Deputy Prime Minister of Canada

From Academic Kids

The Deputy Prime Minister of Canada is a position in the Canadian government.

It is a position within the Cabinet of Canada without portfolio, but the occupant usually plays a key role in the government. Additionally, with the exception of Herb Gray, all Deputy Prime Ministers have held a portfolio along side this title.

Canada's current Deputy Prime Minister is Anne McLellan.

Unlike the Vice President of the United States, the Deputy Prime Minister does not automatically assume the office of Prime Minister if the Prime Minister dies or resigns. In the event of the sudden resignation or death of a Prime Minister, the governing party or coalition would choose an interim leader, or in the case in which extended notice is given, hold a leadership convention. Once in place, the new leader would be called upon by the Governor General of Canada to form a government. To date, no Deputy Prime Minister has ever directly succeeded a sitting Prime Minister. Only one Deputy Prime Minister, Jean Chrétien, has subsequently become Prime Minister, but he became Prime Minister almost a decade after his term as Deputy Prime Minister had ended.

Extended notice is usually given when a sitting Prime Minister does not plan to seek re-election. Leadership contests to determine the successor to a Prime Minister are usually held during the final days of the incumbent's term, and are traditionally a lengthy and competitive process.

If the Prime Minister dies or suddenly resigns without warning however, this lack of direct succession can create some unusual situations. For example, following the death of Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada had no Prime Minister for nine days, as it took a while for the caucus to decide on a new leader. In the provinces of Canada deaths and sudden resignations are more common, and in such cases it appears a constitutional convention has emerged in which an emergency party caucus will usually appoint the deputy premier to serve as premier on an interim basis until a permanent successor is chosen.

The position of Deputy Prime Minister was created by Pierre Trudeau in 1977, largely to recognize the long years of service of Allan J. MacEachen. Trudeau had previously given the title of Senior Minister to one member of his cabinet. Paul Hellyer served as Senior Minister prior to his resignation from Trudeau's cabinet.

Joe Clark did not appoint a Deputy Prime Minister in his short lived government of 1979-1980.

The official duties of the Deputy Prime Minister are to answer on behalf of overall government policy during Question Period and chair the Cabinet of Canada in the absence of the Prime Minister. In fact, one Deputy Prime Minister, Sheila Copps, attracted controversy in 1993 by simply asserting that she was "in charge" of government business while the Prime Minister, Jean Chrétien, was out of the country on a state visit.

The Deputy Prime Minister should not be confused with the position of Deputy Minister. The Deputy Prime Minister is a politician and member of cabinet where deputy ministers are senior civil servants. The deputy minister to the Prime Minister is the Clerk of the Privy Council.

See also: List of Canadian Deputy Prime Ministers

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