APEX’s Guide for Executives

– Revised: April 2021

[ * ] Content is restricted to APEX Members.

Information about the Government of Canada

Managing Myself *

Managing My Team *

Managing the Business *

Tools to Assist Me *

Conclusion *



As an Executive in the federal public service, you are a member of the senior leadership team of an important employer:  the Government of Canada. Important given the role of the public service in our country. And, important given its size:  as of March 2019, the federal public service employed, on a determinate and indeterminate basis, approximately 287,978 individuals.

As your national association, The Association of Professional Executives of the Public Service of Canada (APEX) is the voice for more than 7300 federal public service executives (around 2.5% of public service employees). The Association actively fosters excellence in leadership and is a strong advocate on behalf of your interests.

Created in 1984, the Association focuses on topics such as leadership, professional development, health and wellness, employment, including terms and conditions and others — topics that are important to you.

APEX is an independent, not-for-profit organization governed by a volunteer Board of Directors selected from the federal public service Executive ranks, including regional representatives. The Board is supported by a permanent Secretariat, led by a Chief Executive Officer and a small number of Executives on loan from Government organizations.

This Guide has been developed to assist you.  It includes information about people and financial management, your terms and conditions of employment, key legal responsibilities and other relevant topics. This information was developed to provide you with a fulsome overview, with supporting links to authoritative sources where you can access additional information. You are encouraged to take some time to familiarize yourself with all of its information. We are confident that you will find this Guide to be informative and useful.

Please send us your comments and feedback on this guide!

Information about the Government of Canada

Introduction to Government

The Government of Canada offers a vibrant, professional, non-partisan and merit-based work environment that is focused on serving Canadians by delivering quality services in the official language of their choice, providing impartial evidence-based advice to government, and implementing the laws, policies and programs determined by the elected government and Parliament.

While approximately 42% of the federal public service is located in the Ottawa-Gatineau area, employees can be found in many locations across the country and abroad.

As of March 2019, the Treasury Board Secretariat reported that the federal public service was comprised of 88 departments and separate agencies. Sixty-eight departments and agencies in the core public administration employ approximately 220,310 employees with the 21 Separate Agencies employing an additional 67,668.

If you have been working in the federal public service, some of this information will not be new to you. Whatever your background, these pages provide a useful summary and links to help you find additional information.

How the Public Service Manages Itself

Key elements of the Public Service include:

Office of the Clerk of the Privy Council

  • The Clerk of the Privy Council is the most senior non-political official in the Government of Canada and the Head of the federal public service.


  • Ministers are responsible for the management of their departments/agencies and Deputy Heads are designated Accounting Officers with primary responsibility for financial management and HR management in their organizations.

Some Separate Agencies are governed by their own legislation. If you are employed by a Separate Agency, your authorities, responsibilities and the applicability of certain legislation and governing bodies should be confirmed with your Human Resources and Finance Departments.

Treasury Board

The Treasury Board consists of the President of the Treasury Board (the President), the Minister of Finance, and four other members of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada that are designated as members by an Order in Council. The composition of the Treasury Board is provided for in the Financial Administration Act (FAA).

The Treasury Board exercises authority over a vast range of issues, and its role can generally be classified into powers of supervision, recommendation, decision, approval, reporting, policy and regulation-making and leading consultation on matters related to human resources and financial management.

The Treasury Board has four principal roles:

  1. Setting the rules that establish how people, public funds, and government assets are managed and reviewing departmental investment plans.
  2. Managing the Government’s expenditure plans, the stewardship of public funds and approving new money for major procurements, assets, new programs, and grants and contributions.
  3. Determining terms and conditions of employment, including pensions and setting the direction of human resources management.
  4. Reviewing and approving the majority of regulations and Orders in Council made pursuant to legislation attributing a power to the Governor in Council.

Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat

The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (the Secretariat) is the administrative arm of the Treasury Board. It makes recommendations and provides advice on program spending, regulations, and management policies and directives, while respecting the primary responsibility of deputy heads in managing their organizations, and in their role as Accounting Officers.

Three other senior officials have specific government-wide leadership responsibilities within the Secretariat:

  • The Comptroller General of Canada provides leadership, direction, oversight, and capacity building for financial management, internal audit, and the management of assets and acquired services.
  • The Chief Human Resources Officer provides leadership on people management through policies, programs, and strategic engagements, and by centrally managing labour relations, compensation, pensions and benefits, and contributing to the management of Executives.
  • The Chief Information Officer provides leadership, direction, oversight, and capacity building for information management, information technology, government security (including identity management), access to information, privacy, and internal and external service delivery.

Agents of Parliament

Agents of Parliament are administratively housed within the Executive Branch of government and oversee the exercise of authority by the Executive, in support of Parliament’s accountability and oversight function.

There are seven Agents of Parliament:

  1. Auditor General (Finance Portfolio):
    • Verifies the accuracy of the government’s financial statements and supports Parliamentary oversight of government spending and operations.
  2. Information Commissioner (Justice Portfolio):
    • Investigates complaints about federal institutions’ handling of access to information requests.
  3. Privacy Commissioner (Justice Portfolio):
    • Oversees compliance with both the Privacy Act, which covers the personal information-handling practices of federal government departments and agencies, and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA).
  4. Chief Electoral Officer (Privy Council Office Portfolio):
    • Under the provisions of the Canada Elections Act, conducts federal general elections, by-elections, and referenda; administers political financing provisions; and monitors compliance with the Act.
  5. Commissioner of Official Languages (Privy Council Office Portfolio):
    • Administers the Official Languages Act, oversees its full implementation, and safeguards the status of the two official languages.
  6. Public Sector Integrity Commissioner (Treasury Board Secretariat Portfolio):
    • Establishes a safe, confidential, and independent mechanism for public servants or members of the public to disclose potential wrongdoing in the federal public sector.
  7. Commissioner of Lobbying (Treasury Board Secretariat Portfolio):
    • Contributes to confidence in the integrity of government decision-making by administering the Lobbying Act and the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct.

Public Service Commission (PSC)

The Public Service Commission (PSC) is responsible for safeguarding the staffing system and political neutrality of public servants.

The PSC protects merit, non-partisanship, representativeness and the use of both official languages. It safeguards the integrity of staffing in the Public Service and the political impartiality of public servants, develops policies and guidance for Public Service managers and holds them accountable for their staffing decisions. It conducts audits and investigations to confirm the effectiveness of the staffing system and to improve it.  The PSC reports its results to Parliament.

Parliamentary Budget Officer

The Parliamentary Budget Officer provides independent analysis on the state of the nation’s finances, the Government’s Main Estimates and trends in the Canadian economy; and upon request, undertakes economic analysis and costing estimates for any proposal under Parliament’s jurisdiction.