Agency definition

The term public agency is defined in both the Public Agencies Governance Framework and the Alberta Public Agencies Governance Act.

Government policy and legislation

A board, commission, tribunal or other organization is defined as a public agency if it meets criteria outlined in the Public Agencies Governance Framework or the Alberta Public Agencies Governance Act (APAGA).

The governance practices required by the APAGA apply to all public agencies that meet the definition set out in sections 1(1)(i), 1(4) and 1(5) of the APAGA.

The policies in the Public Agencies Governance Framework (Framework) (0.3 MB) apply to all public agencies that meet the following definition.

Agency Definition

The Framework defines an agency as a board, commission, tribunal or other organization:

  • established by government but not part of a government department;
  • that has been given responsibility to perform a public function;
  • that is accountable to government;
  • that has some degree of autonomy from government; and
  • for which the government holds the primary power of appointment.

Criteria and application

Criteria: Established by government but not part of a government department

Application: The government creates agencies to conduct work — whether it is a new function or one previously conducted by government — outside of regular department structures.  Agencies report directly to the minister and are most often established through legislation.

Criteria: Given responsibility to perform a public function

Application: Agencies are created for the benefit of Albertans. The outcome of agency efforts is the public good, whether the agency interacts directly or indirectly with the individuals who benefit.

Criteria: Accountable to government

Application: Agencies are charged with accomplishing a specific purpose. Part of accepting this mandate includes being accountable to report on their performance and to operate within the bounds of their legislation. The method and frequency of reporting can vary depending on the type of agency and its mandate.

Criteria: Autonomous to some degree from government

Application: Agencies are created outside of the traditional government structures to allow some level of autonomy. The amount of autonomy will vary according to function, mandate and structure. Adjudicative agencies, for example, require freedom from government interference in their decisions but remain accountable to government to work within their mandate.

Criteria: Primary power of appointment held by government

Application: Agencies are governed by directors who are appointed by the government to act in the best interest of the agency. In many cases, the agency plays a large role in finding directors, and in some cases, the government appoints people nominated by a stakeholder group.

The following are not considered agencies for the purposes of the Framework:

  • entities whose members are elected directly by Albertans (e.g. municipal councils and school boards)
  • short-term, ad-hoc groups that deal with a specific issue and which exist for 12 or fewer months
  • delegated administrative organizations (e.g. Alberta Conservation Association)
  • the judiciary
  • self-regulated professional associations (e.g. College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta)

Relationship to other definitions/applications

The Framework's and the APAGA’s definitions of a public agency do not interfere with other similar definitions currently in use by the Government of Alberta. For example, the Financial Administration Act's definitions of crown-controlled agencies, provincial agencies, provincial committees, provincial corporations and regulated funds still apply within the context of that Act.

Note that the Framework or the APAGA should not be construed to interfere with the principles of judicial independence and administrative law that are essential to the function of quasi-judicial public agencies. The Framework's definition of a public agency has no relationship to the term "agent of the crown".