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Prime Ministers of Canada

Jean Chretien
04-Nov-1993 - Present [Liberal]

Political Career Includes:

  • First elected to House of Commons 1963.
  • Parliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister Pearson 1965.
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance 1966.
  • Minister of State - Finance 1967.
  • Minister of National Revenue 1968.
  • Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development 1968.
  • President of the Treasury Board 1974.
  • Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce 1976.
  • Minister of Finance 1977.
  • Minister of Justice and Attorney General 1980.
  • Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources 1982.
  • Secretary of State for External Affairs 1984.
  • Deputy Prime Minister 1984.
  • Resigned from House of Commons 1986.
  • Elected Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada 1990.
  • Elected to House of Commons 1990.
  • Sworn in as Leader of the Opposition 1990.
  • Sworn in as Prime Minister of Canada 1993.

More about - Jean Chretien


Kim Campbell
25-Jun-1993 - 03-Nov-1993 [Progressive Conservative]

Kim Campbell was Prime Minister of Canada for only four months, but she can take credit for a number of Canadian political firsts.

  • The first woman Prime Minister of Canada.
  • The first woman Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.
  • The first woman Minister of National Defence.
  • The first woman elected leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.

More about - Kim Campbell


Brian Mulroney
17-Sep-1984 - 24-Jun-1993 [Progressive Conservative]

Brian Mulroney believed that the Progressive Conservatives must win Quebec to win the country and proved it by coming to power in 1984 with the largest majority in Canada history. By the time Mulroney retired as Prime Minister of Canada in 1993, his personal popularity was lower than that of any other Prime Minister in Canadian history, and the Progressive Conservative Party was faced with a struggle to maintain its existence.

One goal Brian Mulroney had as Prime Minister of Canada was to bring Quebec into the Canadian constitution, and he came close. In the end, both the Meech Lake Accord in 1987 and the Charlottetown Accord in 1992 were defeated, and Canadians were worn out with constitutional wrangling.

Brian Mulroney was also an advocate of stronger Canadian ties with the United States, and the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement in 1988 and the North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA in 1992 are testaments to Mulroney's efforts.

Other highlights of Brian Mulroney's terms of office as Prime Minister of Canada include:

  • Canada Multiculturalism Act 1988.
  • Canadian participation in Gulf War 1991.
  • Goods and Service Tax 1991.
  • Language rights in New Brunswick entrenched in the Constitution.
  • Acid rain treaty with the United States.

More about - Brian Mulroney


John Turner
30-Jun-1984 - 16-Sep-1984 [Liberal]

John Turner was a Prime Minister in waiting for too many years. By the time John Turner had waited out the Trudeau era and was elected Leader of the Liberal Party to become Prime Minister in 1984, the country was fed up with Liberal government. Turner seemed out of touch, made a number of political gaffes, including calling an early election, and the Conservatives won a massive majority.

For six years as Leader of the Opposition, John Turner fought, unsuccessfully, against free trade with the United States.

More about - John Turner


Pierre Elliott Trudeau
03-Mar-1980 - 29-Jun-1984 [Liberal]

Highlights of the Trudeau era include:

  • Official Languages Act 1969.
  • October Crisis (implementation of War Measures Act) 1970.
  • Appointed Muriel McQueen Fergusson first woman Speaker of the Senate 1972.
  • Wage and Price Controls 1975.
  • Leader of the Opposition 1979-1980.
  • Significant role in the victory of the "No" forces in the Quebec Referendum on Sovereignty-Association 1980.
  • Appointed Jeanne Sauvé first woman Speaker of the House of Commons 1980.
  • Canadian Charter of Rights 1982.
  • Constitution Act 1982.
  • Appointed Jeanne Sauvé, Canada's first woman governor general 1984.

More about - Pierre Elliott Trudeau
Some more about - Pierre Elliott Trudeau


Joe Clark
04-Jun-1979 - 02-Mar-1980 [Progressive Conservative]

At the age of 39, Joe Clark became the youngest Prime Minister of Canada in 1979. A fiscal conservative, Joe Clark and his minority government were defeated after just nine months in power on a non-confidence motion on a budget of tax increases and program cuts.

After losing the 1980 election, Joe Clark stayed on as Leader of the Opposition. When Brian Mulroney took over as Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada in 1983, Joe Clark continued as an effective Minister of External Relations and Minister for Constitutional Affairs. Joe Clark left politics in 1993 to work as an international business consultant, but returned as Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party from 1998 to 2003.

