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Executive Styles in Canada

Executive Styles in Canada: Cabinet Structures and Leadership Practices in Canadian Government

Luc Bernier
Keith Brownsey
Michael Howlett
  • Book Info
    Executive Styles in Canada
    Book Description:

    Canada's political regime is centred on the existence of a federal system of government within the institutions of Westminster parliamentary democracy. This system places a great deal of political power in the hands of cabinet ministers, and while cabinet systems of government in Canada have evolved at different speeds in different federal and provincial governments, they have, over the last two decades, increased centralization of administrative and legislative control in ever fewer hands.

    This shift has been well demonstrated by scholars such as Donald J. Savoie regarding the federal system, but little examined in the context of provincial governance.Executive Styles in Canadaplaces equal emphasis on both levels, explaining how and in what way cabinet systems have conformed to or diverged from this general pattern. This unique collection is the only systematic, cross-provincial study of its kind, and is certain to be of great benefit to anyone interested in the structure of government in Canada.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7470-7
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Luc Bernier, Keith Brownsey and Michael Howlett
  6. Part I – Introduction

    • Chapter 1 Modern Canadian Governance: Political-Administrative Styles and Executive Organization in Canada
      (pp. 3-14)

      Governments around the world change all the time. However, some aspects of government behaviour have proven more resistant to change than others. In western liberal democracies, for example, key aspects of the political regime, and especially the relationship between senior politicians and senior administrators, tend to change very slowly.¹ Even these quasi-permanent features of political-administrative relationships, however, do change from time to time, often with momentous consequences for the way the business of government is conducted.²

      Recently, just such a claim has been made by Donald Savoie and Christopher Dunn, two leading experts on executive government in Canada at the...

  7. Part II – The Federal Cabinet

    • Chapter 2 The Federal Government: Revisiting Court Government in Canada
      (pp. 17-44)

      In 1999 I published a paper, ’The Rise of Court Government in Canada,’ and made the case that political power within the government of Canada was increasingly being centralized in the hands of the prime minister and a small group of carefully selected courtiers. These included key advisers in his office, two or three senior cabinet ministers, carefully selected lobbyists, pollsters, and other friends in court, and a handful of senior career officials. Not much has actually changed in the machinery of government since 1999. Like tigers that do not easily part with their stripes, those who hold effective political...

  8. Part III – Provincial Cabinets

    • Chapter 3 The Persistence of the Institutionalized Cabinet: The Central Executive in Newfoundland and Labrador
      (pp. 47-74)

      Much recent discussion of cabinet design in Canada has focused around the patterns identified as the unaided cabinet on the one hand, and institutionalized cabinet on the other. The literature is now starting to maintain that a new model has been apparent, called the ’prime minister-centred cabinet.’ The prime minister-centred cabinet does not exist in Newfoundland and Labrador, where the institutionalized cabinet has persisted for over thirty years. Three decades of the same model in Newfoundland, when other provinces have experimented with a variety of designs, certainly deserves explanation.

      There have been three public services in Newfoundland. The first public...

    • Chapter 4 Governing from the Centre in New Brunswick
      (pp. 75-90)

      Interest in the role of premier or prime minister and cabinet in Canada, along with their politico-bureaucratic support structures, seems to have reached a peak in the early years of the twentieth-first century. We can only speculate whether this development is just a fad, or a more profound development that reflects a new or enhanced role being fulfilled by the executive branch. There have been previous flurries of interest with the role of the prime minister, cabinet, and support structures such as that during the 1970s.¹ Much of that interest concerned the executive’s role in the policy process in terms...

    • Chapter 5 Premierial Governance: The System of Executive Power in Nova Scotia
      (pp. 91-110)

      Does the government of Nova Scotia possess a distinct administrative style? How are we to best characterize the nature and working of the system of executive governance in Nova Scotia? Has this province been witness to a centralization of power within the senior echelons of its government in a manner similar to what has been happening in Ottawa in recent decades? Have we been observing the rise of a Bluenose ’premierial’ style of government that borrows from and is derived from the dynamic of ’prime ministerial’ government now found in Ottawa?

      These are just a few of the basic questions...

    • Chapter 6 The Executive Administrative Style in Prince Edward Island: Managerial and Spoils Politics
      (pp. 111-130)

      Prince Edward Island’s executive administrative style is driven primarily by socio-political rather than legal-institutional factors. Three interrelated aspects of this small province colour the choices and establish the constraints of provincial cabinet: the effects of small scale, in terms of geographic size and particularly population; the relative importance of federal government financial support; and a conservative island political culture that competes primarily over spoils rather than public policy.

