Understanding Governor in Council Appointments in Canada

Provincial Capital Legislative Building Regina Saskatchewan Canada Queen City designed by Edward and W. S. Maxwell in the Beaux Art Style

Dennis Macdonald / Getty Images

A governor in council, or GIC, appointee can play one of various roles in the Canadian government. More than 1,500 Canadian citizens occupy these governmental jobs, which range from the head of an agency or commission to the chief executive officer of a Crown corporation to a member of a quasi-judicial tribunal. GIC appointees are employees, earning salaries and receiving benefits like other government workers.

How Are Governor in Council Appointees Chosen?

Appointments are made by the governor in council, that is, by the governor general on the advice of the Queen's Privy Council as represented by Cabinet, through an "order in council" that normally specifies the term and tenure of the appointment. 

The appointments are tailored to each minister's portfolio. Each minister in the federal Canadian Cabinet oversees a particular department, either solely or in conjunction with one or more other ministers. As part of their responsibilities, the ministers are responsible for a portfolio of organizations related to their department. The ministers, through the Cabinet, recommend to the governor-general individuals to administer these organizations, and the governor-general then makes the appointments. For example, the Minister of Canadian Heritage chooses a chairperson to oversee the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, while the Minister of Veterans Affairs recommends members for inclusion on the Veterans Review and Appeal Board.

Consistent with Canada's ongoing efforts to reflect its national diversity in its government, the federal government encourages ministers to consider gender parity and Canada’s diversity, in terms of linguistic, regional and employment-equity representation, when making governor in council appointments.

What Governor in Council Appointees Do

Across the country, more than 1,500 Canadians serve as governor in council appointees on commissions, boards, Crown corporations, agencies, and tribunals. The responsibilities of these appointees vary widely, depending on roles and placements, and can include making quasi-judicial decisions, providing advice and recommendations on socio-economic development issues, and managing Crown corporations. 

Terms of Employment for Appointees

Most GIC positions are defined and explained by statute, or legislation. In most cases, the statute specifies the appointment authority, the tenure, and length of term of the appointment and, on occasion, what qualifications the position requires.

Appointees may work either part- or full-time, and in both cases, they receive a salary. They are paid within various government salary ranges depending on the scope and complexity of responsibilities, level of experience and performance. They are eligible for paid and unpaid leave, and they have access to health insurance like other employees.

A particular appointment may be for a specific term (for example, one year) or may be indefinite, ending only with resignation, appointment to a different position or removal. The tenure of an appointee is either "during pleasure," meaning that the appointee may be removed at the discretion of the governor in council, or "during good behavior," which means that the appointee may only be removed for cause, such as a rule violation or failure to perform his or her required duties.