More about - Joe Clark


Pierre Elliott Trudeau
20-Apr-1968 - 03-Jun-1979 [Liberal]

Highlights of the Trudeau era include:

  • Official Languages Act 1969.
  • October Crisis (implementation of War Measures Act) 1970.
  • Appointed Muriel McQueen Fergusson first woman Speaker of the Senate 1972.
  • Wage and Price Controls 1975.
  • Leader of the Opposition 1979-1980.
  • Significant role in the victory of the "No" forces in the Quebec Referendum on Sovereignty-Association 1980.
  • Appointed Jeanne Sauvé first woman Speaker of the House of Commons 1980.
  • Canadian Charter of Rights 1982.
  • Constitution Act 1982.
  • Appointed Jeanne Sauvé, Canada's first woman governor general 1984.

More about - Pierre Elliott Trudeau
Some more about - Pierre Elliott Trudeau


Lester Pearson
22-Apr-1963 - 19-Apr-1968 [Liberal]

A likeable and patient man, Canadian Prime Minister Lester Pearson had a conciliatory approach he learned in his career as a diplomat. Lester Pearson was a strong supporter of international agencies and helped establish NATO. His proposal for an emergency UN peacekeeping force to resolve the Suez Crisis won Lester Pearson the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957.

As Prime Minister of Canada, Lester Pearson led two successive minority governments, and governed with the support of the New Democratic Party and Social Credit Party. The Pearson governments seemed to be accident prone. with minor scandals, budget problems and an increasingly restless Quebec. Still, Lester Pearson managed to rebuild the Liberal Party, and leave behind some notable accomplishments.

Highlights of the government of Lester Pearson as Prime Minister of Canada include:

  • Canada Pension Plan 1965.
  • Auto Pact 1965.
  • National Flag for Canada 1965.
  • Universal Medicare 1965.
  • Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism.
  • A new Canadian immigration act.

More about - Lester Pearson


John Diefenbaker
21-Jun-1957 - 21-Apr-1963 [Progressive Conservative]

An entertaining and theatrical speaker, John Diefenbaker was a Canadian populist who combined Conservative politics with social justice issues. Of neither French nor English ancestry, John Diefenbaker worked hard to include Canadians of other ethnic backgrounds. Diefenbaker gave Western Canada a high profile, but Quebeckers considered him unsympathetic.

John Diefenbaker had mixed success on the international front. Diefenbaker championed international human rights, but his confused defence policy and economic nationalism caused tension with the United States.

Highlights of the John Diefenbaker years as Prime Minister of Canada include:

  • Appointed Ellen Fairclough to cabinet, making her the first woman to be a Canadian federal cabinet minister 1957.
  • Canadian Bill of Rights 1960.
  • Vote extended to native peoples in Canada 1960.
  • Royal Commission on Health Services 1961.
  • Agriculture Rehabilitation and Development Act 1961.
  • Found market in China for prairie wheat.
  • Created National Productivity Council, forerunner of the Economic Council of Canada 1963.
  • Expanded old age pensions.
  • Extended unemployment insurance benefits for fishermen.
  • Introduced simultaneous translation in House of Commons.

More about - John Diefenbaker


Louis Saint-Laurent
15-Nov-1948 - 20-Jun-1957 [Liberal]

Fluently bilingual, with an Irish mother and a Québécois father. Louis St. Laurent was an apolitical lawyer when he went to Ottawa in 1941 to be Minister of Justice and Mackenzie King's Quebec lieutenant "temporarily" until the end of the war. St. Laurent did not retire from politics until 1958.

The post-war years were prosperous in Canada, and Louis St. Laurent expanded social programs and began many mega-projects. While the influence of Britain on Canada was gradually decreasing, the influence of the United States on Canada grew.

Highlights of the government of Louis St. Laurent as Prime Minister of Canada include:

  • Newfoundland joined Canadian Confederation 1949.
  • Canada was a founding member of NATO 1949.
  • Canada contributed troops to UN force in Korea 1950-53.
  • Canada played a role in resolving Suez Crisis 1956.
  • Trans-Canada Highway Act 1949.
  • Started construction of St. Lawrence Seaway 1954.
  • Introduced equalization payments, a system aimed at fair distribution of federal taxes to provincial governments 1956.
  • Introduced universal old age pensions.
  • Provided funds for hospital insurance.
  • Created Canada Council 1956.
  • Set up the Royal Commission on the Arts, Letters and Sciences.
  • Appointed Vincent Massey, the first Canadian-born Governor General 1952.

