In 1763 Great Britain conquered the French colony of New France. The Treaty of Paris (1763) formally placed the colony, now called Quebec, under British rule. After a few months of military occupation, in August of 1764 a civilian government for Quebec was introduced, headed by a British-appointed governor (soon known as the governor general of British North America).
In 1791, Quebec was split into two districts, Upper Canada and Lower Canada, each with its own lieutenant-governor, with the lieutenant-governor of Lower Canada also being governor general of British North America.
In 1841 Quebec was further reorganized into a colony known as the United Province of Canada. The highest authority over the United Province was the governor general of British North America, who was given supreme authority over all other British colonies on the continent as well.
When the Canadian constitution of 1867 took effect on July 1, 1867, the incumbent governor general of British North America, Charles Stanley Monck became Canada’s first governor general and served for until November of 1868. For a complete list of governor generals after 1867, see the data chapter on heads of state.
Officially, the sole ruler of the United Province of Canada was the governor general; there was no prime minister or premier.
The nominally highest ranking elected politician in the colony was the president of the Executive Council, which was the name of the governor general’s cabinet. Executive Council members were appointed from the United Province’s parliament. Though the presidency was not a very powerful office, the person who held it was nevertheless sometimes informally referred to as the prime minister or premier of Canada.
Beginning in 1848, the governor general delegated responsibility to pick members of the Executive Council to the leaders of the parliament’s largest political “factions” (there were no parties in those days), one representing the French region of “Canada East” and one representing the English region of “Canada West.” These two men, who would always hold office in the Executive Council themselves (often as attorney generals, of which the council had two) are usually regarded by historians as the true leaders of the government during the United Province period. They are sometimes dubbed the “joint premiers” of Canada between 1841-1867, with “ministries” or “administrations” referred to by their last names (ie; the “Baldwin-LaFontaine” ministry). I am not aware if the government maintains an official chronology of these ministries; exact start and end dates may in some cases be subjective.
On July 1, 1867 the incumbent president of the executive council, A.J. Fergusson Blair, was made President of the Privy Council of Canada, a job that would be subsequently held by many prime ministers of Canada. The incumbent attorney general of Canada West, John A. Macdonald, became the first prime minister of Canada. See the prime ministers data chapter for more information on how the modern prime ministership came into being.