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The Queen's Privy Council for Canada was established through the Constitution Act, 1867 to advise and assist the Queen's representative, the Governor General. The Cabinet, which acts formally as the Privy Council, carries out this role.
The Privy Council Office (PCO) also came into being at Confederation. As the Prime Minister's department, PCO provides non-partisan advice on government policies and priorities, and on the Government's organization and its relations with Parliament, the provinces, and other institutions. PCO also advises on the breakdown of responsibilities among Ministers, appointments of Deputy Ministers, and on special matters, such as national security. As well, PCO is the secretariat for the Cabinet and its committees.
The Prime Minister's Deputy Minister has carried the title Clerk of the Privy Council since 1867. A second title, Secretary to Cabinet, was added in 1940. Changes to the Public Service Employment Act in 1992 brought a third title, Head of the Public Service, and responsibility for setting the strategic direction for the Public Service.
The Department's Program, called the Privy Council Program, comprises five business lines: Office of the Prime Minister, Ministers' Offices, Privy Council Office, Commissions of Inquiry, Task Forces and Others, and Corporate Services.
The Program provides for the operation and support of the central decision-making mechanism of the Government of Canada.
The core component of the Privy Council Program is the Privy Council Office business line whose mission statement follows:
To serve Canada and Canadians by providing the best non-partisan advice and support to the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
We recognize the special need of the Prime Minister for timely advice and support. We dedicate ourselves to our work and to the effective functioning of government. We believe that integrity, judgement and discretion are essential to achieving our mission. We believe that people are the strength of PCO.
The Privy Council Program operates in a complex, multi-level environment and is carried out primarily in Ottawa. An exception is the work of the Commissions of Inquiry and Task Forces, which may operate across Canada, as required.
In 2001-2002, the Privy Council Program consisted of five business lines. See Figure 1.
Figure 1: Program Structure
Business Line 1 – Office of the Prime Minister
The objective of the Office of the Prime Minister business line is to provide advice, information and special services to support the Prime Minister as Head of Government and Chair of Cabinet. This includes liaison with Ministers; issues management; communications; planning and operations related to the international community; and support for certain political responsibilities, including relations with the Government caucus. The business line also includes costs of operating the Official Residences of the Prime Minister. However, the National Capital Commission is responsible to furnish, maintain, heat and keep in repair the Prime Minister's Official Residences. The office, comprised of exempt staff, is under the direction of the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff.
Figure 2: Office of the Prime Minister Business Line Organization Chart
Business Line 2 – Ministers' Offices
The objective of the Ministers' Offices business line is to provide advice, information and support services to the Deputy Prime Minister, the President of the Privy Council and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, the Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, and the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
The Ministers' Offices business line consists of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, which undertakes specific functions delegated by the Prime Minister; the Office of the President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, which oversees federal-provincial-territorial relations; the Office of the Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, which is responsible for the Government's legislative program in the House of Commons; and the Office of the Leader of the Government in the Senate, which manages the Government's legislative program in the Senate. This business line is also responsible for the payment of the salaries and allowances for Secretaries of State and Ministers of State who assist Cabinet Ministers in carrying out their responsibilities. The operating budgets for these Secretaries of State and Ministers of State are reported by their respective departments. An executive assistant to each Minister is responsible for managing each of the above offices.
Figure 3: Ministers' Offices Business Line Organization Chart
Business Line 3 – Privy Council Office
The objective of the Privy Council Officebusiness line is to support the Prime Minister and Cabinet in the operation of the central policy decision-making process and to provide advice and information to the Prime Minister in the discharge of his responsibilities as Head of Government and Chair of Cabinet. This also includes providing the necessary support to the four Ministers in the Privy Council Program as well as the Minister designated as the Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians.
Fulfilling this objective involves working with federal departments and agencies to provide the best non-partisan advice and information. It also involves being attuned to the priorities of Canadians to offer strategic advice in the best interests of the country. The Privy Council Office works with provincial and territorial governments to understand regional issues and must be knowledgeable about international developments and their implications for Canada.
Another aspect of the responsibility of the Privy Council Office business line is to ensure that the Public Service as an institution has the capacity to serve Canadians and their elected representatives in the years ahead. As the responsibilities of government are redefined, the role of this business line is to advise the Prime Minister and other Ministers on priorities for change to enable the Public Service to adapt effectively.
As the secretariat to the Cabinet, the role of the Privy Council Office business line is to provide policy information and advice to the Prime Minister, to Cabinet, to four of the five Cabinet committees, and to the Ad Hoc Committee on Public Security and Anti-Terrorism. The Treasury Board is supported by the Treasury Board Secretariat, a separate department of government. See Figure 4.
Figure 4: Cabinet Committees
The Privy Council Office business line consists of the following branches: Intergovernmental Affairs, Security and Intelligence, Operations, Plans and Consultation, Machinery of Government, Foreign and Defence Policy, and finally, Management Priorities and Senior Personnel. The Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet is accountable for the management of this business line and reports directly to the Prime Minister.
Figure 5: Privy Council Office Business Line Organization Chart
Business Line 4 – Commissions of Inquiry, Task Forces and Others
The objective of the Commissions of Inquiry, Task Forces and Othersbusiness line is to gather information and to report under specific terms of reference or to undertake independent projects or studies.
During the 2001-2002 fiscal year, this business line consisted of:
- Indian Specific Claims Commission (www.indianclaims.ca);
- Policy Research Initiative (www.policyresearch.gc.ca);
- Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada (www.healthcarecommission.ca); and
- Commission to Review Allowances of Parliamentarians.
Each independent commission is managed by one or more commissioners. The Policy Research Initiative is headed by an Executive Director.
Business Line 5 – Corporate Services
The objective of the Corporate Servicesbusiness line is to provide cost efficient and effective financial, administrative, information and personnel services in support of departmental operations and systems.
This includes common and specialized services. Common services are provided to the other business lines. They include managing financial, administrative, information, informatics, technical and human resources services as well as coordinating responses to requests for access to information under the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act.
Specialized services include operating the Prime Minister's switchboard, managing a correspondence unit responsible for non-political, non-personal mail addressed to the Prime Minister and Ministers in his portfolio, and providing technical support for the Prime Minister's tours.
As well, this business line provides certain administrative services to commissions of inquiry, task forces and other independent entities.
The Corporate Services business line consists of Administration, Financial Services, Informatics and Technical Services, Corporate Information Services, Human Resources, and Access to Information and Privacy. The Assistant Deputy Minister of Corporate Services manages this business line.
Figure 6: Corporate Services Business Line Organization Chart
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