More about - Louis Saint-Laurent


William Lyon Mackenzie King
23-Oct-1935 - 14-Nov-1948 [Liberal]

Mackenzie King was Prime Minister of Canada, off and on, for a total of 22 years, and throughout his political career built Canada as a nation by dividing it the least.

A compromiser and a conciliator, Mackenzie King was mild-mannered and had a bland public personality. The private personality of Mackenzie King was more exotic, as his diaries reveal. A devout Christian, Mackenzie King believed in an afterlife, and increasingly consulted fortunetellers, communicated with his dead relatives in seances, and pursued "psychical research." He was also extremely superstitious.

The many accomplishments of Mackenzie King as Prime Minister of Canada include:

  • Out of the Depression, introduced social programs such as unemployment insurance and old age pensions.
  • Negotiated freer trade with the United States.
  • Led Canada through World War II, although King had initially supported the appeasement of Hitler.
  • Survived a conscription crisis that split Canada along English French lines.
  • Brought in post war social programs for veterans, health, housing, and welfare, as well as introducing the family allowance program,
  • Appointed the first Canadian woman senator Carine Wilson 1930.
  • Construction of Alaska Highway 1942-43.
  • Canadian Citizenship Act passed and Mackenzie King became the first Canadian citizen in 1947. Before 1947, people living in Canada were British subjects.

More about - William Lyon Mackenzie King


Richard Bedford Bennett
07-Aug-1930 - 22--Oct-1935 [Conservative]

Richard Bedford Bennett was a millionaire businessman who was Prime Minister of Canada throughout the Depression and his Conservative policies did little to help the hardships faced by Canadians. R.B. Bennett had a large ego and was said to run a one-man government.

On the eve of the 1935 election, R.B. Bennett suddenly promised a Canadian "New Deal" of minimum wages, unemployment insurance and corporate regulations, but it was too late and the Bennett government was defeated.

The following measures were put in place while R.B. Bennett was Prime Minister of Canada:

  • The Relief Act 1926.
  • Creation of the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission 1932.
  • Creation of the Bank of Canada 1935.
  • Creation of the Canadian Wheat Board 1935.

More about - Richard Bedford Bennett


William Lyon Mackenzie King
25-Sep-1926 - 06-Aug-1930 [Liberal]

Mackenzie King was Prime Minister of Canada, off and on, for a total of 22 years, and throughout his political career built Canada as a nation by dividing it the least.

A compromiser and a conciliator, Mackenzie King was mild-mannered and had a bland public personality. The private personality of Mackenzie King was more exotic, as his diaries reveal. A devout Christian, Mackenzie King believed in an afterlife, and increasingly consulted fortunetellers, communicated with his dead relatives in seances, and pursued "psychical research." He was also extremely superstitious.

The many accomplishments of Mackenzie King as Prime Minister of Canada include:

  • Out of the Depression, introduced social programs such as unemployment insurance and old age pensions.
  • Negotiated freer trade with the United States.
  • Led Canada through World War II, although King had initially supported the appeasement of Hitler.
  • Survived a conscription crisis that split Canada along English French lines.
  • Brought in post war social programs for veterans, health, housing, and welfare, as well as introducing the family allowance program,
  • Appointed the first Canadian woman senator Carine Wilson 1930.
  • Construction of Alaska Highway 1942-43.
  • Canadian Citizenship Act passed and Mackenzie King became the first Canadian citizen in 1947. Before 1947, people living in Canada were British subjects.

More about - William Lyon Mackenzie King


Arthur Meighen
29-Jun-1926 - 24-Sep-1926 [Conservative]

Arthur Meighen was an excellent debater, skilled in analysis and knowledge of parliamentary rules, but his uncompromising stands on issues tended to alienate people. Meighen's most memorable accomplishments were achieved as a cabinet minister in the government of Sir Robert Borden, rather than as Prime Minister of Canada, and the legacy of some of those unpopular moves did not help him as Prime Minister.

As a cabinet minister Arthur Meighen:

  • Introduced the strategy of closure to force the Naval Bill through the House of Commons in 1912.
  • Created 1914 Conscription Act and the Wartime Elections Act, which were detested in Quebec.
  • As acting Minister of Justice, Arthur Meighen was involved in suppressing the Winnipeg General Strike in 1919, which alienated a large part of the labour movement.
  • Responsible for creation of Canadian National Railways.

