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Leader of the Official Opposition

The Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition is the leader of the party with the second greatest number of seats in the House of Commons. Their task is to keep the government of the day responsible by asking questions of cabinet members of their latest program initiatives. The Leader of the Official Opposition is 8th on the Canadian Order of Precedence.



The party with the greatest number of elected representatives outside the governing party becomes Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. This party takes the lead in holding the Government accountable for its policies and actions. The leader of this party becomes the Leader of the Official Opposition, sitting directly across from the Prime Minister in the House of Commons. The duty of the Official Opposition and other opposition parties is to "oppose," criticizing government policies and suggesting improvements, and presenting an alternative to the current Government's policy agenda.

Opposition members have various opportunities to influence the formulation of laws and policies including the daily Question Period in the House of Commons. The opposition is allocated 20 "Opposition Days" or "Supply Days" each calendar year, during which it can propose a motion for debate in the House of Commons and criticize the Government on issues of broad national policy. Members of opposition parties also serve on parliamentary committees in both the Senate and the House of Commons.

Twice at the provincial level, there has been no official opposition. The elections in Prince Edward Island in 1935 and New Brunswick in 1987 brought only one party to their respective legislatures. This situation has never occurred in the House of Commons.

The Honourable Thomas Mulcair

Tom Mulcair was elected leader of the Official Opposition and Leader of Canada's New Democrats on March 24th, 2012 with 57.2 % of the vote.

He was born in Ottawa, but was raised in Laval, North of Montreal. He is the second oldest of ten children.

The Honourable Thomas Mulcair
The Honourable Thomas Mulcair
A lawyer by trade, Tom Mulcair worked at the Legislative Affairs branch of the Justice Ministry, and later in the Legal Affairs Directorate of the Conseil de la langue française. At the end of 1987, Tom was named President of the Quebec Professions Board (Office des professions du Québec), a position he held until 1993.

He was first elected to Quebec National Assembly in 1994, as MNA for Chomedey. He was reelected three times. During his career in provincial politics, Tom Mulcair served as critic for Justice and for Industry, as well as Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks.

In 2007 Tom Mulcair accepted Jack Layton’s invitation to become his Quebec lieutenant. They were both convinced that the NDP represented the values of Quebec. Tom Mulcair went on to become the first NDP MP in the province of Quebec to be elected in a general election. He was first elected as the MP for Outremont in the 2007 by-election, and re-elected in 2008 and 2011.

Along with the strong NDP team, Jack Layton and Tom Mulcair worked tirelessly and helped to create a spectacular breakthrough in Quebec on May 2, 2011 - making Canada's New Democrats the Official Opposition for the first time in history.

SOURCES: Library of Parliament, New Democratic Party of Canada.

See also
House of Commons
Speaker of the House of Commons
Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Former Leaders of the Official Opposition

Copyright Craig I.W. Marlatt