Cover image for At the centre of government : the prime minister and the limits on political power / Ian Brodie.
At the centre of government : the prime minister and the limits on political power / Ian Brodie.
Publication Information:
Montreal, Québec : McGill-Queen's University Press, 2018.

Physical Description:
xvii, 205 pages : illustrations, charts ; 24 cm


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
320.971 BRO Book Adult General Collection

On Order



"Canada's prime minister is a dictator." "The Sun King of Canadian government." "More powerful than any other chief executive of any other democratic country." These kinds of claims are frequently made about Canada's leader - especially when the prime minister's party holds a majority government in Parliament. But is there any truth to these arguments? At the Centre of Government not only presents a comprehensively researched work on the structure of political power in Canada but also offers a first-hand view of the inner workings of the Canadian federal government. Ian Brodie - former chief of staff to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and former executive director of the Conservative Party of Canada - argues that the various workings of the Prime Minister's Office, the Privy Council Office, the cabinet, parliamentary committees, and the role of backbench members of Parliament undermine propositions that the prime minister has evolved into the role of an autocrat, with unchecked control over the levers of political power. He corrects the dominant thinking that Canadian prime ministers hold power without limits over their party, caucus, cabinet, Parliament, the public service, and the policy agenda. Citing examples from his time in government and from Canadian political history he argues that in Canada's evolving political system, with its roots in the pre-Confederation era, there are effective checks on executive power, and that the golden age of Parliament and the backbencher is likely now. Drawing on a vast body of work on governance and the role of the executive branch of government, At the Centre of Government is a fact-based primer on the workings of Canadian government and sobering second thoughts about many proposals for reform.

Author Notes

Ian Brodie was born July 25, 1967 in Canada. He received a BA in political science from McGill University in Montreal, and an MA and a Ph.D from the University of Calgary. In 1997, he became assistant professor of political science at the University of Western Ontario in London. He specialized in Canadian politics, particularly conservative politics and law. He was Chief of Staff in Prime Minster Stephen Harper's office until 2008. The news that he was leaving the post came days before the release of a report on the Clinton/Obama NAFTA leak controversy. He then went on to be a Strategic Advisor at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, D.C.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. vii
Preface: Getting to Government: An Autobiographical Notep. ix
1 Governing from the Centre: How We Came to See the PM as a Dictatorp. 3
2 The Origins of Cabinet Governmentp. 13
3 Delegation and Its Limits: The Core Powers of a Prime Ministerp. 26
4 Making a Cabinetp. 53
5 The Executive Branch and Parliamentp. 75
6 Managing a Government Agendap. 109
7 Prime Ministers and Political Partiesp. 130
8 Democratizing or Bureaucratizing the Constitution?p. 156
Afterword: Leaving Government: Another Autobiographical Notep. 180
Notesp. 187
Works Citedp. 191
Indexp. 199