Roles of the Minister and the Deputy Minister

Roles of the Minister

As Minister, you are accountable to the Prime Minister and also to Parliament for the exercise of the powers, duties and functions vested in you by statute, e.g. the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act.

You are provided with resources for exempt staff, who you personally appoint to assist you in your official responsibilities by providing political analysis, advice and support that the public service cannot provide. These members of your personal staff do not play a role in departmental operations. They have no legal basis for exercising the delegated authority of the Minister, nor may exempt staff give direction to departmental officials on the discharge of their responsibilities.

You are the Government's principal advocate and spokesperson for Public Works and Government Services matters, both within Cabinet and externally, on its behalf.

You will have several positions in Cabinet and Cabinet committees. The Minister of Public Works and Government Services is part of the full Cabinet. The structure and membership of Cabinet committees is at the decision of the Prime Minister.

The development and articulation of departmental policy is among your key responsibilities. Departmental policy is developed and set within a larger framework of national objectives and policy priorities that are decided by the Government as a whole. Cabinet committees review proposals submitted by ministers within their mandate. Your role is to put forward departmental proposals for Cabinet consideration and decision and, as a Cabinet committee member, to review the proposals of your Cabinet colleagues and ensure that they reflect the Government's agenda and priorities.

You are responsible in Parliament for the business of the Public Works and Government Services Canada portfolio, including responding to questions in Question Period, appearances before parliamentary committees, responding to parliamentary information requests, addressing Parliament through speeches and in debates, and introducing legislation, as required. Your Parliamentary Secretary will be a key support in fulfilling your parliamentary responsibilities.

Roles of the Deputy Minister

Many of your powers are exercised on your behalf by the Deputy Minister and departmental officials. Deputy Ministers are professional, non-partisan public servants, chosen by the Prime Minister on the advice of the Clerk of the Privy Council and serve at the pleasure of the Governor General-in-Council. When you—or, if necessary, the Government—make a decision, the Deputy Minister is accountable for ensuring that the necessary actions to give effect to the decision are taken.

The Deputy Minister will work with your office in providing support to you. It is important to remember, however, that your exempt staff does not have the authority to give direction to public servants. When your staff members ask for information or convey an instruction from you, it is normally done through the Deputy Minister.

The Deputy Minister's role is to provide you with the broadest possible expert advice and support needed for your responsibilities, and to undertake the day-to-day management of the department on your behalf. The Deputy Minister does not exercise direct authority over non-departmental bodies within your portfolio, but will assist you in coordinating the business of the organizations that report to you.

In providing support to you, the Deputy Minister is responsible for ensuring:

  • sound public service advice on policy development and implementation, both within your portfolio and with respect to the government's overall policy and legislative agenda;
  • effective departmental management, as well as advice on management of your entire portfolio; and
  • fulfillment of authorities that have been assigned to the Deputy Minister or other departmental officials either by you or through legislation (e.g. the Financial Administration Act, the Public Service Employment Act, the Official Languages Act, and the Canada Labour Code).

Public servants, through delegated legislative authorities, take routine decisions, such as awarding grants and contributions under established criteria, entering into routine contracts and responding to access to information requests.

Role of the Departmental Assistant

To assist your staff in supporting you in carrying-out your departmental responsibilities, a public servant has been assigned to work in your office as the Departmental Assistant. This position is not funded from your departmental staff budget, but directly from existing departmental reference levels.

In accordance with the Treasury Board Policies for Ministers' Offices, the duties of the Departmental Assistant include liaising between your office, the Deputy Minister's Office and the Department, as well as managing the sharing of information and documents.

As the Senior Official within the Minister's Office, the Departmental Assistant is responsible for:

  • providing your office with strategic advice, analysis, briefings, departmental positions, options and documentation on issues related to the Department's mandate;
  • managing high profile and sensitive files on select issues;
  • ensuring that your office is provided with expert policy support on matters related to departmental operations; and
  • coordinating the flow of information between the Department and the Minister's Office.

While the Departmental Assistant is physically located within your office and will work with your staff on a daily basis, he or she reports to the Deputy Minister's Chief of Staff and is ultimately responsible to departmental authorities. As such, the Departmental Assistant, in collaboration with the Deputy Minister and other senior departmental officials, can only provide non-partisan advice and support on matters that fall within the scope of your portfolio responsibilities.

It should also be noted that departmental staff assigned to your office do not provide services that are readily available in the Department. They will, however, work with the departmental organization responsible for providing a particular service to ensure that the needs of your office are being met.

Ministerial Services Unit

The Director General of Ministerial Services is the primary contact for all administrative requests from your office. Ministerial Services coordinates corporate and administrative activities aimed at providing you with efficient service delivery through a single-window approach. It ensures that all requests from your office are answered and processed in a timely manner. It works in collaboration with various branches to provide you with assistance in:

  • Human resources, namely staffing, resolving compensation issues, processing staff departures, transitions, and leave requests.
  • Emergency management, namely the development and implementation of a business continuity plan for your office.
  • Financial matters, namely conducting your office's budget assessments, monitoring, reporting, salary forecasting, payment of invoices, inputting transactions in the Department's financial management, closing of accounts at the end of the fiscal year, proactive disclosure reporting, and government-issued credit card reporting.
  • Information technology, namely coordinating the installation and set-up of computers, BlackBerry and other handheld devices, secure communications equipment, Internet accounts, and updating contact information.
  • Accommodation, namely ensuring offices and the suite are kept clean, sourcing and providing office furniture, and making arrangements for your assigned vehicle.
  • Security, namely processing and obtaining security clearances for your staff, providing and processing requests for site or building access cards, providing the House of Commons Identity Card, and arranging for physical security measures in your suite, residence and office on Parliament Hill.
  • Miscellaneous administrative activities, such as processing applications for special passports and stationery.


The Treasury Board's Policies for Ministers' Offices is the overarching policy document for the program.