Clerk of the Privy Council (Canada)

The Clerk of the Privy Council (French: Greffier du Conseil privé) is the senior civil servant in the Canadian government. The title and office is formally "Clerk of the Privy Council and the Secretary to the Cabinet".

Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet
Ian Shugart

since April 19, 2019
Privy Council Office
Reports toPrime Minister
AppointerGovernor General in Council
Inaugural holderWilliam Henry Lee
FormationJuly 1, 1867 (1867-07-01)
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The Clerk of the Privy Council operates as the deputy minister to the Prime Minister of Canada and provides impartial advice to the Prime Minister and is in charge of the Privy Council Office. As Secretary to the Cabinet, the Clerk of the Privy Council provides impartial advice to the Ministry and oversees the advice and policy support given to Cabinet and its committees. As Head of the Public Service,[1] the Clerk is responsible for other deputy ministers and the provision of non-partisan, expert advice to the government as a whole.

The Clerk is appointed by the Queen's representative in Canada, the Governor General, on the advice of the Prime Minister.

In the provinces and territories, the equivalent position of senior public servant is called the cabinet secretary or clerk of the executive council (in French, secrétaire du conseil exécutif or greffier du conseil exécutif, respectively).


The Privy Council was created and authorized by the Constitution Act in 1867, and there has been a Clerk of the Privy Council since then.

The staff of the Privy Council increased from 142 to 352 between 1971 and 1975.[2]

In 1989, reforms initiated by prime minister Brian Mulroney gave the Clerk position its current responsibilities. Expert Donald Savoie describes these as a combination of three roles: "the secretary of cabinet, the head of the non-partisan public service, and the deputy minister — or top bureaucrat — to the prime minister." One critique of this arrangement is that it could put senior nonpartisan officials in the position of taking partisan positions.[3]

Ian Shugart assumed the role of Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet on April 19, 2019.[1]

Clerks of the Privy Council

Clerks generally have extensive previous experience in the Canadian Federal service before being appointed. All but two clerks were born in Canada -- McGee was from Ireland and Himelfarb was born in Germany.

  1. William Henry Lee (1867–1872)
  2. William Alfred Himsworth (1872–1880)
  3. Joseph Olivier Côté (1880–1882)
  4. John Joseph McGee (1882–1907)
  5. Rodolphe Boudreau (1907–1923)
  6. Ernest Joseph Lemaire (1923–1940)
  7. Arnold Danford Patrick Heeney (1940–1949)
  8. Norman Alexander Robertson (1949–1952)
  9. John Whitney Pickersgill (1952–1953)
  10. Robert Bryce (1954–1963)
  11. Robert Gordon Robertson (1963–1975)
  12. Peter Michael Pitfield (1975–1979, 1980–1982)
  13. Marcel Massé (1979–1980)
  14. Gordon Osbaldeston (1982–1985)
  15. Paul M. Tellier (1985–1992)
  16. Glen Shortliffe (1992–1994)
  17. Jocelyne Bourgon (1994–1999)
  18. Mel Cappe (1999–2002)
  19. Alexander Himelfarb (2002–2006)
  20. Kevin G. Lynch (2006–2009)
  21. Wayne Wouters (2009–2014)
  22. Janice Charette (2014–2016)
  23. Michael Wernick (2016–2019)
  24. Ian Shugart (2019-)

See also


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