Prime Minister's Office

The Canadian Prime Minister's Office or PMO is the single most powerful institution in Canada. It surrounds, briefs, and insulates the Prime Minister of Canada from exposure to other decisions of the Government of Canada including the entire federal cabinet and civil service.

The phrase "who do you know in the PMO?" became current during Jean Chretien's reign. When Paul Martin used the phrase, Chretien joked that Martin had known someone in the PMO - himself. The animosity between the two men was one of the factors causing Martin to declare that he would deal with the so-called "democratic deficit" which robbed ordinary MPs of any power, limit party discipline and ensure more accountable unelected officials and that they did not interfere with those elected by the people. His record on this matter was mixed, however, especially according to Sheila Copps who ran afoul of Martin in the Liberal leadership convention, 2003.

The powers of the office and the PM were deeply criticized in the Gomery inquiry which made recommendations to reduce the power of the PM and the PMO over Crown Corporations and agencies.

Stephen Harper, on assuming the Office, vowed to pass a Federal Accountability Act that would limit the PMO's power in some ways. Bill C-2 was passed on April 11, 2006, but did nothing to limit the arbitrary power of the Prime Minister.