Canada has three levels of government:

  • federal
  • provincial or territorial
  • municipal

Federal government

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

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

Provincial and territorial governments

The provincial and territorial governments have the power to change their laws and manage their own public lands. Their responsibilities include:

  • education
  • health care
  • road regulations

A Premier leads each province and territory.

Municipal governments

This is the level of government that governs a city, town or district (a municipality). Municipal governments are responsible for things, such as:

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

Mayors lead municipal governments.

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, and municipal to:

  • the federal House of Commons
  • the provincial and territorial legislatures
  • their city council

These representatives:

  • pass laws
  • approve and monitor spending
  • keep the government accountable

Constitutional monarchy

Canada is a constitutional monarchy. This means that the Queen or King of Canada is the head of state, while the Prime Minister is the head of government.

The Queen is represented in Canada by the Governor General, who is appointed by the Sovereign on the advice of the Prime Minister, usually for five years. In each of the ten provinces, the Sovereign is represented by the Lieutenant-Governor, who is appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister, also normally for five years.

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


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