As Prime Minister of Canada, Arthur Meighen:

  • Tried unsuccessfully to revive the National Policy of high tariffs.

More about - Arthur Meighen


William Lyon Mackenzie King
29-Dec-1921 - 28-Jun-1926 [Liberal]

Mackenzie King was Prime Minister of Canada, off and on, for a total of 22 years, and throughout his political career built Canada as a nation by dividing it the least.

A compromiser and a conciliator, Mackenzie King was mild-mannered and had a bland public personality. The private personality of Mackenzie King was more exotic, as his diaries reveal. A devout Christian, Mackenzie King believed in an afterlife, and increasingly consulted fortunetellers, communicated with his dead relatives in seances, and pursued "psychical research." He was also extremely superstitious.

The many accomplishments of Mackenzie King as Prime Minister of Canada include:

  • Out of the Depression, introduced social programs such as unemployment insurance and old age pensions.
  • Negotiated freer trade with the United States.
  • Led Canada through World War II, although King had initially supported the appeasement of Hitler.
  • Survived a conscription crisis that split Canada along English French lines.
  • Brought in post war social programs for veterans, health, housing, and welfare, as well as introducing the family allowance program,
  • Appointed the first Canadian woman senator Carine Wilson 1930.
  • Construction of Alaska Highway 1942-43.
  • Canadian Citizenship Act passed and Mackenzie King became the first Canadian citizen in 1947. Before 1947, people living in Canada were British subjects.

More about - William Lyon Mackenzie King


Arthur Meighen
10-Jul-1920 - 28-Dec-1921 [National Liberal and Conservative Party]

Arthur Meighen was an excellent debater, skilled in analysis and knowledge of parliamentary rules, but his uncompromising stands on issues tended to alienate people. Meighen's most memorable accomplishments were achieved as a cabinet minister in the government of Sir Robert Borden, rather than as Prime Minister of Canada, and the legacy of some of those unpopular moves did not help him as Prime Minister.

As a cabinet minister Arthur Meighen:

  • Introduced the strategy of closure to force the Naval Bill through the House of Commons in 1912.
  • Created 1914 Conscription Act and the Wartime Elections Act, which were detested in Quebec.
  • As acting Minister of Justice, Arthur Meighen was involved in suppressing the Winnipeg General Strike in 1919, which alienated a large part of the labour movement.
  • Responsible for creation of Canadian National Railways.

As Prime Minister of Canada, Arthur Meighen:

  • Tried unsuccessfully to revive the National Policy of high tariffs.

More about - Arthur Meighen


Sir Robert Borden
10-Oct-1911 - 09-Jul-1920 [Conservative-Unionist]

Prime Minister Robert Borden led Canada through World War I, eventually committing 500,000 troops to the war effort. Robert Borden formed a Union Government of Liberals and Conservatives to implement conscription, but the conscription issue split the country bitterly - with the English supporting sending troops to help Britain and the French adamantly opposed.

Robert Borden also led in achieving Dominion status for Canada and was instrumental in the transition from the British Empire to the British Commonwealth of Nations. At the end of World War I, Canada ratified the Treaty of Versailles and joined the League of Nations as an independent nation.

Other highlights of Sir Robert Borden's terms as Prime Minster of Canada included:

  • Emergency War Measures Act of 1914.
  • Wartime Business Profits Tax of 1917 and the "temporary" Income Tax, the first direct taxation by the Canadian federal government.
  • Veterans benefits.
  • Nationalization of bankrupt railways.
  • Introduction of a professional public service.

More about - Sir Robert Borden


Sir Wilfrid Laurier
11-Jul-1896 - 06-Jun-1911 [Liberal]

Sir Wilfrid Laurier had the longest unbroken term of office of any Canadian prime minister. Laurier was Prime Minister of Canada for 15 years and a member of the House of Commons for 45 years.

Sir Wilfrid Laurier was the first francophone Prime Minister of Canada, fluently bilingual, and spent much of his time in office trying to balance the interests of the French and English in Canada. Laurier was a moderate and known for his ability to compromise.

Highlights of Sir Wilfrid Laurier's terms in office included:

  • Establishment the Departments of Labour and External Affairs.
  • Recruitment of immigrants to the West.
  • Creation of the western provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan in 1905.
  • Two new transcontinental railways begun, although the railway capacity was surplus to requirements and the projects riddled with scandal.
  • Reciprocity deal with the United States for lower rates on natural products like farm produce, but the Liberals were defeated on the free trade issue in 1911.
  • Laurier was against conscription, which split the Liberal party, leading to some Liberals joining the Union government with the Conservatives for the duration of the First World War.

