Government Program

… a core concept in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100

Click for INAC RPP

Click for INAC RPP

Concept description

The Government of Canada (reference below) defines a program as “a group of related resource inputs and activities that are managed to meet specific needs and to achieve intended results, and that are treated as a budgetary unit.”

A government program is a crucial unit for analysis and debate in public management because it is the operational reality associated with a government’s promises and policies. Each program has a budget that is described in a document (e.g., Estimates) before being authorized by the legislature. A program is usually managed by a specific institutional unit with its specific governance arrangements.

Some government programs are disaggregated into sub-programs and some of these can be further disaggregated into sub-sub-programs, each of which has a specific budget, and is delivered by a specific institutional unit headed by a responsible manager.

For example, in the department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, the program called Infrastructure and Capacity (which “provides funding and advisory assistance to First Nation communities for the construction, acquisition, operation and maintenance of community infrastructure assets on reserves” and has a 2016-17 planned spending of $1.2 billion) has a sub-program called Water and Wastewater which “provides funding to plan, design, construct, acquire, operate and maintain water and wastewater systems, including water supply, treatment and distribution, and wastewater collection, treatment and disposal” and has a 2016-17 planned spending of $203 million. [For further details, see the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada – 2016-17 Report on Plans and Priorities, link above right.]

Resources – program and budget information for institutions in various governments

Government of Canada

The 2016-17 Reports on Plans and Priorities (RPPs) for all Government of Canada departments at:

The 2015–16 Departmental Performance Reports (DPRs) for all Government of Canada departments at:

Government of Ontario

Published plans and annual reports 2016-2017 – Plans for 2016-2017, and results and outcomes of all provincial programs delivered in 2015-2016 at:

City of Toronto

Toronto 2015 Budget – Programs and Services at:

Atlas topic, subject, and course

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


Government of Canada (2012), Policy on Management, Resources and Results Structures, at, accessed 25 November 2016.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 29 November 2016.

Image: Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada – 2016-17 Report on Plans and Priorities, at, accessed 26 November 2016.