Laureen Harper, 2006- 2015

Laureen Harper was 42 when her husband, Stephen Harper, took office on February 6, 2006. Mother of two, she was Stephen’s trusted advisor, said to have an intuitive grasp on the optics of politics, possibly honed by her studies in journalism. She also worked quietly behind the scenes for causes closer to her heart during his nearly 10 years in office. Animal welfare groups, including the Ottawa Humane Society, received her support, as well as the National Arts Centre. She asked the Canadian Press to refer to her as the “spouse of the Prime Minister” in her public roles, activities, and campaigning alongside her husband.

Sheila Martin, 2003 – 2006

Spread05_SomethingaboutSophie2Laureen Harper was 42 when her husband, Stephen Harper, took office on February 6, 2006. Mother of two, she was Stephen’s trusted advisor, said to have an intuitive grasp on the optics of politics, possibly honed by her studies in journalism. She also worked quietly behind the scenes for causes closer to her heart during his nearly 10 years in office. Animal welfare groups, including the Ottawa Humane Society, received her support, as well as the National Arts Centre. She asked the Canadian Press to refer to her as the “spouse of the Prime Minister” in her public roles, activities, and campaigning alongside her husband.

Aline Chretien, 1993 – 2003

Spread05_SomethingaboutSophie3Aline Chretien was 57 when her husband, Jean Chretien, was elected Prime Minister in 1993. During Jean’s decade in office, she worked with charitable organizations, especially literacy programs. While she kept a relatively low public profile, Aline was said to be a key advisor to her husband during his term, something her husband admitted. Jean Chretien once joked that Canada was run by women: the monarch, the Governor General [at the time], and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court were all women; and that Madame Chrétien was pulling the strings of the Prime Minister.

Mila Mulroney, 1984 – 1993

Spread05_SomethingaboutSophie4One of the younger Prime Minister’s wives, Mila Mulroney was 31 when Brian Mulroney began his nearly decade-long term in office. Mila was focused on raising the couple’s four children—one born during their time at 24 Sussex Dr. She was said to be an important influence, a trusted confidant and power behind the scenes of her husband’s office, providing him with unique insights. In contrast to Maureen McTeer and Margaret Trudeau before her, Mila was a dedicated housewife. This made her uniquely appealing to a demographic that the Progressive Conservative Party was trying to capture. She was active in children’s charitable causes, including the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. She also withstood criticism for hiring a personal office staff to help her pursue those goals. Her redecoration efforts at Sussex Dr. also drew criticism. In hindsight, decades of neglect at the Prime Minister’s residence will prove to be even more costly to taxpayers.

Maureen McTeer, 1979 – 1980

Ted Grant, Courtesy of Library and Archives Canada.
Maureen McTeer with her husband, Joe CLark, and child. Phot by Ted Grant, Courtesy of Library and Archives Canada.

Another young wife, Maureen McTeer was 26 when her husband Joe Clark took office for 10 months in 1979/‘80. An ardent feminist, she stirred controversy for declining to take her husband’s surname, and maintaining her own career. Sitting with The Queen Mother during an official luncheon, McTeer withstood teasing from other women at the table addressing her as “Mrs. Clark.” Afterwards, as McTeer escorted The Queen Mother to her car, she said, “Don’t be bothered by criticism,” with the parting words, “Good luck, Ms. McTeer.”

Margaret Trudeau, 1968 – 1979 & 1980 – 1984

Spread05_SomethingaboutSophie7
Andrej Ivanov, Photo Editor at The Concordian (CUP).

Margaret Trudeau was the most controversial Prime Minister’s wife in recent memory. Pierre Elliot Trudeau took office for the first time in 1968 and married Margaret, just 22 at the time, in 1971. She expressed disappointment at feeling like “arm candy,” and struggled to raise their family of three boys through Pierre’s busy schedule and constant absences. They separated in 1977 and he was voted out of office in 1979. By the time he regained office less than a year later, the two had divorced. Young and pretty, Margaret adopted the high life of the jet set, bouncing between her family and the international club scene. Today, receiving treatment for previously undiagnosed mental illness that may have been at the core of her behaviour in the ‘70s, Margaret is an advocate for mental health issues. She was at her son’s side often during his campaign to follow in his father’s footsteps, seeking the office of Prime Minister of Canada. Poised to fill the role of Prime Minister’s wife, Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau appreciates the opportunity to learn from Margaret’s experience.

Editor’s Note: Geills Turner, wife of John Turner, spent only 10 weeks in office, in 1984. Canada’s first female Prime Minister Kim Campbell spent just 10 weeks in office in 1993, and was divorced at the time.

 

Let's Make Things Official

Get a curated list of articles sent directly to your email once a week. It’s not delivery, its Delissio