What are the different levels of government in Canada and their responsibilities?

Canada has three levels of government: federal, provincial, and municipal. Each level has its own unique set of responsibilities.

What are the responsibilities of all elected officials?

All elected officials, regardless of what level of government they are voted into, are entrusted with the responsibility of making decisions that affect the day-to-day lives of everyone living in Canada.

Some of their shared responsibilities include:

  • proposing, debating, and voting on legislation (e.g., bills, laws, etc.)
  • meeting with constituents to discuss their concerns
  • providing guidance about government services
  • holding regular, democratic elections 

What is the federal government?

The federal government is led by the Prime Minister, who is elected every four years. 

The Prime Minister works with other federally elected representatives, called Members of Parliament (MPs). MPs meet in the House of Commons in Ottawa.

The federal government is the highest level of government in Canada. It is responsible for national and international issues, including:

  • national defense
  • foreign affairs
  • citizenship and immigration
  • trade and commerce
  • criminal law
  • currency
  • federal taxation
  • indigenous lands and rights 

The federal government also has three branches of government with separate powers and responsibilities: 

  • The Legislative branch debates and passes new laws. 
  • The Executive branch implements laws.
  • The Judicial branch makes sure the laws are being interpreted fairly. 

The current Prime Minister of Canada is Justin Trudeau. He was elected on September 20, 2021. The next federal election will be held in 2025.    

What is the provincial government?

The provincial government is led by the Premier, who is elected every four years. 

The Premier works with other provincial elected representatives, called Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs). MPPs meet at Queen’s Park in Toronto.

The provincial government is responsible for regional issues, including:

  • Education (including colleges and universities)
  • Health care and social services
  • Provincial parks
  • Natural resources
  • Transportation and highways 
  • Labour standards 
  • Sales tax

The current Premier of Ontario is Doug Ford. He was re-elected on June 2, 2022.

The next provincial election will be held in 2026.    

What is the municipal government?

The municipal government represents the interests of cities and towns. They oversee local institutions and public services like:

  • libraries 
  • waste removal
  • Public transit 
  • recreation and community centers 
  • local police

The municipal government is led by the Mayor, who is elected every four years. The Mayor works with councilors, who are elected through a general vote by an entire municipality, or by smaller wards within a municipality. 

Sometimes, cities and towns come together to form a federation referred to as a “region” or a “county.” Regional and county governments share responsibilities for the different municipalities in their territory. 

For example, the Region of Peel is made up of the City of Brampton, the City of Mississauga, and the Town of Caledon. 

Where can I find more information?

Citizenship Counts: Discover Canada Study Guide

The Government of Canada

History of Ontario government

Ontario municipalities

Levels of Government game

Elections Canada: Young Canadians FAQ