Who we were, who we are

Our department has a long and interesting history dating as far back as 1841.

The department, now known as Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC), got its current name in 2016. Before that, it was known as Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC).

PWGSC was formed in 1993 by merging four departments:

Below is a brief history of each of the former departments that became today’s PSPC.

Public Works Canada

Public Works Canada began in 1839 as the Board of Works for Lower Canada, and its jurisdiction extended to the United Province of Canada in 1841. The Board of Works changed its name to the Department of Public Works in 1859 and to Public Works Canada in 1971.

Interesting fact

By 1886, the Department of Public Works provided telephones as a standard fixture in government offices across Canada. But it wasn't until 1890 that workers in government buildings enjoyed electric lights, and even then, only in urban areas.

Supply and Services Canada

The procurement part of PSPC came into being in 1939 with the establishment of the War Supply Board, which later became:

  • the Department of Munitions and Supply in 1940
  • the Department of Reconstruction and Supply in 1945
  • the Department of Defence Production in 1951 (which incorporated the Canadian General Standards Board)

In 1969, the government created the Department of Supply and Services as the purchasing and accounting arm of the federal government.

The new department combined defence procurement functions with the former Department of Public Printing and Stationery, established in 1886. It also brought together the government’s accounting and Receiver General services. The department was renamed Supply and Services Canada in 1971.

Translation Bureau

Originally, translators were “freelancers,” First Nations people, explorers and soldiers recruited by the French and the English as mediators to help organize the administration of the colonies.

In 1841, the Legislative Assembly passed a bill that meant all statutes and laws relevant to Canadian affairs had to be translated into French. After the bill was passed, the federal administration centralized the translation services, and started to hire its own translators.

In 1910, the government decentralized the service and departments started to organize their own translation units. In 1924, the civil service commission proposed to amalgamate the 19 translation services as a cost-saving measure. It took another 10 years before the Bureau of Translations was established.

Government Telecommunications Agency

The Government Telecommunications Agency was created in 1962 to provide telecommunications goods and services, such as phones and computers, to federal clients. The agency began pooling services so it could take advantage of bulk discounts, avoid duplication and increase communication between departments.

1993 to the present

PSPC plays an important role in the Government of Canada’s daily operations. The department’s mission is to deliver high-quality services and programs that meet the needs of federal organizations and ensure sound stewardship on behalf of Canadians. Our department has been providing services since before Confederation and is equipped to continue doing so for another 150 years.

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