackenzie King Liberal 1935-48
Louis St-Laurent Liberal 1948-57
John Diefenbaker Conservative 1957-63
Lester B. Pearson Liberal 1963-68
Pierre Elliott Trudeau Liberal 1968-79
Charles Joseph Clark Conservative 1979-80
Pierre Elliott Trudeau Liberal 1980-84
John Napier Turner Liberal 1984
Brian Mulroney Conservative 1984-93
Avril Kim Campbell Conservative 1993
Brian Mulroney Conservative 1984-93
Jean Chrétien Liberal 1993-2003
Paul Martin Liberal 2003-06
Stephen Harper Conservative 2006-15
Justin Trudeau Liberal 2015-
Atlas topic, subject, and course

Machinery of Government (core topic) in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100 Governance and Institutions.


W.A. Matheson, revised by Richard Foot (2015), Prime Minister, The Canadian Encylopedia, at, accessed 26 August 2016.

Wikipedia, Prime minister, at, accessed 24 August 2016.

Martin Patriquin, Does Justin Trudeau risk being overexposed? Maclean’s, 26 August 2016, at, accessed 26 August 2016.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 30 January 2017.

Image: Governor General of Canada, at, accessed 24 August 2016.