How Our Government Works

Governance in Canada is a three-way dance. Who takes care of what is divided between three levels of government, each with their own elected representatives. You choose who’s in charge by voting for a city councillor, an MLA, or an MP in different elections. When we say every vote counts, we also mean every opportunity to vote counts!

Levels of Government

Even though power is distributed between different levels of government, it's totally normal to see MPs, MLAs and city councillors working together. After all, they all represent you and your community together. But there are some things that only a person from a particular level of government can help you with.

Federal Government


You know the federal government as those folks who go to work at Parliament Hill in Ottawa. They have the entire country on their minds so don't ask your Member of Parliament why the bus is always late. 

Provincial/Territorial Government


The provincial and territorial governments are where more local decisions are made. Each province and territory has a slightly different way of doing things, which is slightly because of their unique geographies and histories. 

Municipal Government


The municipal government is even more local and this is where you'll see the decisions that impact you most directly. Municipalities were not given their powers by Canada's Constitution but are actually under the control of provinces.

What's the difference between a province and a territory?

How do Nunavut, Yukon and the Northwest Territories differ from the ten provinces? There was a time when territories had slightly less control over themselves compared to provinces, especially when it comes to natural resources. Today, they can do just about everything a province can do.

The main difference now is all about power and who decides what they can do. Provincial responsibilities are outlined in the Constitution, that amazing document that lays out how Canada's government functions. Territories receive their power from the federal government. If provinces wanted to change what they're allowed to do, it would need to go through the long process of "constitutional reform." Territories can see changes happen with a simple vote in Parliament.

Branches of Government

The federal government is further divided into three branches to offer checks and balances on the government.

Executive Branch
Legislative Branch
Judicial Branch