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Guide

Canada’s System of Government

Read the book
Read the Book

Have you ever thought about who makes decisions about the laws and services you benefit from every day? If you used a telephone, recycled a bottle, went to school, took a city bus, received mail or purchased an item in a store then you were affected by decisions made by your representatives in government.

There are three levels of government in Canada:

  • federal
  • provincial or territorial
  • municipal

Each level has different areas of responsibility, which can be identified based on geography and types of services. The federal government creates laws and manages programs and services that tend to affect the whole country, the provincial and territorial governments have powers to make decisions relating to areas of law that affect their province or territory directly, and the municipal governments are responsible for establishing by-laws and services that are administered in a specific city, town or village. Both the federal and provincial/territorial areas of responsibility are listed in the Constitution Act, 1867.

Check below for examples of the laws and services established by each level of government.

Federal Responsibilities

  • national defence
  • foreign affairs
  • employment insurance
  • banking
  • federal taxes
  • the post office
  • copyright law
  • criminal law

Provincial Responsibilities

  • provincial taxes
  • hospitals
  • prisons
  • education
  • marriage
  • property and civil rights
  • rules of the road
  • age of majority

Municipal Responsibilities

  • building permits and zoning
  • city parks
  • public transportation
  • collection of garbage and recycling
  • water and sewer services
  • fire prevention
  • city roads and sidewalks
  • licensing and control of pets