More about - Sir Wilfrid Laurier


Sir Charles Tupper
01-May-1896 - 08-Jul-1896 [Conservative]

With an impressive career in Canadian politics, Sir Charles Tupper was 75 when he finally became Prime Minister of Canada, and then served for only 10 weeks. His Conservative government was defeated by Sir Wilfrid Laurier's Liberals on the Manitoba Schools Question on minority education rights. Sir Charles Tupper was:

  • A Father of Confederation.
  • The first president of the Canadian Medical Association.
  • A premier of Nova Scotia.
  • Largely responsible for Nova Scotia joining Confederation in 1867.

More about - Sir Charles Tupper


Sir Mackenzie Bowell
21-Dec-1894 - 27-Apr-1896 [Conservative]

Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie Bowell was anti-Catholic and anti-Liberal and in over his depth on the divisive Manitoba Schools Question on minority education rights. Mackenzie Bowell was the only prime minister of Canada to be forced to resign by his own cabinet, which he called a "nest of traitors."

More about - Sir Mackenzie Bowell


Sir John Thompson
05-Dec-1892 - 12-Dec-1894 [Liberal-Conservative]

Sir John Thompson was the first provincial premier to become prime minister of Canada and the first Roman Catholic prime minister of Canada. Sir John Thompson died suddenly after just two years as Canadian prime minister, and his major contribution was the Canadian Criminal Code of 1892.

More about - Sir John Thompson


Sir John Abbott
16-Jun-1891 - 24-Nov-1892 [Liberal-Conservative]

Although Sir John Abbott was Prime Minister for only 17 months and saw himself as a caretaker prime minister, stepping in on the death of Sir John A. Macdonald, Sir John Abbott has a few notable firsts to his name.

  • The first Canadian prime minister to be born on Canadian soil.
  • The first Senator to become Prime Minister of Canada.
  • The first Canadian prime minister to be a member of both the House of Commons and the Senate.

More about - Sir John Abbott


Sir John Alexander Macdonald
17-Oct-1878 - 06-Jun-1891 [Liberal-Conservative]

Sir John A. Macdonald was a Father of Confederation and drafted two-thirds of the provisions of the British North America Act. Sir John A. Macdonald was the first Prime Minister of Canada. Highlights of the governments of Sir John A. Macdonald as Prime Minister of Canada include:

  • Building a trans-continental railway, the Canadian Pacific Railway, although the first attempt resulted in the government resigning over the Pacific Railway Scandal.
  • Building a nation with the entry into Confederation of Prince Edward Island, the Northwest Territories (including Alberta and Saskatchewan), Manitoba, and British Columbia.
  • Opening the West for settlement.
  • Creation of the North-West Mounted Police.
  • The Northwest Rebellion and the hanging of Louis Riel.
  • The National Policy of tariffs against imports to protect Canadian industry.

More about - Sir John Alexander Macdonald


Alexander Mackenzie
07-Nov-1873 - 08-Oct-1878 [Liberal]

Alexander Mackenzie was the first Liberal prime minister of Canada. A severe economic depression was a major problem during Alexander Mackenzie's term of office, but his government implemented some major reforms, including:

  • Establishment of the secret ballot
  • Creation of the Supreme Court
  • Establishment of the Office of the Auditor General
  • Establishment of Royal Military College of Canada
  • Setting up the Department of Militia and Defence

More about - Alexander Mackenzie


Sir John Alexander Macdonald
01-Jul-1867 - 05-Nov-1873 [Liberal-Conservative]

Sir John A. Macdonald was a Father of Confederation and drafted two-thirds of the provisions of the British North America Act. Sir John A. Macdonald was the first Prime Minister of Canada. Highlights of the governments of Sir John A. Macdonald as Prime Minister of Canada include:

  • Building a trans-continental railway, the Canadian Pacific Railway, although the first attempt resulted in the government resigning over the Pacific Railway Scandal.
  • Building a nation with the entry into Confederation of Prince Edward Island, the Northwest Territories (including Alberta and Saskatchewan), Manitoba, and British Columbia.
  • Opening the West for settlement.
  • Creation of the North-West Mounted Police.
  • The Northwest Rebellion and the hanging of Louis Riel.
  • The National Policy of tariffs against imports to protect Canadian industry.

More about - Sir John Alexander Macdonald