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Searching for Leadership

Searching for Leadership: Secretaries to Cabinet in Canada

  • Book Info
    Searching for Leadership
    Book Description:

    The first book to examine the evolving role and leadership of the highest-ranking public servant in Ottawa or in any of Canada's Provinces and Territories, the Secretary to Cabinet, or the "Clerk."

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8909-1
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
    Patrice Dutil
  4. Contributors
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-10)

    I first heard about the ‘clerk of the Privy Council’ as an undergraduate in Jack Granatstein’s history class at York University in the early 1980s. At the time, he was knee-deep in writing his biography of Norman Robertson (who was clerk and secretary to cabinet from 1949 to 1952), and it often seemed – listening to Granatstein’s memorably enthusiastic lectures – as though everything in Canada seemed to go across the clerk’s desk, awaiting his judgment and directives.

    Granatstein’s chapter on Robertson and his work in documenting the work of various other clerks inThe Ottawa Men: The Civil Service Mandarins, 1935...


    • 1 Searching for Leadership
      (pp. 13-40)

      The concept of leadership is not often associated with executives in the public service of Canada. No books focus on the topic; a survey of the key textbooks in public administration shows that their authors have likewise avoided it; and, as evidenced in the scholarly quarterlies, research in the area is sparse. The public service has not done much better. While many senior executives give ample lip service to the idea that ‘leadership’ is an idea that needs to be promoted (and in some cases have actually created offices dedicated to ‘leadership’), their efforts have done little more than puzzle...

    • 2 Clerks and Secretaries to Cabinet: Anatomy of Leadership
      (pp. 41-82)

      Examining the leadership of the clerk of the Privy Council and secretary to cabinet either in the government of Canada or in the provinces is a daunting task. This is so, in part, because of the breadth and complexity of the role of the highest-ranking executive in the government. It is also because of the wide variety of circumstances each clerk or secretary faces. Michel Vastel captures the mystery of the position when he nicknames its holder the ‘mandarin of mandarins.’¹ This chapter examines the evolution of the responsibilities of the clerk, the organization of their office, their role as...


    • 3 Clerk as Révélateur: A Panoramic View
      (pp. 85-120)

      The way a socio-economy governs itself is defined by a composite of private, public, and social mechanisms, practices, norms, organizations, institutions, and regimes. This amalgam constitutes an ecology of governance: ‘many different systems and different kinds of systems interacting with one another, like the multiple organisms in an ecosystem.’¹ As W.T. Anderson suggests, such arrangements are not necessarily ‘neat, peaceful, stable or efficient ... but in a continual process of learning and changing and responding to feedback.’

      From the time it became a country, in 1867, Canada has had a variety of ecologies of governance. The relative importance, and the...

    • 4 Capacity, Complexity, and Leadership: Secretaries to Cabinet and Ontario’s Project of Modernization at the Centre
      (pp. 121-160)

      Ideas, institutions, and the structures that link them together are profoundly significant for the political management of the state. In the post-Second World War era, Keynesian-trained economists and policy analysts institutionalized a new state orthodoxy. The ideas of Keynes had legitimated state intervention and in doing so ‘shifted civil servants away from the more passive conception of their role towards a more active interest in planning.’¹ Since the 1970s and the formative work of the Committee on Government Productivity (COGP), through the deep recession of the 1990s and the consequent Ontario Public Service (OPS) Transformation Project, various initiatives to drive...

    • 5 The Secretary to the Cabinet in Saskatchewan: Evolution of the Role, 1944–2006
      (pp. 161-184)

      While much has been written about the history of the position of secretary to the cabinet, as well as the individuals who occupied it, at the federal level, relatively little is known about the evolution of the position in the provinces. This chapter reconstructs the evolution of the post of secretary to the cabinet in Saskatchewan since the Second World War. Its reference point is the secretary to the cabinet in the federal government because of the abundance of published information on the topic relative to provincial secretaries to the cabinet.¹ For this reason, it is useful to start with...


    • 6 ‘Super Diplomat and Super Expediter’: Wes Bolstad as Cabinet Secretary in Saskatchewan, 1973–9
      (pp. 187-203)

      Allan Blakeney’s New Democratic Party (NDP) government, in the 1970s, has earned its place in public-administration lore as one in a long series of innovative Saskatchewan governments.¹ This reputation is based on many factors, including a strong history of policy planning and effective recruitment into the senior ranks of the public service.² Yet, despite this reputation for both policy and bureaucratic innovation, there is virtually no discussion of the nature of the leadership role played by the public servants who helped bring about these innovations. Indeed, the innovations are seen to be a result of the instruments of management that...

    • 7 Leviathan Awakes: Harry Hobbs and the Rise of Alberta
      (pp. 204-221)

      The Alberta provincial election of August 1971 was a turning point in the province’s history. An urban, business-oriented Progressive Conservative Party with an energetic, youthful leader replaced an aging, ruralbased Social Credit government led by a farmer, Harry Strom. The new premier, Peter Lougheed, spoke to the concerns and interests of a new urban middle class. While Social Credit was focused on cooperatives and community, the Progressive Conservative government promoted an ideology of free markets and economic growth. The democratic ideals of earlier populist movements were replaced by a concern with rational decision making and corporate governance. An activist, pragmatic...

    • 8 Leadership and Province Building: Guy Coulombe in Quebec
      (pp. 222-236)

      While it is commonly agreed that the modern Quebec state was born after the death of Maurice Duplessis in 1959, little has been written about the public servants who helped make it happen. The Quiet Revolution, which was set in motion by the Liberal government of Jean Lesage in 1960, has acquired such a mythical status that, forty years later, Quebec governments are reluctant to change its institutions. It is true that some of the most important institutions of the modern Quebec state were created during the 1960s, but it is also important to note that these institutions did not...

  9. Conclusion: The Options and Futures of Secretaries to Cabinet
    (pp. 237-242)

    Secretaries to cabinet seldom make the news much less provide entertainment, but there was a moment in the 1980s when British television viewers were introduced to the role in the form of Sir Humphrey Appleby in the BBC comedy seriesYes, Prime Minister. Sir Humphrey’s mastery of convention, habits, customs, and traditions was deployed to confuse endlessly the prime minister. The prime minister, Jim Hacker, in turn tried his best every week to outwit the secretary, mostly in vain. In one notable episode (‘The Key’), however, Hacker suddenly realized that the secretary to cabinet had too much power and access...

  10. Appendix: Secretaries to Cabinet, Clerks, and Deputy Ministers
    (pp. 243-250)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 251-251)