In Canada the Privy Council Office is the secretariat of the federal cabinet and the department of the Prime Minister. It provides non-partisan advice and support to the Prime Minister and leadership, coordination and support to the departments and agencies of the government.
Although PCO has grown in size and complexity over the years, its main pillars remain the operations and plans secretariats. Ops is primarily concerned with coordinating the day-to-day issues of government while Plans takes a medium-term view to the evolution of the Canadian federation. Each incoming Prime Minister will re-organize PCO to suit the policy agenda of his government. Today, PCO also includes a department of intergovernmental affairs, secretariats for global affairs, cities and aboriginal affairs, a security and intelligence unit, as well as advisors to the Prime Minister for science, national security and foreign policy.
Traditionally, PCO has served as a "finishing school" for civil servants destined for executive positions within government. Officials who spend several years gaining experience at the "Centre" and working on policy matters from the perspective of the Prime Minister return to their home departments with a greater appreciation of government operations at the corporate level. Aside from senior positions within the civil service, PCO alumni have gone on to pursue successful careers in business and politics. They include Paul Tellier, CEO of Bombardier, Michael Sabia, CEO of Bell Canada, Robert Rabinovitch, CEO of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pierre Pettigrew.
The head of the civil service has the title of Clerk of the Privy Council, and also serves as the Secretary to the Cabinet and Deputy Minister to the Prime Minister.
The Privy Council Office should not be confused with the Prime Minister's Office, which is a personal and partisan office. It is understood that the Prime Minister should not receive advice from only one institutionalized source. To that end, PCO serves as the policy oriented but politically sensitive advisory unit to the Prime Minister, while PMO is politically oriented but policy sensitive. Note the difference from the American model where policy and politics are fused into the single institution of the White House.
PCO is located in the Langevin Block of the Parliament buildings and surrounding buildings in downtown Ottawa.
Privy Council Office (http://www.pco-bcp.gc.ca)