Skip to main content
Workshops & seminars, Conferences & lectures

At the Centre of Government: The Prime Minister and the limits on political power

with Dr. Ian Brodie, Associate Professor, University of Calgary
Former Chief of Staff for Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Friday, November 23, 2018
9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Dr. Ian Brodie
Associate Professor, University of Calgary
Former Chief of Staff for Prime Minister Stephen Harper


Participants must register to attend: Register here


WSSR Coordinator
514-848-2424 x7854, x5473


Henry F. Hall Building
1455 De Maisonneuve W.




In this workshop, Dr. Brodie will draw on his extensive experience both as a political scientist and as a key player at the centre of government. Based on this experience, Brodie will begin by breaking down the generally accepted idea that power is, in the Canadian context, centralized within the Prime Minister’s Office. As he has laid out in his book by the same title, Brodie will explore the various arguments made about the centralization of power in the PMO, beginning with academic writings on the topic and challenging those arguments based on his real-time experiences and expert observations.

Brodie challenges the centralization of power argument by exploring the various ways in which the actual workings of government and role of the PMO are misunderstood. To illustrate the extent and limits on the PM and the PMO’s power, Brodie will begin by walking participants through the historical roots of Cabinet and responsible government. To better understand the complexity of the centralization argument, Brodie will turn next to a discussion of the Prime Minister’s various roles, beginning with the constructing of Cabinet. He will then shift the discussion to the important and extensive work that government must do in order to engage with all members of Parliament as well as corral the various ministerial agendas into one clear government agenda. Finally, Brodie will address the potential pitfalls of failing to provide strong partisan leadership at the centre.

Armed with these important insights, participants will then work in groups, each acting as the PMO but tasked with a different government role (constructing Cabinet, being First Minister in the HoC, assembling a government agenda, or acting as party leader). Their challenge will be, in the context of the 2019 Federal Election, to put forward a new campaign platform which will clarify how each role will be carried out by the next government (from promoting the benefits of the status quo to proposing constitutional reform for a change to the limits on power).

Brodie will conclude the day, based on the group discussions and his gathered insights, with a defense of the current state of constitutionalism in Canada and the ways in which government can still improve.

Back to top Back to top

© Concordia University