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How does Canada's system of government affect me?

Government is connected to almost everything we do—whether we’re driving, buying a home, picking up groceries, watching TV or running water from the tap. Explore the ways in which Canada’s three levels of government—federal, provincial/territorial and municipal—influence your life.


  • Radio and Telecommunication
  • Food Safety
  • Agriculture
  • Transportation Safety
  • National Defence
  • Postal Service
  • Banking

In Canada, the federal level of government has authority over areas of law that generally affect the whole country, such as: the census, railways, patents, copyrights and the regulation of international and interprovincial trade. The exact nature, breadth and the limitations of this power are listed in the Constitution Act, 1867. The federal government is also responsible for making things fair between the provinces through equalization payments and for ensuring that health, education and welfare standards are the same across Canada. The federal government cannot transfer any of its powers to the provinces, but it can delegate the administration of a responsibility to a provincial agency (this was done, for example, for the regulation of interprovincial and international highway traffic).


  • Environmental Services
  • Energy Production
  • Hunting and Fishing
  • Provincial Court
  • Health Care
  • Charitable Institutions
  • Driver’s Licences

Each of the 10 provinces has its own legislature and is responsible for areas of law that are listed in the Constitution Act, 1867 such as: the solemnization of marriage, fines for breaking provincial laws, and property and civil rights in the province. Some responsibilities, such as agriculture, immigration and some aspects of natural resources, are shared between the provincial and federal level of government. The provincial governments cannot transfer any of their powers to the federal government but they can delegate the administration of one of their responsibilities to a federal agency.


  • Water and Sewer Services
  • Garbage Collection
  • City Parks
  • Fire Prevention
  • Roads and Sidewalks
  • Public Transportation
  • Building Permits and Zoning

Municipal governments are responsible for the administration of a specific city, town, village, metropolitan region or district. Their powers are delegated to them by the corresponding provincial government. There are approximately 4,000 municipal governments across Canada. Municipalities are responsible for such services as libraries, local police and street lighting. Increasingly, Aboriginal communities across Canada are also assuming responsibilities that are similar to those of municipal councils.

What about territorial responsibilities?

Canada’s constitution gives Parliament the authority to govern the territories, however, over the years many of these responsibilities have been put in the control of the territories themselves.

The three territories (Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut), therefore, each have their own government and are each in charge of things such as health care, education and the protection of human rights.