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Privy Council Office
Bureau du Conseil privé
PCO Canada logo.svg
Agency overview
JurisdictionGovernment of Canada
HeadquartersOffice of the Prime Minister and Privy Council building, 80 Wellington Street, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Annual budgetC$144.9 million (2017–18)
Ministers responsible
Deputy Minister responsible
The Office's present location in the Office of the Prime Minister and Privy Council building at 80 Wellington Street in Ottawa
The Office's present location in the Office of the Prime Minister and Privy Council building at 80 Wellington Street in Ottawa

The Privy Council Office (PCO; French: Bureau du Conseil privé) is the central agency of the Government of Canada which acts as the secretariat to the Cabinet of Canada – a committee of the Privy Council for Canada – and provides non-partisan advice and support to the Canadian ministry, as well as leadership, coordination, and support to the departments and agencies of government.[4]

The clerk of the Privy Council, who leads the department, is the head of the civil service of Canada, and acts as the deputy minister to the prime minister, who is the minister responsible for the department. The PCO is located in the Office of the Prime Minister and Privy Council building (previously known as Langevin Block) on Parliament Hill.


Although the PCO has grown in size and complexity over the years, its main pillars remain the operations and plans secretariats. The former is primarily concerned with coordinating the day-to-day issues of government while the latter takes a medium-term view to the evolution of the Canadian federation. Each incoming prime minister will re-organize the PCO to suit the policy agenda of their government. Today, the PCO also includes a department of intergovernmental affairs, secretariats for communications, foreign and defence policy, security and intelligence, social affairs, economic affairs, legislation and house planning and machinery of government.

Traditionally, the PCO has served as a "finishing school" for civil servants destined for executive positions within government. Officials who spend several years gaining experience at the PCO, and working on policy matters from the perspective of the prime minister, return to their home departments with a greater appreciation of government operations at the corporate level. Aside from senior positions within the civil service, PCO alumni have gone on to pursue successful careers in business and politics, including Paul Tellier, former CEO of Bombardier; Michael Sabia, CEO of Bell Canada; Robert Rabinovitch, CEO of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation; former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau; and former Minister of Foreign Affairs Pierre Pettigrew.

The head of the civil service has the title of clerk of the Privy Council, and also serves as the secretary to the Cabinet and deputy minister to the prime minister.

The Privy Council Office's role is different from that of the Prime Minister's Office, which is a personal and partisan office. It is understood that the prime minister should not receive advice from only one institutionalized source. To that end, the PCO serves as the policy-oriented but politically-neutral advisory unit to the prime minister, while the PMO is politically-oriented but policy-sensitive.

Current structure of the Privy Council Office

See also


  1. ^ "Organizational structure". aem. 2018-02-21. Retrieved 2019-02-24.
  2. ^ Office, Privy Council (2018-04-16). "Departmental Plan 2018-19". aem. Retrieved 2019-02-24.
  3. ^ Feb 24, Elizabeth Thompson · CBC News · Posted; February 24, 2017 5:00 AM ET | Last Updated; 2017. "Budget for Trudeau's Privy Council Office biggest in a decade | CBC News". CBC. Retrieved 2019-02-24.((cite web)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ Smith, Alex (23 April 2009). "The Roles and Responsibilities of Central Agencies" (Background paper). Library of Parliament.