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Leader of the Government in the House of Commons (Canada)

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Title: Leader of the Government in the House of Commons (Canada)  
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Subject: House of Commons of Canada, Trinity College, Toronto, 38th Canadian Parliament, Sinecure, Allan MacEachen, Cabinet of Canada, Peter Van Loan, Dan Wicklum, Peter Milliken, Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
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Leader of the Government in the House of Commons (Canada)

Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Peter Van Loan

Style The Honourable
Appointed by Governor General of Canada
First minister Ian Alistair Mackenzie
Formation October 14, 1944
Term length At Her Majesty's pleasure


The Leader of the Government in the House of Commons (French: Chef du gouvernement à la Chambre des communes), more commonly known as the Government House Leader, is the Cabinet minister responsible for planning and managing the government's legislative program in the Canadian House of Commons. The position is not legally entitled to cabinet standing on its own, so all Government House Leaders must simultaneously hold another portfolio. In recent years, sinecure assignments have been used to give House Leaders cabinet standing while allowing them to focus entirely on house business. The current House Leader is Peter Van Loan.

The Government House Leader works on the government's behalf by negotiating with the House Leaders of the Opposition parties. This often includes discussion over timetables and may include concessions to demands by opposition parties to ensure quick passage of a bill or opposition support. The position is especially crucial during periods of minority government, when no party has a majority in the House and the government must rely on the support of one or more Opposition parties to not only pass its legislative agenda but remain in power. The holder of the position must be an expert in parliamentary procedure in order to argue points of order before the Speaker of the House of Commons as well as be a good strategist and tactician in order to outmanoeuver the opposition parties.

From 1867 until World War II, the Prime Minister of Canada took upon himself the responsibilities of being Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, organizing and coordinating House of Commons business with the other parties. The expansion of government responsibilities during the war led to Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King deciding to delegate the House leadership to one of his ministers. In 1946, the position of Government House Leader was formally recognized. In 1968, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau designated the Government House Leader as President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada.

Under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, the roles of Government House Leader and President of the Privy Council were separated in 1989. Under Mulroney and his successors, the position of House Leader would often be held by someone who was named a Minister of State without any portfolio responsibilities specified. Since 2003, this Minister of State status has been obscured in all but the most official circumstances by the use of a "Leader of the Government in the House of Commons" style in its place.

Prime Minister Paul Martin's first House Leader, Jacques Saada was also Minister responsible for Democratic Reform; however, with the election of a minority government in the 2004 election, he appointed Tony Valeri to the position of Leader of the Government in the House of Commons with no additional responsibilities.

List of officeholders

Until 2005, the position of Government House Leader was not technically a cabinet-level post, but rather a parliamentary office, so to qualify for cabinet membership, an individual had to be named to cabinet in some other capacity. For a time, with the position having evolved into a full-time job, Government House Leaders have been named to cabinet as Ministers of State with no portfolio specified. The Martin government created these positions so that the Minister of State title is effectively invisible. An amendment to the Salaries Act made this unnecessary by listing the Government House Leader as a minister.[1]


House Leader Other office held Term of office Prime Minister
  Ian Alistair Mackenzie Minister of Pensions
and National Health
October 14, 1944 October 17, 1944 King
Minister of Veterans Affairs October 18, 1944 April 30, 1948
Alphonse Fournier Minister of Public Works May 1, 1948 November 15, 1948
Minister of Public Works November 15, 1948 May 8, 1953 St. Laurent
Walter Edward Harris Minister of Citizenship and Immigration May 9, 1953 June 30, 1954
Minister of Finance July 1, 1954 April 12, 1957
Howard Charles Green Minister of Public Works October 14, 1957 June 3, 1959 Diefenbaker
Secretary of State for External Affairs June 4, 1959 July 18, 1959
Gordon Minto Churchill Minister of Veterans Affairs January 14, 1960 February 5, 1963
Jack Pickersgill Secretary of State of Canada May 16, 1963 December 21, 1963 Pearson
Guy Favreau Minister of Justice February 18, 1964 October 29, 1964
George James McIlraith President of the QPCC October 30, 1964 July 6, 1965
Minister of Public Works July 7, 1965 May 3, 1967
Allan MacEachen (1st time) Minister of Amateur Sport May 4, 1967 April 23, 1968
Donald Stovel Macdonald President of the QPCC September 12, 1968 September 23, 1970 Trudeau
Allan MacEachen (2nd time) President of the QPCC September 24, 1970 May 9, 1974
Mitchell Sharp President of the QPCC August 8, 1974 September 13, 1976
Allan MacEachen (3rd time) President of the QPCC September 14, 1976 March 26, 1979
Walter Baker President of the QPCC June 4, 1979 March 2, 1980 Clark
Yvon Pinard President of the QPCC March 3, 1980 June 29, 1984 Trudeau
André Ouellet President of the QPCC
(also Minister of Labour)1
June 30, 1984 November 4, 1984 Turner
Ramon John Hnatyshyn2 Minister of State
(Government House Leader)
November 5, 1984 February 26, 1985 Mulroney
President of the QPCC February 27, 1985 June 29, 1986
Don Mazankowski President of the QPCC
(also Deputy PM)3
June 30, 1986 April 2, 1989
Doug Lewis (1st time) Minister of Justice April 3, 1989 February 22, 1990
Harvie Andre Minister of State February 23, 1990 June 24, 1993
Doug Lewis (2nd time) Solicitor General4 June 25, 1993 November 3, 1993 Campbell
Herb Gray Solicitor General November 4, 1993 April 27, 1997 Chrétien
Don Boudria (1st time) Minister of State June 11, 1997 January 14, 2002
Ralph Goodale Minister of State January 15, 2002 May 25, 2002
Don Boudria (2nd time) Minister of State May 26, 2002 December 11, 2003
Jacques Saada Minister of State styled as LGHC and
Minister responsible for Democratic
December 12, 2003 July 20, 2004 Martin
Tony Valeri Minister of State styled as LGHC[3] July 20, 2004 January 23, 2006
Rob Nicholson Minister for Democratic Reform[4] February 6, 2006 January 4, 2007 Harper
Peter Van Loan (1st time) Minister for Democratic Reform[5] January 4, 2007 October 29, 2008
Jay Hill
October 30, 2008 August 6, 2010
John Baird
August 6, 2010 May 18, 2011
Peter Van Loan (2nd time)
May 18, 2011 Incumbent

1. The Turner Ministry never convened the House, so Ouellet never technically served as Government House Leader. He was also named "Minister of State for Economic and Regional Development".

2. During this period Erik Nielsen, the Conservative House Leader when the party had been in Opposition, had the position of President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada. In practice this meant that Nielsen was senior Government House Leader in all but name and that Hnatyshyn was, in practice, Nielsen's deputy despite having the title of Government House Leader. This situation ended when Hnatyshyn became President of the Privy Council on February 27, 1985.

3. From August 27, 1987 Mazankowski was also President of the Treasury Board (until March 30, 1988) and Minister responsible for Privatization and Regulatory Affairs (until January 29, 1989). From September 15, 1988 he was also Minister of Agriculture.

4. The Campbell Ministry never convened the House, so Lewis never technically served as Government House Leader.


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