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Government: What Level Does What?

So, you know you want info, or need help, and you know you need someone in government to help, but how do you know which level of government deals with your area of need?

Let us help!

People sit in front of political council
Political Conference

Federal Government

The federal government has the power “to make laws for the peace, order and good government of Canada” except for subjects where the provinces are given exclusive powers.  Among the many exclusive powers of the federal government are:  

  • Citizenship

  • Criminal Law

  • Copyright

  • Employment Insurance

  • Foreign Policy

  • Money and Banking

  • National Defence

  • Regulation of Trade and Commerce

  • Post Office

  • The Census

According to the Constitution Act, 1867, everything not mentioned as belonging to the provincial governments comes under the power of the federal government.

Provincial Goverment

The Provincial governments are responsible for issues that are explicitly given to them in Canada's written constitution­ the Constitution Act, 1867. Through the provincial legislature, the provincial government has the power to enact or amend laws and programs related to:

  • Education

  • Hospitals

  • Administration of Justice

  • Natural Resources and the Environment

  • Social Services

  • Property and Civil Rights in Ontario

The province directly funds or transfers money to institutions to ensure the delivery of these important responsibilities, as well as provincial highways, culture and tourism, prisons, post-secondary education, and other services to Ontarians.  The provincial legislature also has power over all municipal institutions in the province.

Municipal Goverment

The powers of municipal governments are determined by the provincial government. Municipal governments in Ontario are responsible for providing many of the services within their local boundaries that you rely on daily such as:

  • Airports

  • Ambulance

  • Animal Control and By-law Enforcement

  • Arts and Culture

  • Child Care

  • Economic Development

  • Fire Services

  • Garbage Collection and Recycling

  • Electric Utilities

  • Library Services

  • Long Term Care and Senior Housing  

  • Maintenance of Local Road Network

  • Parks and Recreation

  • Public Transit

  • Planning New Community Developments and Enhancing Existing Neighbourhoods

  • Police Services

  • Property Assessment

  • Provincial Offences Administration  

  • Public Health

  • Side Walks

  • Snow Removal

  • Social Services

  • Social Housing  

  • Storm Sewers

  • Tax Collection

  • Water and Sewage

Municipal Act

The Municipal Act is a consolidated statute governing the extent of powers and duties, internal organization and structure of municipalities in Ontario.  A full text of the Act may be found on the Government of Ontario's e-Laws web site.

The current Municipal Act, which took effect on January 1, 2003, represents the first comprehensive overhaul of Ontario’s municipal legislation in 150 years and is the cornerstone of a new, stronger provincial-municipal relationship. Effective January 1, 2007, the Municipal Act, 2001 (the Act) was significantly amended by the Municipal Statute Law Amendment Act, 2006 (Bill 130).

Municipal Council

Municipalities are governed by municipal councils. The job of municipal councils is to make decisions about municipal financing and services.  

In Ontario, the head of a local (lower or single tier) municipal council is either called the mayor or the reeve. The members of council may be called councillors or aldermen.  

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