Premier (Canada)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

In Canada, a premier is the head of government of a province or territory. There are currently ten provincial premiers and three territorial premiers in Canada.

Premiers and government leaders of territories are styled "The Honourable" only while in office[1] unless they are admitted to the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, in which case they retain the title even after leaving the premiership.


In a number of provinces they were previously known by the title "prime minister", with "premier" being an informal term used to apply to all prime ministers, even the Prime Minister of Canada. This practice was eventually phased out to avoid confusing the provincial leaders with the federal prime minister, as well as to indicate the distinct nature of the provincial offices. Officially, the last such case outside Quebec was that of W. A. C. Bennett who served as Premier of British Columbia, and styled himself as prime minister until leaving office in 1972.

In Canadian French, the head of government of a province or territory is called premier ministre: the French language does not use a separate term to distinguish the national prime minister from a provincial premier. In Quebec this designation is often translated to prime minister in English. The designation, however, is not exclusive. When they visit Quebec, or when they are described by the Quebec government or many Quebec media, all the other heads of government of the other provinces are also called prime minister in the English version of the official French texts. The name of the province is always added to avoid confusion.

The terms prime minister and premier come from the United Kingdom, where there is only one prime minister/premier. The British prime minister is frequently called the "premier" to this day since there is little chance of confusion in that country. Canada's federal prime minister and premiers are collectively referred to as first ministers, another synonym of British origin.


Under Canada's system of responsible government, the premier is both a member of the provincial Legislative Assembly and the head of the executive. The Premier normally holds a seat in the Legislative Assembly, being elected in one of the electoral constituencies of the Province. The leader of the party which commands a majority in the Assembly is then legally appointed the Premier by the Lieutenant Governor, acting on behalf of the Crown. The term "Premier" is unofficial. The formal name of the government position held by the Premier is "President of the Executive Council" or some similar term, but that formal term is rarely used.

In the ten provinces of Canada, the premier is usually the leader of the largest political party in the provincial legislature, although there are historical exceptions, the most recent occurring after the 1985 general election in Ontario. The premier is appointed by the lieutenant-governor, who represents the Crown. The lieutenant-governor is guided by unwritten constitutional rules that only rarely require a judgement call on whom to appoint as premier.

Premiers appoint a provincial cabinet and guide legislation through the provincial legislature, of which they are a sitting member.

Premiers hold a fair bit of power within the Canadian federation, especially in regard to the federal government. In many ways they remain the most effective representatives of provincial interests to the federal government, as Parliament's strong party discipline and other factors have impaired provincial representation there. This reality is acknowledged in annual "first ministers conferences" in which the federal prime minister and the 10 premiers meet to discuss provincial-federal relations. The Meech Lake Accord proposed that these meetings be constitutionally mandated, and some premiers have even proposed that these meetings become a formal branch of government, active in the legislative process (see Council of the Federation). However, only one Canadian provincial premier has ever gone on to serve as prime minister: Sir John Thompson. Canada's first and sixth prime ministers (Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Charles Tupper) had also been co-premier and premier of British provinces that became part of Canada, but no one who has led a victorious general election campaign in a Canadian province has ever been prime minister.

Canada's three territories have premiers as well, though they are technically known as "government leaders". The Premier of Yukon is chosen in the usual fashion, but the premiers of Nunavut and Northwest Territories are selected from within the small and non-partisan elected territorial councils.

Current premiers[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Styles of address