Federal program evaluation has been a central force in defining the history of evaluation activities in Canada. This article reviews the key policy issues that underlie federal program evaluation by analyzing the historical context within which the federal evaluation function evolved. Because federal evaluation has been linked to a perceived need for accountability, and because evaluation has been expected to play an important role in the policy making, planning, and budgeting of the government (McQueen, 1992), a key issue in the history of program evaluation in Canada is outcome promise versus performance. The authors identify and discuss factors that shaped the practice of federal program evaluation, such as federal policy issues, political actors, organizational structures, and political and governmental changes, in order to generate a more complete understanding of the current state of program evaluation and its future within the federal government.