The Cabinet

The Prime Minister chooses members of the Cabinet. These are usually MPs (and often at least one Senator) who belong to the party in power. Those who head government departments are called Ministers. Each province generally has at least one Cabinet Minister. As Canada has grown and changed, the Cabinet has also grown and evolved, with ministries sometimes being renamed, added, dropped or reorganized.

The Cabinet takes collective responsibility for government policies. It must, in public, agree with the Government’s decisions or resign.


A hundred years ago, Canada had a Ministry of Railways and Canals and a Ministry Of Overseas Military Forces. Why do these departments no longer exist? Some newer departments include Environment Canada and Public Safety Canada.


There is a person called the whip for each political party in the Senate and the House of Commons. He or she makes sure that Members from the party know what is going on in the Chamber, and that they are present when there is an important vote. In practice, the whips also assign each party’s members to committees.


The work of the federal government is done through departments (or ministries) and agencies. Here are some examples of federal departments’ areas of responsibility: the environment, citizenship and immigration, foreign affairs, defence and natural resources. Which department affects you the most? Which ones would you most like to work for?


MINISTER— From the Latin minister, meaning servant. This word has the same root as minor. Related words include administer (administration, administrator) and minor (meaning less or little).

CABINET — originally, this word meant small room. Today, it sometimes means a cupboard or a piece of furniture where objects can be stored. In Parliament, it means the group of Ministers appointed by the Governor General at the request of the Prime Minister.