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Cabinet of Canada

The Cabinet of Canada plays an important role in the Canadian government.

A council of ministers chaired by the Prime Minister, under the Westminster System, the cabinet is the highest organ of The Ministry. (The terms "Cabinet" and "Minstry" are sometimes used interchangeably, a subtle inaccuracy which can spark confusion.)

Table of contents
1 Composition
2 Powers
3 Current Cabinet
4 External link


Slightly fewer than forty Ministers of the Crown and Ministers of State presently comprise the cabinet proper. Each minister is not only responsible for advising the Prime Minister and other ministers on any and all political matters, but also administrating one or more specific portfolios. Each Minister of the Crown is the formal head of a federal department or agency; Ministers of State are either assigned more specific responsibilites outside or spanning the departmental structure or are named to cabinet without portfolio. The Prime Minister often assigns a ministers to be responsible for a specific problem or initiative that may cut across departmental boundaries. This is usually described as having the file.

The number of ministers and their titles is selected by the Prime Minister. Throughout the 20th century Cabinets had been expanding in size until Brian Mulroney's government, which had over forty ministers. Since then, cabinets have hovered just below the forty minister mark.

Different ministries have widely varying levels of prestige. Unquestionably the most important minister is the Minister of Finance. Other high profile ministries include Defence, Foreign Affairs, Industry, Justice, and Health.


Nominally appointed by the Governor General the Cabinet is in practice selected by the Prime Minister. The selection of a cabinet is an extremely complex affair. There are a large number of conventions that must be met. There must be a minister from each province in Canada, with a member taken from the Senate if there are no available Members of Parliament (MP). Visible minorities must be represented and as many women as possible should be included. Interest groups that support the government also need to be appeased. Each member of the governing party desires a cabinet position and there are always some members that feel embittered at being passed over.

Responsible Government

As dictated by convention, members of Cabinet are held accountable for their decisions by the elected House of Commons. This means cabinet ministers are expected to introduce and defend new legislation regarding their portfolio within the House and answer questions on their job performance from the Opposition. Consequently, there is a traditional expectation that members of Cabinet also sit as elected MPs. Cabinets are generally appointed from amongst the governing party's pool of MPs; should a Prime Minister appoint a cabinet minister from outside Parliament, it is expected that the individual acquire a seat within a reasonable timeframe or resign. This can often be accomplished by means of a byelection.


The cabinet has immense amounts of power in the Canadian system, as on account of a fairly weak legislature almost all bills proposed by the Cabinet are enacted. Combined with a comparatively tiny proportion of bills originating with individual members of parliament (Private Members' Bills), this leads to Cabinet having almost total control over the legislative agenda of the House of Commons.

It is within Cabinet that many of the most important debates on Canadian policy take place. All cabinet meetings are held behind closed doors and the minutes are kept confidential for thirty years. Cabinet members are forbidden from discussing what occurs in cabinet meetings, and once a decision is made all Cabinet members must publicly support the decision. If any of these rules are violated the Minister is usually removed by the Prime Minister. If the disagreement within the cabinet is strong a minister may resign, as John Napier Turner did.

Cabinet itself is further divided into committees. The Treasury Board is one of the most important, as it oversees the expenditure of government money within every department. Since 1966, a specific minister has been named President of the Treasury Board, owing to the especially taxing nature of the duties associated with chairing it and supervising the related bureaucracy. Other committees currently include the Economic Union Committee, Social Union Committee and Government Communications Committee, chaired by senior ministers whose own portfolios may differ substantially from the committee's mandate.

Current Cabinet

The inaugural Cabinet of the 27th Ministry was sworn in 12 December 2003.

Last updated 12 December 2003.

Portfolio Minister
Prime Minister of Canada (1867-) (List) Rt. Hon. Paul Martin (2003-)
Deputy Prime Minister of Canada (1977-) (List) Hon. Anne McLellan (2003-)
Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (1867-) (List) Hon. Bob Speller (2003-)
Minister for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (1993-) (List) Hon. Joe McGuire (1993-)
Minister of Canadian Heritage (1996-) (List) Hon. Hélène Scherrer (2003-)
Minister of Citizenship and Immigration (1994-) (List) Hon. Judy Sgro (2003-)
Minister of the Environment (1971-) (List) Hon. David Anderson (1999-)
Minister of Finance (1867-) (List) Hon. Ralph Goodale (2003-)
Minister of Fisheries and Oceans (1979-) (List) Hon. Geoff Regan (2003-)
Minister of Foreign Affairs (1995-) (List) Hon. Bill Graham (2002-)
Minister of Health (1944-) (List) Hon. Pierre Pettigrew (2003-)
Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development (2003-) (List) Hon. Joe Volpe (2003-)
Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (1966-) (List) Hon. Andy Mitchell (2003-)
Minister of Industry (1995-) (List) Hon. Lucienne Robillard (2003-)
Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs (1993-) (List) Hon. Pierre Pettigrew (2003-)
Minister for International Cooperation (1996-) (List) Hon. Aileen Carroll (2003-)
Minister for International Trade (1983-) (List) Hon. Jim Peterson (2003-)
Minister of Justice
      and Attorney General
(1867-) (List) Hon. Irwin Cotler (2003-)
Minister of Labour (1900-) (List) Hon. Claudette Bradshaw (1998-)
Leader of the Government in the House of Commons (1867-) (List) Hon. Jacques Saada (2003-)
Leader of the Government in the Senate (1867-) (List) Hon. Jack Austin (2003-)
Minister of National Defence (1923-) (List) Hon. David Pratt (2003-)
Minister of National Revenue (1927-) (List) Hon. Stan Keyes (2003-)
Minister of Natural Resources (1995-) (List) Hon. John Efford (2003-)
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness (2003-) (List) Hon. Anne McLellan (2003-)
Minister of Public Works and Government Services (1996-) (List) Hon. Stephen Owen (2003-)
President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada (1867-) (List) Hon. Denis Coderre (2003-)
Minister of Social Development (2003-) (List) Hon. Liza Frulla (2003-)
Minister of Transport (1936-) (List) Hon. Tony Valeri (2003-)
President of the Treasury Board (1966-) (List) Hon. Reg Alcock (2003-)
Minister of Veterans Affairs (1944-) (List) Hon. John McCallum (2003-)
Minister of Western Economic Diversification (1988-) (List) Hon. Rey Pagtakhan (2003-)
Minister of State
      and Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Hon. Mauril Bélanger (2003-)
Minister of State (Children and Youth) Hon. Ethel Blondin-Andrew (2003-)
Minister of State (Civil Preparedness)
      and Associate Minister of National Defence
Hon. Albina Guarnieri (2003-)
Minister of State (FEDINO) Hon. Joe Comuzzi (2003-)
Minister of State (Financial Institutions) Hon. Denis Paradis (2003-)
Minister of State (Infrastructure) Hon. Andy Scott (2003-)
Minister of State (Multiculturalism and Status of Women) Hon. Jean Augustine (2003-)
Minister of State (New and Emerging Markets) Hon. Gar Knutson (2003-)
Minister of State (Public Health) Hon. Carolyn Bennett (2003-)
Minister of State (Sport) Hon. Stan Keyes (2003-)

Former portfolios

External link