Clerk of the Privy Council

… a core concept in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100

Click for Clerk's website

Click for Clerk’s website

Concept description

The Clerk of Privy Council describes (reference below, website on right) his role as follows:

“As the Clerk of the Privy Council, I have three core duties:

  1. As Deputy Minister to the Prime Minister of Canada, I provide direct advice and support to the Prime Minister on all issues that may affect the Government;
  2. As Secretary to the Cabinet, I support the Prime Minister in his role as Chair of Cabinet and support the Cabinet in its deliberations. As part of this work, I ensure that the Public Service understands Cabinet direction and implements it in an effective, coordinated fashion; and,
  3. As Head of the federal Public Service, I work with the senior leadership of the federal civil service to ensure that the Government of Canada has the policy, management and human resources capacity it needs to design and deliver high quality programs and services to and for Canadians in a manner that is consistent with public service values and ethics.

“To deliver on these responsibilities, my team and I at the Privy Council Office work with departments and agencies to make sure that the public service has the right people, direction, tools and work environment to support our duly elected Government and to implement Government decisions. As part of these efforts, we:

  • Advise the Prime Minister on issues and public policy challenges we are facing as a country;
  • Work with departments and agencies to develop policy options and choices for the Government to consider;
  • Advise and support discussion and dialogue by Ministers in making policy decisions through their Cabinet committee deliberations; and
  • Record and communicate Cabinet decisions to departments and agencies and work with the senior leadership of the public service to implement Government decisions in a timely and effective way.

“In short, my job is to help advise the Prime Minister and our elected Government officials in managing the country from an objective, non-partisan, public policy perspective, and to help ensure the effective leadership and management of Canada’s federal civil service.”

Reflections on the Clerk’s job by Mel Cappe

In early 2017, Mel Cappe (Clerk from January 18, 1999 to May 12, 2002) was interviewed for approximately an hour by former Minister David Dingwall for the Ryerson Negotiation Project. The interviews can be viewed on the following two YouTube videos:

Former Clerks of the Privy Council

The Clerk’s website displays his predecessors at, accessed 25 August 2016:




  • Kevin G. Lynch
    The Honourable Kevin G. Lynch, P.C.
    Clerk of the Privy Council, Secretary to the Cabinet and Head of the Public Service of Canada
    March 2006 – to June 2009

    [more from Kevin G. Lynch]














Atlas topic, subject, and course

Machinery of Government (core topic) in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100 Governance and Institutions.


Privy Council Office website at, accessed 24 August 2016.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 13 March 2017.

Image: Privy Council Office website at, accessed 24 August 2016.