Glossary of terms

Agencies, boards and commissions are established to carry out administrative, quasi-judicial, regulatory and advisory functions within the government’s policy and legislative framework. Their mandates are typically more narrowly defined than ministerial departments. These institutions are involved in a broad range of activities, such as protecting human rights, regulating specific economic sectors, providing services, undertaking research and providing advice. They usually operate at arm’s length from government and the degree of their autonomy varies considerably by their organization and function.

Administrative Tribunals:
Administrative tribunals are quasi-judicial decision-making bodies which operate independently from government. An administrative tribunal may set standards, regulate economic activity or an area of law, or adjudicate and determine certain legal rights and benefits.

Crown Corporations:
Federal Crown corporations are arms-length corporate entities that carry out specific functions on a commercial or quasi-commercial basis. Some Crown corporations receive funding support from government, while others are self-sufficient or profit-making. The powers necessary to carry out a Crown corporation’s mandate are vested in the board that directs it. While Crown corporations function within their applicable statutory frameworks, they are accountable to Parliament through their respective Ministers.

The Board of Directors has overall stewardship of the Crown corporation and is expected to provide strategic direction to management and oversee the activities of the organization and report to the Crown. It has the duty to act in the best interests of the corporation within the framework of its statutory mandate and to exercise care and due diligence.

The Chairperson of the Board is responsible for the proper conduct of the Board meetings in such a way that the corporation carries out its mandate and objectives effectively, ensures good value for taxpayer dollars, remains viable and holds management accountable for its performance.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is responsible for the day-to-day management of the corporation on behalf of the Board of Directors.

Governor in Council:
The Governor in Council is the Governor General, acting by and with the advice and consent of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada.

Order in Council:
An Order in Council is a legal instrument of the Governor in Council, pursuant to a statutory authority or the royal prerogative. Orders in Council are made on the recommendation of the responsible Minister of the Crown and take legal effect only when signed by the Governor General.

Portfolio/Portfolio Coordination:
A Minister is usually responsible for a portfolio, which consists of all the organizations reporting to that Minister. A portfolio typically includes a department, which plays a role in shaping future policies and laws, and often delivers services to Canadians. It can also include service agencies, administrative tribunals, and Crown corporations. Each organization within a portfolio is different. They have differing mandates, a variety of organizational structures and differing relationships to the Minister. In accordance with the enabling legislation, Ministers exercise varying degrees of control and responsibility for the organizations in their portfolio. However, all organizations provide services to Canadians and report to Ministers and through Ministers to Parliament.

Coherence in developing and implementing the government’s policy and programs is important for the government to accomplish its objectives and effectively deliver service to Canadians. Building on existing statutory roles under a Minister’s authority, portfolio management seeks to ensure that all organizations work together in the most effective fashion in support of the Minister and the government. Portfolio coordination practices must respect the arm’s length relationship and independent status of agencies, Crown corporations and tribunals. Some examples of portfolio coordination practices include: regular meetings between portfolio organizations; the formal assignment of responsibilities for portfolio-wide services; and the establishment of portfolio coordination secretariats.