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Leadership of the Prime Minister's Office

1867 to Date

The organizational structure of the Prime Minister’s office (PMO) has traditionally been hierarchical in its design. At the upper echelons of this hierarchy resides the small circle of individuals entrusted with running the PMO. Depending on the personal approach of the Prime Minister, the duties of managing, administrating and co-ordinating the activities of the PMO might belong to the Principal Secretary, the Chief of Staff, or another key advisor.  

The head of the PMO is granted virtually uninhibited access to the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers. He or she oversees the activities of the Prime Minister’s staff, and can also serve as an important political adviser. In addition, the head of the PMO has the duty of liaising with the Privy Council Office (PCO), and attends the weekly meetings of the PCO’s senior staff as the representative of the PMO.

The functions served by the PMO, itself, have greatly evolved over time. In the ministries which followed Confederation, the Prime Minister’s secretaries mainly fulfilled basic service roles, such as responding to routine correspondence. In more recent times, with the institutionalization of the PMO, the raison d’être of the PMO and its staff has expanded to include a wider variety of tasks, including the provision of policy advice, information gathering, communications, planning, and strategizing.


  1. Biographies of Prime Ministers, popular and academic books on Canadian politics.
  2. Memo from Jack Pickersgill.
  3. Interviews with:
    • E.A. Pickering (King)
    • Jack Granatstein (King)
    • Gordon Roberston (Pearson Marc Lalonde)
    • Professor Waite (Thompson)
    • *Huguette Fournier (Pearson, Lalonde)
    • Tom Kent (Pearson)

*(Marc Lalonde's Secretary, Montréal - Office of Stikeman & Elliot.)

Nota bene: Secondary sources were used to complete this list. It should not be considered an official list.