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
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 http://bac-lac.cloudapp.net:8080/wayback/20151208172533*/http://pm.gc.ca/eng/default.asp.
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
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:
|Sir John A. Macdonald||Conservative||1867-73|
|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|
|W.L. Mackenzie King||Liberal||1921-26|
|W.L. Mackenzie King||Liberal||1926-1930|
|W.L. Mackenzie King||Liberal||1935-48|
|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|
|Avril Kim Campbell||Conservative||1993|
Atlas topic, subject, and course
W.A. Matheson, revised by Richard Foot (2015), Prime Minister, The Canadian Encylopedia, at http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/prime-minister/, accessed 26 August 2016.
Wikipedia, Prime minister, at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prime_minister, accessed 24 August 2016.
Martin Patriquin, Does Justin Trudeau risk being overexposed? Maclean’s, 26 August 2016, at http://www.macleans.ca/politics/does-justin-trudeau-risk-being-overexposed/, accessed 26 August 2016.
Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 30 January 2017.
Image: Governor General of Canada, at https://www.gg.ca/document.aspx?id=13874&lan=eng, accessed 24 August 2016.