Public Service Commission

… a core term in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100


A public service commission (or civil service commission) is a body created to protect the non-partisan nature of a public (or civil) service.

For example, the Public Service Commission of Canada describes its responsibilities as follows:

“On behalf of Parliament, the Public Service Commission (PSC) safeguards the integrity of staffing and the non-partisan nature of the public service. In this respect, the PSC works closely with government but is independent from ministerial direction and is accountable to Parliament. The PSC‘s mandate is threefold.

“First, the PSC is mandated to appoint, or provide for the appointment of, persons to or from within the public service. The PSC provides staffing and assessment functions and services to support staffing in the public service.

“Second, the PSC is mandated to oversee the integrity of the staffing system and ensure non-partisanship. This oversight role includes maintaining and interpreting data on the public service, carrying out audits that provide assurance and make recommendations for improvements and conducting investigations that can lead to corrective action in the case of errors or problems.

“Third, the PSC is mandated to administer provisions of the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA) related to the political activities of employees and deputy heads.

In marked contrast its federal counterpart, in Public Service Commission in Ontario does not operate as a separate agency, but rather as a governance body. According to its 2013-14 Annual Report (reference below):

“The Public Service Commission (PSC) is the governance body responsible for oversight of human resources in Ontario’s public service. More specifically, the PSC is responsible for:

  • issuing directives and policies for the effective management of human resources
  • ensuring that the employment of public servants is based on ethical and non-partisan practices
  • approving employment actions, such as appointments at the assistant deputy minister level.”

The Public Appointments Secretariat for Ontario (reference below) describes the function of the Public Service Commission as follows:

“The Commission oversees and reports on the government’s performance as an employer, with particular emphasis on compliance with the Act and maintenance of the merit principle. The Commission is involved in the development of corporate values regarding matters such as conflict of interest and employee ethics.

“Membership:  The Commission is composed of a chair and at least two other members appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council.”


Public Service Commission of Canada, Responsibilities, at, accessed 28 August 2016.

Public Service Commission 2013-14 Annual Report, p. 4, at, accessed 28 August 2016.

Ontario Public Appointments Secretariat, Public Service Commission, at, accessed 28 August 2016.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 28 August 2016.