People and Parliament
People and Parliament Home
How To Use This Resource
The Daily Newspaper
If you mean "Parliament," don’t say "government"
The words “government” and “Parliament” are often used interchangeably, although they are not equivalent terms. What is the difference?
- The term “Parliament” encompasses the legislative branch of government, and includes:
- The Sovereign (represented by the Governor General)
- All members of the Senate
- All members of the House of Commons
- In a broad sense, the term “government” refers to the political authority of the state, which includes executive, legislative and judicial powers.
In this broad sense the term “government” can be used in reference to a system of governance. For example, Canada's system of government can be described as a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy.
- The term “government” is also used to refer to the executive branch, essentially the Prime Minister and Cabinet, who have been formally appointed by the Governor General to administer or “govern” the country.
In this context, the “government” (executive) determines priorities and policies, ensures their implementation, and presents government legislation to Parliament for approval.
This definition of government also includes federal departments, which assist in developing, implementing and administering government policy.
The government (in this case the executive branch) must be accountable to the legislative branch. If it loses the confidence of the House of Commons, the government is expected to resign.