Privy Council Office Secretariats

Photograph: PCO Employees

Secretariats are the basic building blocks of the Privy Council Office (PCO). Although each secretariat plays a distinct role within PCO, many share common functions.

Some secretariats support the Cabinet and one or two of its committees. Many also keep track of activities and trends within specific policy sectors such as the economy, foreign affairs or security and intelligence.

Others provide advice on appointments, the way the government is organized, the development of legislation, communications issues and other direct interests of the Prime Minister.


Key roles include:

  • Supporting Cabinet Committees (and other advisory committees)
    • Assisting Cabinet with the smooth functioning of its committees
    • Transmitting decisions and documents to departments
  • Managing the Flow of Cabinet Business
    • Ensuring Cabinet's decision-making process operates effectively (following the Prime Minister's design, standards and instructions)
    • Managing changes in committee structure and the use of ad hoc committees (to focus on special policy areas and challenges)
  • Facilitating Policy Development
    • Working with federal departments and agencies to prepare ministerial proposals for Cabinet
    • Ensuring a good fit between new proposals, existing policies and government objectives
    • Launching first steps for implementation

Business Transformation and Renewal

The Secretariat provides strategic policy advice and analysis to the Prime Minister and the Clerk of the Privy Council on whole-of-government initiatives for improving government efficiency and effectiveness, and for maintaining a strong, dynamic and relevant Public Service. The Secretariat provides advice and support to the Deputy Minister Board of Management and Public Service Renewal. The Secretariat also supports the Prime Minister’s Advisory Committee on the Public Service.

The Secretariat is part of the Senior Personnel, Business Transformation and Renewal Branch of the Privy Council Office.


Cabinet Papers

The Cabinet Papers System Unit coordinates activities related to preparing and managing the use of all Cabinet and committee documents. These include:

  • Memoranda to Cabinet
  • Other Cabinet papers (decks, aide-mémoires)
  • Cabinet and committee agendas
  • Committee reports
  • Records of decision
  • Cabinet and committee minutes

The unit organizes the weekly schedule of Cabinet and committee meetings. It also tracks and coordinates the progress of Cabinet documents through the decision-making process.


Communications and Consultations

The Communications and Consultations Secretariat provides communications and public-opinion research advice to Cabinet and senior officials of the Privy Council Office (PCO).

The secretariat also coordinates government-wide communications. This includes:

  • Announcements 
  • Advertising initiatives
  • Web strategies
  • New media
  • Strategic communications 
  • Crisis management

Corporate Services

The Corporate Services Branch provides administrative, financial, human resources, information, and informatics and technical services to the Prime Minister's Office, the Privy Council Office (PCO) and associated ministers' offices. Some of these services are also available to commissions of inquiry.

The branch also provides a number of services of interest to the general public. These include:


Executive Correspondence Services

Executive Correspondence Services provides correspondence services to the Prime Minister and PCO ministers. It responds to non-political mail and e-mail addressed to the Prime Minister, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.

Correspondence Services issues greetings and special messages signed by the Prime Minister for community events and milestone anniversaries and birthdays. It also responds to telephone enquiries from the general public.

Volumes can reach over 2 million items of correspondence in a given year.


Access to Information and Privacy Requests

The Access to Information and Privacy Office (ATIP) responds to requests for information made under the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act.

The ATIP office maintains a reading room where the public may examine requested departmental records. Visitors can also view departmental manuals and publications related to access to information.

For more information on ATIP, or to make a request, call: (613) 957-5210.


Counsel to the Clerk

The Counsel to the Clerk of the Privy Council Secretariat provides legal advice and support to the Prime Minister, the Privy Council Office (PCO) and the PCO ministers on a wide variety of issues.

This can include:

  • Exercise of statutory authority
  • Preparation of draft legislation
  • Confidentiality of Cabinet deliberations
  • Senior personnel issues
  • Security and intelligence issues
  • Commissions of inquiry
  • Federal electoral systems and initiatives

The secretariat also manages the government's response to legal challenges involving PCO or with government-wide implications.


Economic and Regional Development Policy

The Economic and Regional Development Policy Secretariat provides advice to the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and the Clerk of the Privy Council on key policy issues relating to the economy the environment and sustainable development.

These include:

  • International trade
  • Transport
  • Infrastructure and communities
  • Regional development
  • Sustainable development
  • Natural resources
  • Fisheries
  • Agriculture
  • Environment
  • Energy security
  • Long-term economic growth and prosperity
  • Advantage Canada follow-up

One of the secretariat's major responsibilities is to support the Cabinet Committee on Economic Growth and Long-term Prosperity, the Cabinet Committee on the Environment and Energy Security and related ad hoc committees.

In this role, the secretariat:

  • Provides secretariat services
  • Manages the flow of committee business
  • Facilitates policy development (working with other government departments to prepare briefing notes and memoranda to Cabinet)

Federal-Provincial-Territorial-Relations

The Federal-Provincial-Territorial Relations Secretariat provides advice and support to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs on policies, communications and parliamentary affairs relating to federal-provincial-territorial relations. These include:

  • Fiscal federalism
  • Evolution of the federation
  • Canadian unity

The Secretariat works closely with the Department of Finance, Department of Justice and the Treasury Board Secretariat.


