Office of the Prime Minister (Canada)

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Office of the Prime Minister
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Office of the Prime Minister and Privy Council
Agency overview
FormedJuly 1, 1867 (1867-07-01)
JurisdictionHer Majesty's Government
HeadquartersOffice of the Prime Minister and Privy Council, Ottawa, Ontario
Minister responsible
Agency executive
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The Office of the Prime Minister, abbreviated as PMO, is located in the Office of the Prime Minister and Privy Council building, facing Parliament Hill, in Ottawa. It is a wholly partisan organization made up of political staff. It exists to support the prime minister in a wide variety of ways, including the provision of policy advice, information gathering, communications, planning, and strategizing, and is headed by the principal secretary, the chief of staff, or another key advisor who has the duty of managing, administrating and co-ordinating the activities of the PMO.[1]

It should 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 made by the government.


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 OMP. (In French, the PMO is known as le Cabinet du Premier Ministre and abbreviated as CPM, or often literally translated as le Bureau du Premier Ministre, abbreviated as BPM.) 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.


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. They also act as a link between the political party organization and the government.

Annual budgets

Current staff

As of December 21, 2015, the new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was still in the process of hiring staff. However, he announced some key positions, as well as his office's directorates:[5][6]


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, preferring advice he received from his staff 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 was largely retained by Martin's successor Stephen Harper, despite the recommendations of John Gomery following his investigation into the sponsorship scandal, when he concluded that the power of the PMO should be reduced.[9] "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.[9]


  1. ^ "Leadership of the Prime Minister's Office". Retrieved 2020-04-14.
  2. ^ "Public Accounts of Canada - 2013" (PDF). Government of Canada. pp. 266–267. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 3, 2013.
  3. ^ "PMO spent $8.2-million last year, up 7%". National Post. October 30, 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d "Budget for Prime Minister's Office rising by $1M". CTV News. The Canadian Press. August 2, 2010.
  5. ^ Canada, Government of Canada, Shared Services; Canada, Gouvernement du Canada, Services partagés. "Government Electronic Directory Services". Retrieved 19 April 2018.
  6. ^ "The Gargoyle – Staffing up Trudeau's PMO". 21 December 2015. Retrieved 19 April 2018.
  7. ^ "Leadership of the Prime Minister's Office". Official website of the Parliament of Canada. Retrieved February 20, 2019.
  8. ^ Tasker, John Paul (February 18, 2019). "Gerald Butts resigns as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's principal secretary". CBC News. Retrieved February 18, 2019.
  9. ^ a b " Slash power of PMO, Gomery urges". Retrieved 19 April 2018.