Canada’s Cabinet – by constitutional convention – is the body of advisors that sets the federal government’s policies and priorities for the country. Together they act in the name of the King’s Privy Council for Canada.
The Governor General appoints the members of Cabinet on the advice of the Prime Minister. Almost all of Cabinet is selected from the House of Commons. From time to time, a Senator may be included to ensure all parts of the country are represented.
The Governor General almost always acts on Cabinet’s advice.
How Cabinet works
Cabinet is the Prime Minister’s forum for creating consensus among the Government’s ministers. It is an informal political mechanism even though its decisions carry a great deal of weight.
In Cabinet, the Prime Minister may lead members to agreement on matters that each will be expected to defend publicly.
The principle of collective ministerial responsibility allows ministers to be frank when they are in private in Cabinet, but requires them to support the Government’s decisions in public.
As a group, ministers are held accountable to Parliament for their Government’s actions. They may speak about the Government’s policy only after taking these decisions in private with their colleagues.
The personal responsibility of each member of Cabinet is referred to as individual ministerial responsibility.
Each minister is normally responsible for a government department. Ministers receive confidential advice from the public service and are held accountable for their decisions in Parliament and the country.
In Canada, the cabinet system performs several key functions:
- Securing agreement among ministers on Government priorities
- Securing agreement on parliamentary actions by the Government
- Providing a forum for ministerial debate on issues of general interest
- Providing adequate information to ministers on decisions for which they will be held responsible
- Providing adequate information to the Prime Minister to carry out his/her responsibilities and leadership role
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