Privy Clerk AND Secretary to Cabinet
Alex Himelfarb

Richmond Hill, Ontario - Monday, August 16, 2004 - by: Robert Ede


Sat August 14, 2004 a Toronto Star story (pdf) by James Travers makes reference to the very significant role played by the Clerk of the Privy Council in the operations of the national governance administration and you also note the insider politics surrounding the decision to retain Alex Himelfarb in his current capacity as "Clerk of the Privy Council".

In fact, since 1940 (as part of Wm. Lyon Mackenzie King's political revenge for Lord Byng's rightful defiance a decade or so beforehand) the holder of this office has held two titles - Clerk of the Privy Council AND Secretary to the Cabinet.

The significance being that, since then, the top "democratic" civil servant has also been the lead-hand of the Constitutionally-superior body that can/should (and at one time did) independently advises the "real" Head of State - the Governor General on the
  issues presented to Him/Her Excellency for approval on behalf of the Monarch.
  In one tiny technical manoeuvre (under cover of wartime expediency) the Rt. Hon. Mr. King outsmarted and undermined independent double-checking and constitutional-superior authority of the Privy Council and the Governor General - leaving Mr. King (and even more so his post-1982 successors) in charge of everything - with no one to dare say "NO".
  Ever wonder why Canadians think the "government" is not accountable to them or concerned with THEIR problems?
  Quick answer, the cabinet/government IS NOT accountable to them - the government is accountable to the Crown, once the voting is over, the people have no more role than tenant farmers did in feudal times. (This is one of the "10 Horsemen of the Canadian Apoplexy", my book on the Canadian governance system.)



Robert Ede

References :
  Read the 1867 Constitution's Sections 12 & 13 for background and then peruse the excellent history of the Privy Council at

excerpted Note 6

6 The secretariat was formed in 1940 when Arnold Heeney succeeded to the post of Clerk of the Privy Council and was (by the same instrument - P.C. 1121, 25 March 1940) appointed Secretary to the Cabinet. Prior to 1940 the Privy Council Office had been concerned solely with the formal work of the Council - the preparation of draft submissions for orders and minutes. The modern Privy Council Office is the responsibility of the Prime Minister. Until 1957 the Prime Minister always held a ministerial portfolio. In the early days it had been Justice and occasionally other offices (from 1912 to 1946 the Prime Minister was ex officio Secretary of State of External Affairs), but later the Prime Minister satisfied the conventional need (see below*) to hold formal office by assuming the Presidency of the Council. It happened that in 1940, Mr. King was both Prime Minister and President of the Privy Council, and the Clerk of the Council was responsible to him. Since the cabinet is the Prime MinisterAs cabinet, it was natural that the Prime Minister be responsible for the organization of its secretariat and this was accomplished through the device of Arnold HeeneyAs double-barrelled appointment. Since then the positions of Clerk and Secretary have been combined. ...



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