Office of the Prime Minister (Canada)

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The Langevin Block

In Canada, the Office of the Prime Minister (more commonly referred to as the Prime Minister's Office and abbreviated as PMO), located in the Langevin Block, facing Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, is one of the most powerful parts of the government. It is made up of the prime minister and his or her top political staff, who are charged with advising the prime minister on decisions, making the office a wholly partisan body. It should, however, not be confused with the Privy Council Office (PCO), which is the top office that controls the civil service and is expressly non-partisan. The PMO is concerned with making policy whereas the PCO is concerned with executing the policy decisions decided by the government.

Nomenclature[edit]

In Canada, the Office of the Prime Minister is widely referred to as the "Prime Minister's Office" and although the latter rendering of the name is completely unofficial, the office's English abbreviation is always given as "PMO" as opposed to "OPM." In addition, unlike examples such as 10 Downing Street, the White House and even Rideau Hall, the Canadian Prime Minister's official residence of 24 Sussex Drive is not widely used as a metonym for the Prime Minister's Office. This is because, unlike those examples, the Canadian Prime Minister's official residence is not the site of any bureaucratic functions.

In French, the PMO is known as le Cabinet du Premier Ministre and abbreviated as CPM.

Function[edit]

One of the most important roles of the PMO is related to government appointments, which are made by the Queen-in-Council (or Governor-in-Council), but, as Canada is a constitutional monarchy, this is done on the normally binding advice of the prime minister. The PMO, thus, aids in finding suitable candidates for the prime minister to put forward to the monarch or viceroy for appointment to positions such as the governor general and lieutenant governors, senators, supreme court justices, chairpersons of ministerial boards, heads of Crown corporations, and more. The PMO also includes speech writers, strategists, and communications staffers, who shape the prime minister's and cabinet's message, as well as keeping the prime minister informed on events that take place in government and across the country, and acting as a link between the political party organization and the government.

Budget[edit]

The PMO spent CAD$8.25mn in 2012,[1] an increase of 7% over the previous CAD$7.65mn.[2]

Current composition[edit]

There are currently 12 directorates that report to Prime Minister Stephen Harper:

History[edit]

The Office of the Prime Minister was a fairly weak and secondary group before Pierre Trudeau became prime minister in 1968, after whose appointment much of what had previously been the responsibility of the Privy Council Office was shifted to the PMO. After that point, the PMO became more central to the government, and many of Trudeau's economic and constitutional initiatives were launched with the aid and advice of its staff. Progressive Conservative (Tory) Prime Minister Brian Mulroney similarly had a powerful and active PMO, finding the advice he received from his staff there more reliable than that which came from civil servants (whom he considered to be Liberal-leaning), or from those in the fractious Tory party.

After Jean Chrétien was appointed as prime minister, the PMO continued to be the central organ of the government. Chrétien greatly depended upon the PMO, especially his chief of staff, Jean Pelletier, who ran the office from 1993 to 2001, Percy Downe, who served as his director of appointments from 1998 to 2001 and chief of staff from 2001 to 2003, and his senior advisor, Eddie Goldenberg, who had spent his entire career working with Chrétien in various ministries. Chrétien's successor, Paul Martin, changed the structure of the PMO to more match that of the Executive Office of the President of the United States. For example, he introduced deputy chiefs of staff, who were responsible for areas such as communications and policy; re-established the position of director in the offices of the other ministers of the Crown, positions that were previously known as special assistants; and re-established the position of principal secretary, which had originally been created by Trudeau. Martin further, and significantly, increased the salary of the PMO's staff.

This model has largely been retained by the present prime minister, Stephen Harper, despite the recommendations of John Gomery following his investigation into the sponsorship scandal, when he concluded that the power of the PMO be reduced.[13] "The most troubling facts were that this aberration originated in the Prime Minister's Office in the first place and was allowed to continue for so long, despite internal audit reports, investigations, warnings and complaints by public servants involved in the actual contracts in question," Judge Gomery said at a news conference.[13]

References[edit]

  • J.E. Hodgetts "Prime Minister's Office The Canadian Encyclopedia.
  • McMenemy, John. "Prime Minister's Office." The Language of Canadian Politics.
  • Eddie Goldenberg, The Way It Works pages 40 to 45.

External links[edit]