Order-in-council, at the federal level, is an order of the GOVERNOR GENERAL by and with the advice and consent of the Queen's PRIVY COUNCIL for Canada. In fact, it is formulated by CABINET or a committee of Cabinet and formally approved by the governor general. Some orders simply make appointments. About a third are legislative, forming part of the law and enforceable by the courts. Most legislative orders are made under authority expressly conferred by ACT of Parliament. With the expansion of state activity in recent decades (public ownership, state regulation of industry, social security), it has become impossible for Parliament to legislate directly and in detail to meet complex and varying problems, and more and more Acts are cast in general terms and empower the governor-in-council to make regulations to carry out the intent of the legislation.

Such regulations on, for example, unemployment insurance, fisheries and aeronautics, now form an enormous part of our law (see REGULATORY PROCESS). They are called "subordinate legislation" because they are made by the governor-in-council, subordinate to Parliament, and are subordinate to, and limited by, the Act which authorizes them. A few legislative orders are based on royal prerogative (the relatively small remainder of the SOVEREIGN's ancient lawmaking power) but are limited by the content of the particular prerogative which confers the power to make them (see ADMINISTRATIVE LAW). Provincial orders-in-council - orders of the lieutenant-governor-in-councils - are similar to federal ones.