The Business of the Treasury Board

The Treasury Board is the oldest Cabinet committee of the Government of Canada, and it is the only statutory Cabinet committee, being established under the Financial Administration Act. Its members are appointed by the Prime Minister (see Cabinet Committee Mandates and Membership) to provide leadership on financial and human resources, administrative management, comptrollership, accountability and ethics. The Treasury Board is also the Cabinet committee currently assigned the responsibility of reviewing regulations and most orders-in-council, which require Governor in Council approval.

The responsibilities of the Treasury Board include the following:

  • As management board, it promotes better management performance and approves policies to support the prudent and effective management of the Government of Canada's assets and its financial, information, and technology resources.
  • As expenditure manager, it examines the proposed spending plans of government organizations before they are tabled in Parliament (e.g., Estimates), and reviews program spending in the government to ensure resources are directed to programs and activities that remain government priorities and achieve value for money.
  • As employer, it establishes the policy framework for people management.

Treasury Board members sit as a committee of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada. In this capacity, they review Treasury Board (TB) and Governor in Council (GIC) submissions on behalf of the federal Cabinet. Unlike other Cabinet committees, when considering committee business, Treasury Board members do not represent their departmental or portfolio interests.

In light of this corporate role and in contrast to other Cabinet committees, senior officials of the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (Secretariat), and not sponsoring ministers, present cases to the Treasury Board. In so doing, these officials provide oral and written briefings as required, respond to questions, and record the Treasury Board decision or decisions on each case. Ministers sponsoring a submission do not usually appear before the Treasury Board to support or present their submissions. In exceptional circumstances, the President of the Treasury Board may request that a minister, deputy minister or other official appear before the Board to support or explain a proposal.

During the parliamentary session, the Treasury Board meets weekly to:

  • Consider submissions sponsored by federal departments, federal agencies and Crown corporations;
  • Examine assessments of pan-governmental spending and management initiatives;
  • Consider information on current or emerging government matters;
  • Follow up on issues raised at previous meetings; and
  • Consider Governor in Council business (i.e., regulations and orders-in-council).

Composition and Sub-Committees of the Treasury Board

The Treasury Board is chaired by the President of the Treasury Board. The Prime Minister appoints the Vice-Chair as well as four or more standing members and alternate members.

The Prime Minister may establish a sub-committee to support the work of the Treasury Board by examining specific initiatives in greater detail.

Cabinet Documents Considered by the Treasury Board

The Treasury Board considers several types of Cabinet documents, including the following:

  • Submissions;
  • Aide mémoires (Secretariat prepares);
  • Presentations (Secretariat almost always prepares); and
  • Briefing notes (Secretariat almost always prepares).

Consultation with the Secretariat is required to determine the best approach for each circumstance.

Treasury Board members also consider GIC submissions for approval of most regulations and orders-in-council. Guidelines and Tools to assist departments in preparing these proposals can be found on the Secretariat's website.

Comparing Treasury Board Submissions With Other Cabinet Documents

Treasury Board (TB) submissions are often preceded by a Memorandum to Cabinet (MC), which is considered by another Cabinet committee. The MC focuses on the policy rationale for a new or renewed policy or program initiative. A TB submission, by contrast, focuses primarily on program implementation, detailed costing information, results and outcomes. A submission outlines how the policy rationale and objectives are transformed into an initiative or program that will achieve those objectives. See Comparing Types of Cabinet Papers for further information.

The Secretariat's Central Role

The President of the Treasury Board is also the Minister responsible for the Secretariat, which is the administrative body supporting the Treasury Board. The Secretariat supports the President and the Treasury Board by making recommendations and providing advice on policies, directives, regulations and program spending, while respecting the primary responsibility of deputy heads in managing their organizations and their roles as accounting officers before Parliament.

In particular, the Secretariat ensures that Treasury Board members are provided with accurate information and sound advice for making decisions. This is achieved through the Secretariat's expenditure management function and its rigorous scrutiny of financial and Governor in Council proposals. Through its challenge and oversight role, the Secretariat provides a whole-of-government perspective for Treasury Board members, strengthening how government is managed and ensuring value for money in government spending and results for Canadians.

The Secretariat also provides advice and guidance to government organizations who are preparing TB submissions, and it provides recommendations to Treasury Board ministers on implementing expenditure and management policies as well as developing regulations and orders-in-councils.

The Secretariat's program sectors are the single window for organizations when they prepare TB submissions or require information on Treasury Board's expenditure and program management responsibilities. The Secretariat's Regulatory Affairs Sector is the single window for the preparation of GIC submissions, as well as the focal point for the development of regulatory policy and guidance.

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