Role of the Clerk

Role of the Clerk

The Clerk of the Privy Council has three main roles:

  • Deputy Minister to the Prime Minister
  • Secretary to the Cabinet
  • Head of the federal public service

The Clerk’s job is to advise the Prime Minister and elected Government officials in managing the country. The Clerk does so from an objective, non-partisan, public policy perspective. He also ensures Canada's federal public service is managed effectively and follows a code of value and ethics in its work to design and deliver high quality services and programs for Canadians and their families.

To do this, the Clerk and his team at the Privy Council Office:

  • Work with departments and agencies to develop policy options and choices for the Government.
  • Advise and support ministers in making policy decisions.
  • Record Cabinet decisions, inform departments and agencies about them, and work with the public service to carry them out in a timely and effective way.
Meet the Clerk

Michael Wernick became Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet on January 22, 2016.

Mr. Wernick joined the federal public service in 1981. Since then he has worked in various departments and agencies, including the Department of Finance Canada, Consumer and Corporate Affairs Canada, and the Privy Council Office.

He has held several senior leadership roles, including:

  • Deputy Clerk of the Privy Council and Associate Secretary to the Cabinet
  • Senior Advisor, Privy Council Office
  • Deputy Minister, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada
  • Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet, Plans and Consultations, Privy Council Office
  • Assistant Deputy Minister and Associate Deputy Minister, Canadian Heritage

Mr. Wernick holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Economics from the University of Toronto. He served on the Board of Governors of Carleton University from 2010 to 2017.

In 2012, Mr. Wernick received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Photo: MIchael Wernick, Clerk of the Privy Council
Meet the Deputy Clerk

Catherine Blewett became the Deputy Clerk of the Privy Council on January 7, 2019.

Ms. Blewett has held several senior leadership positions in both the provincial and federal public services, including:

  • Deputy Minister, Fisheries and Oceans (2016-2018)
  • Clerk of the Executive Council and Secretary to Cabinet, Government of Nova Scotia (2015-2016)
  • Deputy Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and CEO of the Office of Immigration, Government of Nova Scotia (2014-2016)
  • Deputy Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and CEO of the Office of Aboriginal Affairs, Government of Nova Scotia (2011–2014)
  • Director of Operations for Nova Scotia, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (2009 - 2011)

Ms. Blewett holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a Master of Public Administration from Dalhousie University.

Photo: Catherine Blewett
Former Clerks

The Privy Council Office was established in 1867 when the Governor General appointed the very first Clerk, William Henry Lee. Under the Constitution Act of 1867, however, the PCO was only responsible for preparing and registering orders in council. It was only in 1940 that the secretariat was formed when Arnold Heeney was appointed Secretary to the Cabinet. In 1992, the Clerk of the Privy Council was further recognized as the Head of the Public Service under the Public Service Employment Act.

Former Clerks of the Privy Coucil
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