The department functions as the government's contract authority, banker and accountant, telecommunications and information specialist, standards developer, and agent for strategic advice management and architectural and engineering services for real property. It constructs and maintains buildings and facilities as diverse as remote nursing stations, downtown office complexes, small craft harbours and scenic highways. Public Works is responsible for negotiating and administering grants in lieu of property taxes to municipalities in which federally owned properties are located. In 1985 a major program to dispose of surplus lands and buildings was launched. The department also administers all expropriation activities of the federal government and is responsible for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the National Capital Commission and the Canada Communication Group.
The department's associated Special Operating Agencies supply such services as translation, interpretation and terminology; consulting and auditing; and printing and publishing on an optional fee-for-service basis.