      The conceptual outcome of these three spheres of analysis is that neo-institutional interpretations have weak explanatory powers, and, despite an incremental modernization of the island’s government, much of the executive’s administrative style...

    • Chapter 7 Who Governs in Quebec? Revolving Premiers and Reforms
      (pp. 131-154)

      Who governs? In the Canadian tradition, the answer is supposed to be the cabinet. As has been suggested by other authors in this volume, this cabinet has in many jurisdictions in Canada been successively traditional, departmentalized, institutionalized and could be now ’post-institutionalized.’ Not all provinces have completed this full cycle of development, however, and have not achieved a full measure of increased autonomy of the executive from the legislature. There are several reasons for these differences. Compared to the federal government Savoie has studied, for example, one would presume that provincial governments are easier to govern from the centre because...

    • Chapter 8 Politics, Personality, and History in Ontario’s Administrative Style
      (pp. 155-170)

      In June 1995 Mike Harris led his Progressive Conservative party out of the political hinterlands to claim victory in Ontario’s thirty-seventh general election. Shortly after, the new premier introduced a number of radical changes to the structure and process of the Ontario government, most visibly a number aimed at the province’s cabinet decision-making machinery. These included the elimination of the cabinet policy committee system in place since the early 1970s, the abolition of one of two financial decision-making bodies, and a massive reduction in central agency resources. Nine months later, in May 1996, the premier began to reinstitutionalize the cabinet...

    • Chapter 9 Cabinet Structure and Executive Style in Manitoba
      (pp. 171-183)

      On 21 September 1999, Manitobans elected the New Democratic party (NDP) led by Gary Doer, a signal perhaps that voters were ready for a change.¹ Indeed, since 1988 Manitoba had been governed by the Progressive Conservative party under the leadership of Gary Filmon. Just prior to the election, however, some political observers were questioning whether the NDP government would be any different from its predecessor. As one analyst pointed out, social democratic political parties around the world were increasingly ’coming to terms with the political reality’ that to be elected, a pragmatic, turn-to-the-right politics was a necessity. Furthermore, the NDP’s...

    • Chapter 10 Saskatchewan’s Executive Decision-Making Style: The Centrality of Planning
      (pp. 184-207)

      Saskatchewan was the first province in Canada to create a system of cabinet committees supported by central agencies and departments – a development for which Christopher Dunn coined the term ’institutionalized cabinet.’¹ In so doing, Saskatachewan paralleled developments at the federal level at roughly the same time and for the same basic reason – to facilitate government planning on a major scale. In the case of the federal government, planning was essential to the war effort in the 1940s.² In the case of Saskatchewan, planning was a necessary complement to an ambitious agenda of social change as befitted the first democratically elected...

    • Chapter 11 The Post-Institutionalized Cabinet: The Administrative Style of Alberta
      (pp. 208-224)

      Alberta political life has been shaped by a premier-centred politics. This style of governance and politics emerged in the first decade after Alberta became a province in 1905 and was reinforced by later events. While certain features have been adapted to meet the particular requirements of the current premier and government, this style of governance remains in place to the present day.

      Alberta’s premier-centred governance style can be divided into four periods. The first began with the ceding of the Hudson’s Bay Company territory in the northwest to the Dominion of Canada in 1869. The governance of the territories and...

    • Chapter 12 The West Annex: Executive Structure and Administrative Style in British Columbia
      (pp. 225-242)

      A provincial bureaucracy is not a monolithic institution, and any attempt to define its administrative style must acknowledge the defining influences of both place and time. The public service of British Columbia is composed of a wide range of institutional structures, from traditional ministries headed by a cabinet minister to more autonomous Crown corporations and various boards and agencies. All these components have their own institutional histories, internal function-related demands, size-related managerial issues, and contextual influences of their own policy networks of organized interests that help shape their routine and administrative style. They are not static entities. Changing social, economic,...

  9. Part IV – Conclusion

    • Chapter 13 Conclusion: Executive Institutional Development in Canada’s Provinces
      (pp. 245-250)

      This book has investigated a particular aspect of the Canadian political-administrative style, that is, the relatively long-term relationship existing between the institutions and behaviour of government at the provincial level. While chapters in the book provided a general overview of the development of executive agencies and governments in each of Canada’s eleven major jurisdictions, and addressed the ten major questions set out in Chapter 1, each author has focused upon the nature of the style of executive government of one jurisdiction in this country and how it has changed over time.

      The authors discovered that the dominant role of the...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 251-280)
  11. Contributors
    (pp. 281-282)