How to remove a rogue PM — it’s more complicated than Canadians might think

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But if a prime minister can’t or won’t resign for whatever reason, all the Governor General has to do is appoint another one, which automatically puts the prior officeholder out of a job. When Sir John A. Macdonald died in office of a series of strokes in 1891, his corpse unambiguously stopped being prime minister the moment Governor General Frederick Stanley (of Stanley Cup fame appointed John Abbott as his successor.

The much dicier proposition is when a prime minister is still alive, but refuses to gracefully step aside. It’s never happened in Canada but “she (the governor general can remove a prime minister who seeks to govern unconstitutionally,” said Salgo, adding that “the virtue of our system” is that, unlike the United States, the head of government and the head of state are not the same person.

In normal circumstances, prime ministers are removed from power by losing parliamentary confidence votes or by leadership rebellions within their own party. But both of those scenarios rely on a leader willing to voluntarily step down; in extraordinary circumstances a scofflaw prime minister could simply ignore their cabinet, refuse to convene parliament and continue issuing edicts from their executive office.

If the Prime Minister and Governor General were in cahoots we’d be in a bad spot

The real wild card is if an uncooperative prime minister has also managed to corrupt the office of the Governor General. While Governors General are technically appointed by the Queen, for generations Buckingham Palace has simply appointed whoever their various overseas prime ministers recommend. So while unlikely, it’s not inconceivable that a prime minister could simply put a willing confederate in Rideau Hall before going rogue.

How to remove a rogue PM — it's more complicated than Canadians might think