Spouse of the Prime Minister of Canada
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|Spouse of the
Prime Minister of Canada
|Residence||Rideau Cottage (temporary)|
|Formation||July 1, 1867|
|First holder||Agnes Macdonald, 1st Baroness Macdonald of Earnscliffe|
|Unofficial names||First Lady of Canada|
The spouse of the Prime Minister of Canada (French: conjoint du premier minister du Canada) is the wife or husband of the Prime Minister of Canada. Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau is the wife of the current prime minister, Justin Trudeau. To date, 18 women have been the wives of the Prime Minister of Canada; Kim Campbell, the only female prime minister to date, was unmarried during her time in office. The spouse of the prime minister participates alongside the prime minister in various ceremonial, diplomatic, or partisan activities and may pursue philanthropic or charitable endeavours on their own, although the spouses to date have varied in how actively they sought or accepted the public spotlight.
Some media outlets have styled prime ministers' wives as First Lady of Canada, similar to the style of First Lady used in republics. This is not a recognized nor accurately applicable title, as both the spouses of the Canada's monarch and that of the governor general take precedence over a prime minister's spouse. Rather, use of "First Lady" is based on the influence of United States media.
The prime minister is not the head of state; thus, their spouse does not officially play as active a role in Canadian affairs as the royal and viceregal consorts. The prime minister's spouse, however, still frequently accompanies the prime minister on campaign and other public appearances, and often hosting dignitaries at the prime minister's residences.
At times, prime ministers' spouses have used their status to promote charitable causes; Mila Mulroney was a spokesperson for the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and other children's charities; Aline Chrétien was an active campaigner for literacy programs; and Laureen Harper was known for her support of animal welfare organizations such as the Ottawa Humane Society. Conversely, other prime ministers' spouses, including Geills Turner and Sheila Martin, were uncomfortable with public appearances and tried to minimize their time in the press spotlight.
Many have also held an unofficial but influential role as a political or campaign advisor to their husbands: both Mila Mulroney and Laureen Harper were considered their husbands' "secret weapons", whose instinctive sense of campaign optics proved invaluable to their husbands' careers; Harper, for example, was credited as the brains behind a public appearance in which her husband, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, appeared on stage at Ottawa's National Arts Centre to sing The Beatles' "With a Little Help from My Friends", which was widely perceived as softening the Prime Minister's somewhat stiff and bureaucratic public image. Despite her relatively low public profile, Aline Chrétien was also recognized as a powerful advisor to her husband; Maclean's magazine once wrote, "Never mind calling her the power behind the throne—she shares the seat of power", and columnist Allan Fotheringham later called her the second most powerful political figure in Canada, behind her husband but ahead of any elected Member of Parliament or any staffer in the Prime Minister's Office.
Some prime ministers' spouses have also attracted attention for other reasons: Maryon Pearson was noted for her prickly wit, having made a number of famous quips which are still regularly featured in anthologies of famous quotations. Margaret Trudeau, whom Pierre Trudeau married while in office, became a notable celebrity in her own right, most famously when she was featured on the covers of international tabloids after being seen partying at Studio 54. Maureen McTeer, spouse of Joe Clark, attracted controversy when she became the first spouse of a prime minister to retain her own surname after marriage. Mila Mulroney also rose to some notoriety due to her spending habits and was satirized in Frank as Imelda because of her purportedly large collection of shoes.
Because a prime minister's spouse has no formally defined role, however, a spouse may face criticism over her public visibility itself. In 2016, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau faced some controversy when she stated in an interview that she needed a staff assistant to keep on top of all the requests she received for public and charitable appearances, which some critics described as coming from a sense of personal entitlement or an attempt to turn herself into a First Lady.
Canada has had two prime ministers who were bachelors, William Lyon Mackenzie King and R.B. Bennett. Mackenzie Bowell, a widower whose wife, Harriet, died in 1884, was also not married during his term in office. Pierre Trudeau began his term as a bachelor, became the first Canadian prime minister to get married while in office and ended it as Canada's first divorced prime minister.
Three other Canadian prime ministers—John A. Macdonald, Alexander Mackenzie, and John Diefenbaker—were widowers, who each married their second wives during their terms as prime minister. Macdonald's first wife was Isabella Clark, Mackenzie's was Helen Neil, and Diefenbaker's was Edna Brower.
Canada has also had one female prime minister, Kim Campbell. As she had finalized her divorce from her second husband, Howard Eddy, in early 1993, there has never been a male spouse of the prime minister (although Campbell's first husband, Nathan Divinsky, did try to attract media attention in 1993 by billing himself as the ex-husband of the prime minister). She briefly dated Gregory Lekhtman, the inventor of Exerlopers, during her term as prime minister, but kept the relationship relatively private and did not involve him in the election campaign. In 1997, she entered into a common-law marriage with Hershey Felder.
Maureen McTeer is the only spouse to have maintained a career during her life at 24 Sussex; although several others have had independent careers prior to their spouse's term as prime minister, all others to date have put their own careers on hold to concentrate on the public and ceremonial and philanthropic aspects of their role as a leader's spouse.
