Canada has three levels of government:

  • federal
  • provincial or territorial
  • municipal (city)

Federal government

The Prime Minister heads the federal government based in Ottawa. It deals with national and international matters, such as:

  • mail
  • taxes
  • money
  • banking
  • shipping
  • railways
  • pipelines
  • telephones
  • criminal law
  • foreign affairs
  • national defence
  • employment insurance
  • Aboriginal lands and rights

Provincial and territorial governments

A Premier leads each province and territory.

The provincial and territorial governments have the power to change their laws and manage their own public lands. They are in charge of:

  • education
  • health care
  • road regulations

Municipal (City) governments

Mayors lead municipal governments.

Municipal governments run cities, towns or districts (municipalities). They are in charge of things, such as:

  • parks
  • parking
  • libraries
  • roadways
  • local police
  • local land use
  • fire protection
  • public transportation
  • community water systems

First Nations governance

Across the country, band councils govern First Nations communities. Band councils are similar to municipal governments. Band members elect the band council, which makes decisions that affect their local community.

Parliamentary democracy

Parliament has three parts:

Canadian citizens elect political representatives at all three levels of government:

  • federal
  • provincial or territorial
  • municipal

Elected representatives hold positions in:

  • city councils
  • the federal House of Commons
  • provincial and territorial legislatures

Their duties include:

  • passing laws
  • approving and monitoring spending
  • keeping the government accountable

Constitutional monarchy

Canada is a constitutional monarchy. This means:

  • the Queen or King of Canada is the head of state
  • the Prime Minister is the head of government

The Governor General represents the Queen in Canada. The Sovereign appoints the Governor General on the Prime Minister’s advice. The appointment is usually for five years.

In each of the ten provinces, the Sovereign is represented by the Lieutenant-Governor. They are appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister. The appointment is also normally for five years.

Discover Canada has more information on democracy and government in Canada.


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