A federal order-in-council is a statutory instrument by which the governor general (the executive power of the governor-in-council), acting on the advice and consent of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, expresses a decision. In practice, orders-in-council are drafted by Cabinet and formally approved by the governor general. Orders-in-council are not discussed by Parliament, and do not require legislation by Parliament, before being implemented.
In some cases, orders-in-council are notices of federal appointments or regulations. Others are legislative orders, forming part of the law and enforceable by the courts. Most legislative orders are made under authority expressly conferred by an Act (Statute) of Parliament. Acts are often cast in general terms and empower the governor general to make regulations to carry out the intent of the legislation.
Provincial orders-in-council - orders of the lieutenant-governor-in-councils - are similar to federal orders-in council. At a provincial level, the lieutenant-governor possesses all the formal, prerogative and discretionary powers exercised by the monarch or the governor general. These include the duty to assent to (or withhold assent from) provincial legislation and orders-in-council.