Annex A : The Prime Minister's Office and the Privy Council Office

In fulfilling his various responsibilities, the Prime Minister is supported by two distinct organizational units: the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the Privy Council Office (PCO). The PMO is a staff unit that supports the Prime Minister in his activities as leader of the political party forming the Government. Staff of the PMO are appointed on a partisan basis, and operate in a "politically oriented, yet operationally sensitive fashion". In contrast, PCO is staffed with non-partisan, career public servants, and functions in an "operationally oriented, yet politically sensitive fashion".

 1. The Role of the Prime Minister’s Office

The PMO is headed by the Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister, and is primarily concerned with advising him or her on political strategy, priorities and liaison, as well as on the political dimensions of policy initiatives, and other issues under consideration by Ministers.

Other principal functions of the PMO include:

  • coordinating the Prime Minister’s agenda;
  • scheduling and arranging the Prime Minister’s travel plans;
  • providing communications services, including preparing speeches and other public statements, and keeping abreast of the Government’s communications activities;
  • briefing the Prime Minister in advance of House Question Period, press interviews, meetings and conferences; and
  • providing advice on Governor in Council appointments (senior public servants, heads of agencies, Crown corporations, etc.).

2. The Role of the Privy Council Office

As the Prime Minister’s department, PCO provides advice and support to the Prime Minister in meeting his objectives and fulfilling his responsibilities as Head of Government. In supporting the Prime Minister, PCO is headed by the Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, who has three primary responsibilities:

  1. As the Prime Minister’s Deputy Minister, provides advice and support to the Prime Minister on a full range of responsibilities as head of government, including the following:
    • intergovernmental affairs;
    • ministerial mandates and government organization;
    • senior appointments;
    • priority-setting;
    • overall policy coordination; and
    • national security.
  2. As Secretary to the Cabinet provides support and advice to the Ministry as a whole and oversees the provision of policy and secretariat support to Cabinet and its committees (except Treasury Board). The specific functions include:
    • keeping track of departmental initiatives;
    • ensuring proper interdepartmental consultation;
    • preparing agendas for Cabinet and Cabinet committee meetings;
    • briefing Cabinet/committee chairpersons on agenda items;
    • taking minutes; and
    • recording committee decisions and distributing information within the system.
  3. As Head of the Public Service, is responsible for the quality of expert, professional and non-partisan advice and service provided by the Public Service of Canada to the Prime Minister, the Ministry and to all Canadians, and for providing advice to the Prime Minister on maintaining the public service as a modern, vibrant organization.