In Canada, a deputy minister is the senior civil servant in a government department. He or she takes political direction from an appointed minister of the Crown. Responsibility for the department's day-to-day operations, budget, and program development lie with the deputy minister. The deputy minister is the functional head of the department in question, while the minister is the department's political master. Deputy ministers serve at the pleasure of the Governor General-in-Council and can sometimes lose their positions as a result of a change of the party in power, particularly if they are seen as too closely identified with the policies of the previous government. This should not be confused with the position of Deputy Prime Minister of Canada, who is not a deputy minister at all, but a politician and senior member of the Cabinet.
The Canadian position of deputy minister is equivalent to the British position of permanent secretary and the Australian position of departmental secretary.
Associate deputy ministers are deputy ministers in waiting, often assigned to a specific project or initiative pending appointment to lead a department. Assistant deputy ministers are operational positions, usually carrying responsibility for particular functions or budgets with a department.
The most senior deputy minister in the federal government is the Clerk of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, who is also deputy minister to the Prime Minister of Canada. In the provinces and territories, the position fulfills a similar function as the most senior public servant and is called the cabinet secretary or clerk of the executive council. The Australian equivalent is the secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the British equivalent is the Cabinet secretary. This person, along with their staff, typically develops agendas for regular Cabinet meetings, reconciles differences between departments, guides major policy initiatives, and coordinates the appointments of departmental heads. The position reports directly to the relevant prime minister and is typically among the most seasoned, influential, and low profile of public servants.
There are several individuals who have deputy minister rank and are known by other titles, such as president of an agency or crown corporation, secretary, commissioner, or superintendent.
Provincial governments also have deputy ministers who serve the same function as their federal counterparts.
In French texts and within the province of Quebec, the equivalent title is "sous-ministre".