Photograph of the colonial premiers, including Sir Wilfrid Laurier
Group of small photographs of the prime ministers of Canada, 1867-1963
Although the Conservative Party under Arthur Meighen (1874-1960) won the most seats in the general election of 1925, the Liberal minority under William Lyon Mackenzie King (1874-1950) held on to power thanks to a coalition in Parliament. When Prime Minister King asked that the governor general call a new election, Lord Byng (1862-1935) refused, and instead invited Meighen to form a new government. Meighen's government failed after four days, and the ensuing election was fought over the nature of executive power in Canada. Voters sided with the political executive, returning King with a majority. Many historians, however, have sided with Byng, who sought to uphold the electorate's democratic will by exercising his formal executive power.
Since that time, no governor general has refused a prime minister's official request or recommendation. The constitutional crisis instigated by the "King-Byng Affair" highlights the prime minister's power, both within the machinery of government and on the national stage, where Mackenzie King was able to win votes by casting the governor general's decision as a threat to Canadian "constitutional liberty."
Today the prime minister's election strategies, statements of policy and national communications are carefully administered by a key central agency, the Prime Minister's Office. This important branch of the political executive is staffed by the prime minister's appointees, who serve formally as the prime minister's liaisons on matters of political importance, and informally as the prime minister's confidantes on government appointments, finances and policy decisions.