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Breaking the Bargain

Breaking the Bargain: Public Servants, Ministers, and Parliament

Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Breaking the Bargain
    Book Description:

    InBreaking the Bargain, Donald J. Savoie reveals how the traditional deal struck between politicians and career officials that underpins the workings of our national political and administrative process is today being challenged.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-5722-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. 1 Introduction: The Bargain Then and Now
    (pp. 3-20)

    This book explores the territory between elected and permanent government officials – a kind of no man’s land. To be sure, this territory has been visited before, but it remains disputed terrain, not least because the role of bureaucracy within democracy has never been properly defined.¹ It is expected to be both independent and subordinate to elected officials and, as well, politically sensitive but not politicized. Thus the territory is fraught with uncertainty, if not pitfalls.

    On the face of it, the theory on bureaucracy and democracy is quite straightforward: the civil service in a parliamentary system based on the...

  6. Part One: Foundations

    • 2 Creating a Non-partisan Civil Service
      (pp. 23-39)

      When Lord Durham visited the British North American colonies in the late 1830s to review the political impasse between Upper and Lower Canada, he witnessed at first hand the sorry state of the civil services of the two Canadas, and he did not mince words in passing judgment on their capacity. He discovered ‘a most disheartening scene of administrative incompetence.’¹ He in fact discovered two civil services that neither were civil nor constituted much of a service, and permanence would become a central feature of the civil service only in the next century.² At the time of his visit the...

    • 3 The Traditional Bargain
      (pp. 40-61)

      The Fathers of Confederation embraced the British constitution as the model to guide Canada’s political development, and the British North America Act (BNA) of 1867 was British in spirit and design. The goal was to write as little as possible in the constitution and to establish representative democracies for the national and provincial governments based on parliamentary principles. The British constitution is to a large extent the product of various historical events from the Magna Carta (1215) to the development of political parties in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Accordingly, it is made up of statute law, common law, and...

    • 4 Life in the Village
      (pp. 62-80)

      There was a golden age when the Canadian civil service was held in high esteem and its work was much valued by politicians and the public. It was known for its frugality, its professionalism, its loyalty to the government, and its capacity to serve without drawing attention to itself. Senior career officials also had a well-honed capacity to work with ministers. Indeed, one rarely heard criticism from either side about the other. The environment was ideally suited for the traditional bargain to flourish. Ministers knew that they were in charge, and they welcomed the advice of the senior mandarins. Senior...

  7. Part Two: Code Red, 1980s and 1990s

    • 5 Diagnosing the Patient
      (pp. 83-102)

      In chapter 4, we saw that many politicians by the 1980s were giving up on the public service and on its traditional bargain with politicians. Given this state of affairs, how was the patient diagnosed? Better yet, who was the patient? How did the caregivers decide? Did they try to bring the patient back to life? Why were many politicians willing to break the traditional bargain that had served them so well over the years? What has actually changed?

      As we saw above, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that public confidence in government institutions has dropped in many...

    • 6 Looking Elsewhere for Policy Advice
      (pp. 103-131)

      Anglo-American political leaders came to the conclusion that the civil service lacked the ability or the willingness to provide sound and unbiased policy advice, that it had its own agenda, and that they could never secure the kind of advice that they wanted to ensure that the public sector could or would actually change course.¹ For these reasons, they were no longer prepared to play by the old rules. The search was on for a new approach, one that would produce responsive rather than neutral competence. As far back as 1956, Herbert Kaufman had defined neutral competence as the ‘ability...

    • 7 Deputy Ministers and Management
      (pp. 132-168)

      When appearing before the House of Commons Standing Committee on External Affairs and International Trade, de Montigny Marchand, then under-secretary of state for external affairs, explained his lack of attention to ‘paper trails.’ He declared: ‘I was running the war for External Affairs. I was in charge of the Gulf crisis. Twice a day, I was meeting with senior officials in meetings chaired by Mr. Tellier [clerk of the Privy Council].’¹ Marchand’s point was that in attending to a crisis he had had little time to deal with less urgent matters. Crises, real, perceived or pending, are more common than...

  8. Part Three: Reconfiguring the Pieces

    • 8 Parliamentarians, Ministers, and Public Servants
      (pp. 171-205)

      The worlds of politics and bureaucracy are so different that one wonders how the two could possibly learn to work with one another. Politics is, by definition, bottom-up, with all voters having one vote. Its boundaries are defined by geography, by a constituency with community and regional interests to promote. All politicians, particularly in Canada, view things through regional or territorial lenses and look to the democratic process for guidance and a verdict on their performance. This is a world shaped by images and by ten- or fifteen-second linear bursts of bombast on television or in question period. As many...

    • 9 Reshaping the Bargain
      (pp. 206-244)

      The world of politics and public service in Canada has changed dramatically since it first took form. At Confederation, Canada had little bureaucracy. Today there is a large bureaucracy with several federal departments and agencies bigger than large Canadian towns. Many people believe that the bureaucracy has become too powerful; others suspect that it is often ineffective; still others insist that it is misunderstood.

      In the early part of the twentieth century, much of government business consisted of dispensing patronage. Today, the role of government extends to virtually every aspect of economic and social policies. Thirty years ago, career officials...

    • 10 Redefining Accountability
      (pp. 245-284)

      Canada’s national government uses hierarchically defined lines of command and control designed to address policy issues and to deliver programs and services through compartmentalized administrative structures. Everything comes together at the political level at the top in ministerial offices, cabinet and in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). Central agencies meanwhile provide the link between the civil service and politicians as well as support and advice to the prime minister, cabinet, and its committees.

      The notion of establishing what we today termspaceandboundariesto define responsibilities was evident everywhere as Canada’s national political and administrative institutions took form. Ministerial...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 285-326)
  10. Index
    (pp. 327-337)