Spouses of the prime ministers
|Name||Date of birth||Date of marriage||Prime Minister
|Date tenure began||Age at tenure start||Date tenure ended||Date of death and age|
|August 24, 1836||February 16, 1867||Sir John A. Macdonald||July 1, 1867||30 years, 176 days||November 5, 1873||September 5, 1920
( 84 years, 12 days)
|March 22, 1825||June 17, 1853||Alexander Mackenzie||November 7, 1873||48 years, 230 days||October 8, 1878||March 30, 1893
( 68 years, 8 days)
|August 24, 1836||February 16, 1867||Sir John A. Macdonald||October 17, 1878||42 years, 54 days||June 6, 1891||September 5, 1920
( 84 years, 12 days)
|October 17, 1823||July 26, 1849||Sir John Joseph Caldwell Abbott||June 16, 1891||67 years, 242 days||November 24, 1892||February 25, 1898
( 75 years, 38 days)
|June 26, 1845||July 5, 1870||Sir John Sparrow David Thompson||December 5, 1892||47 years, 162 days||December 12, 1894||April 10, 1913
( 67 years, 288 days)
|None (widower)||Sir Mackenzie Bowell||December 21, 1894||66 years, 224 days||April 27, 1896|
|March 14, 1826||October 6, 1846||Sir Charles Tupper||May 1, 1896||70 years, 48 days||July 8, 1896||May 11, 1912
( 86 years, 58 days)
|June 26, 1841||August 13, 1868||Sir Wilfrid Laurier||July 11, 1896||55 years, 15 days||October 7, 1911||November 1, 1921
( 80 years, 128 days)
|November 26, 1861||September 25, 1889||Sir Robert Laird Borden||October 10, 1911||49 years, 318 days||July 10, 1920||September 7, 1940
( 78 years, 286 days)
|April 18, 1882||June 1, 1904||Arthur Meighen||July 10, 1920||38 years, 83 days||December 29, 1921||September 6, 1985
( 103 years, 141 days)
|None (never married)||William Lyon Mackenzie King||December 29, 1921||June 29, 1926|
|April 18, 1882||June 1, 1904||Arthur Meighen||June 29, 1926||44 years, 72 days||November 25, 1926||September 6, 1985
( 103 years, 141 days)
|None (never married)||William Lyon Mackenzie King||November 25, 1926||August 7, 1930|
|None (never married)||R.B. Bennett||August 7, 1930||October 23, 1935|
|None (never married)||William Lyon Mackenzie King||October 23, 1935||November 15, 1948|
|9||Jeanne St. Laurent
|October 22, 1886||May 19, 1908||Louis Stephen St. Laurent||November 15, 1948||62 years, 24 days||June 21, 1957||November 14, 1966
( 80 years, 23 days)
|April 14, 1902||December 8, 1953||John George Diefenbaker||June 21, 1957||55 years, 68 days||April 22, 1963||December 22, 1976
( 74 years, 252 days)
|December 13, 1901||August 22, 1925||Lester B. Pearson||April 22, 1963||61 years, 130 days||April 20, 1968||December 26, 1989
( 88 years, 13 days)
|None (unmarried as of 1968; married in office)||Pierre Trudeau||April 20, 1968||March 4, 1971|
|September 10, 1948||March 4, 1971||Pierre Trudeau||March 4, 1971||22 years, 175 days||1977*||Living (68 years, 257 days)|
|None (separated) de facto Margaret Trudeau||Pierre Trudeau||1977||June 4, 1979*|
|13||Maureen McTeer||September 27, 1952||June 30, 1973||Joe Clark||June 4, 1979||26 years, 250 days||March 3, 1980||Living (64 years, 240 days)|
|None (separated) de facto Margaret Trudeau||Pierre Trudeau||March 3, 1980||April 2, 1984*|
|None (divorced)||Pierre Trudeau||April 2, 1984||June 30, 1984*|
|December 23, 1937||May 11, 1963||John Turner||June 30, 1984||46 years, 190 days||September 17, 1984||Living (79 years, 153 days)|
|July 13, 1953||May 26, 1973||Brian Mulroney||September 17, 1984||31 years, 66 days||June 25, 1993||Living (63 years, 316 days)|
|none (divorced)||Kim Campbell||June 25, 1993||November 4, 1993|
|May 14, 1936||September 10, 1957||Jean Chrétien||November 4, 1993||57 years, 174 days||December 12, 2003||Living (81 years, 11 days)|
|July 31, 1943||September 11, 1965||Paul Martin||December 12, 2003||60 years, 134 days||February 6, 2006||Living (73 years, 298 days)|
|June 23, 1963||December 11, 1993||Stephen Harper||February 6, 2006||42 years, 228 days||November 4, 2015||Living (53 years, 336 days)|
|19||Sophie Grégoire Trudeau||April 24, 1975||May 28, 2005||Justin Trudeau||November 4, 2015||40 years, 194 days||Present||Living (42 years, 31 days)|
(*) The Trudeaus separated in 1977 but did not obtain a divorce until April 2, 1984. Trudeau left office in June 1984, two months after his divorce was finalized.
- "The Prime Minister's Wife: What Is Her Title, Exactly?".
- "The First Ladies Club". The Globe and Mail, April 1, 2008.
- Anne Kingston, "Wife of the party". Maclean's, August 13, 2007.
- "PM's wife stepping out of the shadows". Vancouver Sun, December 3, 2010.
- "The opinions the PM heeds," Maclean's, October 14, 1996, vol. 109, issue 42, p. 18-19.
- Allan Fotheringham, "Aline, the power player," Maclean's, December 11, 2000, vol. 113, issue 50, p. 68.
- English, John. Shadow of Heaven: The Life of Lester Pearson. Toronto: Lester & Orpen Dennys, 1989 (ISBN 0-88619-169-6).
- "Sophie Gregoire Trudeau realizing how hard it is to win with everyone, all the time". Metro, May 17, 2016.
- Maclean's, April 29, 1996.