Foreign and Defence Policy

The Foreign and Defence Policy Secretariat supports the Prime Minister in his dealings with other heads of government and heads of state. It also provides the Prime Minister with advice on major foreign policy and defence issues. These include:

  • International diplomacy
  • Security
  • Defence
  • Trade and commerce
  • Development assistance
  • Environment
  • International law and human rights

The secretariat:

  • Arranges the Prime Minister's foreign travel and visits by heads of state to Canada
  • Handles communications with foreign government representatives and the offices of foreign leaders
  • Monitors, and provides advice on international issues
  • Coordinates interdepartmental work involving international relations

The secretariat also shares responsibility with the Intelligence and Security Secretariat for the effective functioning of the Cabinet Committee on Foreign Affairs and Security.


Intelligence Assessment

The Intelligence Assessment Secretariat provides the Privy Council Office and other senior government clients with original, policy-neutral assessments of foreign developments and trends that may affect Canadian interests.

The Staff coordinates assessment work that involves more than one federal department or agency. It also helps foster and strengthen relationships with allied international assessment organizations.


Legislation and House Planning

The Legislation and House Planning Secretariat supports the Prime Minister and Government House Leader in coordinating and managing the Government’s legislative program.

To do this, the secretariat supports and provides advice on:

  • The Government's legislative program in Parliament
  • Parliamentary practices, procedures and issues
  • Private Members’ Business and parliamentary committees

The secretariat also manages and coordinates the government-wide process for producing government responses to parliamentary questions, notices of motions for the production of documents, and petitions.


Machinery of Government

The Machinery of Government Secretariat provides advice and support to the Prime Minister and the Clerk of the Privy Council on the structure and functioning of the government as a whole.

Much of this work involves supplying advice on the prerogative responsibilities of the Prime Minister, including:

  • Ministerial mandates
  • The structure of Cabinet, its committees and their decision-making processes
  • The structure and organization of government portfolios
  • The roles and accountability of senior public office holders
  • Transitions from government to government

How the Prime Minister carries out these responsibilities is generally determined by:

  • Constitutional precedent, practice and the legal framework
  • The experience of previous governments
  • The working style and agenda of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

Additional Information


Macroeconomic Policy

The Liaison Secretariat for Macroeconomic Policy provides strategic policy advice and analysis to the Prime Minister, Cabinet and senior officials of the Privy Council Office on economic and fiscal matters, including the Budget.

The secretariat works closely with the Department of Finance and the Treasury Board Secretariat, as well as other Privy Council Office secretariats.


Operations

The Operations Secretariat coordinates the day-to-day delivery of the Government's agenda. This includes strategic advice on issues management, legislation and house planning, and communications on almost any policy matter of interest to the government.

The secretariat liaises with federal departments and agencies on a wide range of priorities and issues.

One major responsibility is ensuring the successful functioning of the Cabinet. In this role, the secretariat:

  • Schedules committee meetings
  • Records committee deliberations
  • Prepares briefing notes for committee members and Privy Council Office (PCO) officials
  • Reviews departmental policy proposals to achieve a standard quality for ministerial consideration
  • Communicates committee decisions to departments and agencies across government

The secretariat also plays a policy coordination role within PCO.


Priorities and Planning

The Priorities and Planning Secretariat assists the Prime Minister and Cabinet in defining the government's plans and priorities. The secretariat also helps to develop policies to deliver on these goals.

A key responsibility is providing advice and support for Cabinet meetings and planning retreats, as well as for the Cabinet Committee on Plans and Priorities.

In this role, the secretariat:

  • Provides secretariat services
  • Manages the flow of Cabinet and committee business
  • Facilitates policy development (together with other government departments and the rest of PCO)

The secretariat also supports the Clerk of the Privy Council with advice and logistics for a range of deputy ministers' meetings.


Security and Intelligence

The Security and Intelligence Secretariat provides advice and support to the Prime Minister and Cabinet on major security issues.

It is one of three secretariats that provide support to the National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister. The others are the International Assessment Staff and Foreign and Defence Policy.

The Security and Intelligence Secretariat:

  • Advises on national security and intelligence issues
  • Supports Cabinet in managing national security and intelligence activities
  • Coordinates federal activities within the security and intelligence community 
  • Coordinates federal responses to emergencies
  • Maintains and strengthens relationships with Canada's allies on security and intelligence issues (including the Canada-U.S. border)
  • Oversees security arrangements for the Prime Minister, the Governor General and Cabinet
  • Advises departments and agencies on internal security issues
  • Coordinates security for the parliamentary precinct

Additional Information


Cabinet Committee for Foreign Affairs and Security

The secretariat provides support and secretariat services to the Cabinet Committee for Foreign Affairs and Security . It also works closely with the Foreign Affairs and Defence Policy Secretariat  on any foreign policy issues that come before the Committee.


Senior Personnel

The Senior Personnel Secretariat provides advice and support to the Prime Minister and the Clerk of the Privy Council to build a strong, professional and competent public service.

This includes establishing policies and services that:

  • Promote high-quality Governor-in-Council appointments
  • Facilitate the recruitment and retention of senior personnel
  • Plan for future public service leadership needs
  • Ensure the leadership development of senior public servants (deputy ministers, heads of agencies, etc.)
The secretariat also provides advice and support to the Prime Minister's Advisory Committee on the Public Service.

Additional Information


Social Development Policy

The Social Development Policy Secretariat provides support and advice to the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and the Clerk of the Privy Council on key policy issues relating to social affairs. This includes:

  • Health care
  • Justice
  • Aboriginal issues
  • Training and skills development
  • Culture
  • Immigration policy

One of the secretariat's major responsibilities is to support the Cabinet Committee on Social Affairs and related ad hoc committees.

In this role, the secretariat:

  • Provides secretariat services
  • Manages the flow of committee business
  • Facilitates policy development (working with other government departments to prepare briefing notes and memoranda to Cabinet)