Government of Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

When to capitalize government

Question:

When should the word government be capitalized?

Answer:

This is a tricky question that can cause even a good writer to pause. While the rules vary from source to source, The Canadian Style can help you sort out your capitalization quandaries. Here is a thumbnail reference of when and when not to capitalize government.

NEVER CAPITALIZE:

  1. Short forms of legal titles when used in a non-specific sense—government, Canadian government, federal government, provincial government, territorial government, etc.

    For example:

    • All levels of government provided funding for this initiative.
    • The Canadian government conducted a review of its communication management practices.
    • Should the federal government bail out the Canadian airline industry?
    • The management of mountain caribou in British Columbia is the responsibility of the provincial government.
    • The territorial government of Nunavut celebrated its first-year anniversary on April 1, 2000.
    • Possessives ('s and s') used with short forms of legal titles

    For example:

    • The Canadian government's new foreign policy statement supports sustainable development in developing countries.
    • The report reaffirms the provincial governments' commitment to post-secondary education.
    • The plural form—governments

    For example:

    • the governments of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia
    • Latin American governments
  2. Government when used as an adjective

    For example:

    • Note that government policy requires posting of all documents in French and English on its Web site.
  3. Government when used in a title that refers to a role rather than a person

    For example:

    • Many agreed with the government House leader on this issue.
    • As government House leader, Herb Gray introduced a number of motions.
  4. Government when preceded by a prime minister's name

    For example:

    • The Pearson government left a remarkable legacy.

ALWAYS CAPITALIZE:

  1. Legal titles—Government of Canada, Government of British Columbia, Government of Nunavut, etc.

    For example:

    • The Government of Canada has announced a surplus.
    • The management of mountain caribou is the responsibility of the Government of British Columbia.
    • The Government of Nunavut celebrated its first year anniversary on April 1, 2000.
  2. Government when it stands for the full legal title or refers to the political apparatus of a party in power

    For example:

    • The Government (i.e. Government of Canada) has adjourned for the summer.
    • The Liberal Government introduced this measure.
  3. Possessives ('s and s') when used with legal titles

    For example:

    • Technological innovation and technology transfer are two of the Government of Canada's core priorities.
  4. Government when used in titles of departments and positions

    For example:

    • Public Works and Government Services Canada
    • Government House Leader Don Boudria introduced a motion to establish a committee.
    • Don Boudria, Government House Leader, introduced a motion to establish a committee.

There you have it, a list of dos and don'ts for capitalizing government.