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Prime Minister of Canada

The prime minister (PM) is the head of the federal government. It is the most powerful position in Canadian politics. Prime ministers are not specifically elected to the position; instead, the PM is typically the leader of the party that has the most seats in the House of Commons. The prime minister controls the governing party and speaks for it; names senators and senior judges for appointment; and appoints and dismisses all members of Cabinet. As chair of Cabinet, the PM controls its agenda and greatly influences the activities and priorities of Parliament. In recent years, a debate has emerged about the growing power of prime ministers, and whether this threatens other democratic institutions.

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Amor de Cosmos

Amor de Cosmos (né William Alexander Smith), newspaper editor, politician, premier of British Columbia 1872–74 (born 20 August 1825 in Windsor, NS; died 4 July 1897 in Victoria, BC).

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Arthur Meighen

Arthur Meighen, lawyer, politician, businessman, prime minister of Canada (b at Anderson, Ont 16 June 1874; d at Toronto 5 Aug 1960).

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Joey Smallwood

Joseph “Joey” Roberts Smallwood, CC, premier of Newfoundland (1949–72), journalist (born 24 December 1900 in Mint Brook, NL; died 17 December 1991 in St. John's, NL). The leading proponent of Confederation in Newfoundland in the 20th century, Joey Smallwood played an important role in bringing the province into Confederation in 1949. He served as Newfoundland and Labrador’s first premier for nearly 23 years, and is sometimes referred to as “the last Father of Confederation.” During his lifetime, he was also called “the only living Father of Confederation.”

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Jean Augustine

Jean Augustine (née Simon), PC, CM, first Black female MP and Cabinet minister, social justice advocate, teacher, principal (born 9 September 1937 in Happy Hill, Grenada).

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George Coles

George Coles, premier of Prince Edward Island (1851–54, 1854–59, 1867–68), distiller, brewer, merchant, farmer (born 20 September 1810 in Prince Edward Island; died 21 August 1875 in Charlottetown Royalty, PE).

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Sir Charles Tupper

Sir Charles Tupper, prime minister, premier of Nova Scotia 1864–67, doctor (born 2 July 1821 in Amherst, NS; died 30 October 1915 in Bexleyheath, England). Charles Tupper led Nova Scotia into Confederation while he was premier. Over the course of his lengthy political career, he served as a federal Cabinet minister and diplomat, and briefly as prime minister of Canada — his 10-week term is the shortest in Canadian history. He was the last surviving Father of Confederation.

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Agnes Macphail

Agnes Campbell Macphail, politician, reformer (born 24 March 1890 in Proton Township, Grey County, ON; died 13 February 1954 in Toronto, ON). Agnes Macphail was the first woman elected to the House of Commons (1921–40) and was one of the first two women elected to the Ontario legislature (1943–45, 1948–51). She was also the first female member of a Canadian delegation to the League of Nations. Macphail was a founding member of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (the forerunner of the New Democratic Party). She was a noted pacifist and an advocate for prison reform. As a member of the Ontario legislature, she championed Ontario’s first equal pay legislation (1951).

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W.A.C. Bennett

William Andrew Cecil Bennett, PC, OC, premier of British Columbia 1952-72, merchant, politician, (born 6 September 1900 in Hastings, NB; died 23 February 1979 in Kelowna, BC). Bennett led his province during a period of unparalleled economic expansion and is the longest serving premier in BC history.

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Fred Rose

Fred Rose, union organizer, politician (b Fred Rosenberg at Lublin, Poland 7 Dec 1907; d at Warsaw, Poland 16 Mar 1983). Rose moved with his parents to Montréal. In the 1930s, as a member of the Young Communist League, he organized unions of unemployed and unskilled workers.

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Alexa McDonough

Alexa Ann McDonough (née Shaw), OC, ONS, social worker, former Nova Scotia New Democratic Party leader, federal NDP leader (born 11 August 1944 in Ottawa, ON; died 15 January 2022 in Halifax, NS). A former Halifax social worker, Alexa McDonough became the first woman to lead a major political party in Canada when she was elected leader of the Nova Scotia New Democratic Party (NDP) in 1980. She served as leader until 1994 and also led the federal NDP from 1995 until 2003. She was the Member of Parliament for Halifax from 1997 to 2008. In 2009, she served as interim president of Mount Saint Vincent University and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.

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Jack Layton

John Gilbert "Jack" Layton, educator, municipal and federal politician, New Democratic Party leader (born at Montréal, 18 Jul 1950; died at Toronto 22 Aug 2011). Jack Layton, leader of the federal New Democratic Party from 2003-2011, headed the first NDP party to sit as Canada's Official Opposition in the House of Commons. Layton's career revealed a strong dose of social activism spanning issues ranging from the white ribbon campaign (seeking to stop violence by men against women), to environmental climate change (championing Toronto's first urban wind turbine and supporting the Kyoto Accord), to homelessness and the need for affordable housing, to fostering an AIDS urban strategy, to participating in anti-free-trade protests.

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Andrew Bannatyne

Andrew Graham Ballenden Bannatyne, businessman, politician (born 31 October 1829 at South Ronaldsay, Orkney ; died 18 May 1889 at St Paul, Minnesota).