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Service Canada is part of a Government of Canada-wide service transformation initiative aimed at responding to Canadians' expressed desire for better, more responsive, less cluttered service from Canadian governments. The initiative seeks to do this by improving the design and delivery of government programs and services to Canadians.
Service Canada officially began operations on September 14, 2005 with a mandate to provide Canadians with a single point of access to a wide range of government services and benefits either in person, by phone, by Internet, or by mail. Service Canada's origins, however, date back to 1998 when the Government of Canada began developing an integrated citizen-centred service strategy based on detailed surveys of citizens' needs and expectations. In addition, it currently has well over 600 in-person offices  and over 200 mobile outreach service units that operate in remote and isolated areas.
As of May 2007, Service Canada has partnered with over 14 other departments and agencies to provide access to more than 50 government programs and services. It also had established close to 500 points of service across Canada – many of which are outreach and mobile offices designed to deliver programs and services into rural and remote areas (see above).
These numbers are growing, as the ultimate goal is to provide Canadians with a single point of access to all government programs and services regardless of where they live or how they wish to interact with the government.
Similar initiatives to Service Canada are well-established in many Canadian provinces jurisdictions across Canada, the first being Service New Brunswick (SNB). The goal of delivering citizen-centred service has also been embraced by most developed countries around the world for several years – with Canada consistently ranked as a leader in the field by consulting firms such as Accenture.
Service Canada is currently a part of the Employment and Social Development Canada (formerly Human Resources and Skills Development Canada) portfolio, which includes Service Canada, Employment and Social Development Canada and Labour Canada. The portfolio is the Government of Canada's major provider of social programs, services and benefits, and is a key player in the development of the full range of social policies at the federal level.
Service Canada announced in fall 2005 that it was subcontracting some of its service delivery to SNB, the first public sector multi-service agency in Canada; this is believed to be a precedent whereby a provincial agency was contracted to deliver a federal service.