Governor in Council

Whenever a piece of Canadian legislation, such as the Constitution, mentions the ‘Governor in Council’ this refers to the Governor General acting by and with the advice of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada.[1] In practice, this means the Governor General acting on advice given by federal Cabinet – the Privy Council’s operative branch.

The ‘Governor in Council’ has been assigned many duties, some of which include:

  • Giving a royal recommendation for any bill that proposes to spend government revenues;
  • Giving Royal Assent in order for a bill to become law;
  • Dissolving Parliament before elections;
  • Opening and closing parliamentary sessions;
  • Appointing many senior governmental officers (these appointments are called “Governor in Council appointments” [2]); and
  • Appointing the Lieutenant Governors of each Canadian province.[3]

Lieutenant Governors represent the reigning monarch at the provincial level.[4] Their role within their respective provinces resembles that of the Governor General at the federal level.[5] For this reason, provincial legislation often refers to the ‘Lieutenant Governor in Council’. This refers to a Lieutenant Governor acting by and with the advice of his or her provincial cabinet.


[1] Constitution Act, 1867 (UK), 30 & 31 Vict, c 3, s 13, reprinted in RSC 1985, Appendix II, No 5 .

[2] Canada, “Governor in Council appointment process overview” (29 February 2016), online: <>.

[3] Parliament of Canada “Parliamentary Framework - General Article: Crown and Governor General” (October 2015), online: <>; Parliament of Canada ‘Parliamentary Framework – Detailed Article: Role of the Crown and the Governor General” (October 2015), online: <>; Jacques Monet, “Governor General” (18 July 2012) The Canadian Encyclopedia, online: <>.

[4] Constitution Actsupra note 1 at s 58.

[5] The British Royal Family, “Canada: The Governor-General and the Lieutenant Governors”, online: <>.