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The Guardian

The Guardian: Perspectives on the Ministry of Finance of Ontario

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 400
  • Book Info
    The Guardian
    Book Description:

    The Guardianfills a significant gap in public administration literature and in so doing describes how Ontario's Ministry of Finance defined its role as 'guardian.'

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-9426-2
    Subjects: History, Finance, 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-2)
    Patrice Dutil
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-10)

    Visitors to Toronto often make a visit to Queen’s Park, a charming expanse of downtown greenery where joggers hurry past sunbathers in the summer and cross-country skiers desperate for stretches of snow congregate in the winter. In the middle of Queen’s Park stands the Ontario legislative building, affectionately nicknamed the ‘pink palace’ in reference to the rose-coloured granite that dominates its exterior. Surrounding the Legislature is a necklace of illustrious politicians immortalized in bronze and, of course, Queen Victoria, in whose honour the park was named. Visitors will notice a number of military monuments were also erected over the years...


    • 1 The House Frost Built: Institutional Change and the Department of Treasury, 1943–1961
      (pp. 13-36)

      On an August day in 1954, various provincial dignitaries gathered on Grosvenor Street, just a few steps from Queen’s Park in Toronto, to watch the ‘Prime Minister of Ontario’ touch the cornerstone of what would eventually be the new home of the Treasury department. By his side were William Griesinger, the minister of public works, and Chester Walters, the deputy treasurer. Leslie Frost, often referred to as ‘old man Ontario,’ had blessed an uncommonly contemporary design for this office block. It was austere and functional, smoothly sheathed in stone and dominated by large windows. The ultra-modern building was in sharp...

    • 2 From ‘Treasury’ to ‘Finance’: The Anatomy of a Guardian, 1961–2001
      (pp. 37-73)

      Established at Confederation as the ‘Treasury’ of Ontario, the department of finance had its organizational development shaped by the demands of governments of all stripes and of over thirty ‘treasurers’ or ‘ministers.’ The concern was to ensure that that the bureaucracy was organized to deliver on the government’s concerns, plans, and visions. The evolution of Leslie Frost’s ‘Treasury’ to the ‘Ministry of Finance’ of the early twenty-first century reveals how the administration’s mandate was perceived and how the government of Ontario’s general bureaucracy was understood to function. During the forty years under study in this book, there was significant growth...

    • 3 Priority Setters and Guardians: The Relationships between Premiers and Treasurers in Ontario, 1960–2001
      (pp. 74-106)
      JP LEWIS

      In his study of the budget process in the Government of Canada, David Good accented the growing role of a group he called the ‘priority setters.’ Good argued that the growing involvement of the prime minister and his staff in setting the broad direction of the budget was an important departure. In part, this was because the ‘priority setting’ has evolved into a year-long affair, not just the concern of a critical few weeks in early winter, as it had once been. Good’s work in this regard was original also in highlighting ‘the most important of all relationships,’ that of...


    • 4 Intergovernmental Guardians: Treasury’s Role in Setting the National Agenda, 1959–1967
      (pp. 109-130)
      P.E. BRYDEN

      There was a time, more than half a century ago now, when Canada’s civil service was among the best in the world, argued J.L. Granatstein in his important studyThe Ottawa Men.¹ Armed with educations from Oxford or the London School of Economics and a profound commitment to the Protestant work ethic, possessing the liberal inclinations that wrapped their icy logic in a thick veil of compassion for the underprivileged, this group of able men led Canada’s financial and external affairs departments through the Second World War and beyond. Their dominance was brief but significant: Canada established its reputation for...

    • 5 From Pragmatism to Neoliberalism: Ontario’s Hesitant Farewell to Dr Keynes
      (pp. 131-161)

      John Maynard Keynes came to Ontario on a number of occasions as he helped the British government navigate the deep waters of wartime financing. His destination was Ottawa, where he cajoled and convinced the Mackenzie King government that Canada had a duty and a stake in ensuring the financial health of the United Kingdom. Keynes even celebrated the 250th anniversary of the Bank of England with a sumptuous dinner at the Chateau Laurier in July 1944. The records do not show that he ever stayed in Toronto or met with Ontario government officials, but the influence of his thought certainly...

    • 6 Thoughts into Words: The Budget Speech, 1968–2003
      (pp. 162-205)

      The budget speech has consistently been the prime focus of the Ontario Treasury/Ministry of Finance. Today, dedicated staffs work year-round in preparing it and its new offspring, the ‘Fall Update.’ Countless hours are spent examining scenarios, pondering economic models, and injecting formulas with endless generations of data. Weeks are devoted to drafting the speech itself as the Frost buildings suddenly feature armed policemen mandated to ensure that the document’s secrecy is not violated. The media and community experts are invited to special ‘lockups’ on the afternoon of the budget, and given a detailed briefing on the features of the document...

    • 7 The Ontario Ministry of Finance as an Exception in Canadian Public Administration
      (pp. 206-226)

      Examined from a broad historical perspective, the state’s responsibilities in Western societies were for a long time limited almost exclusively to maintaining order.¹ The great liberal philosopher Benjamin Constant (1767–1830) put it bluntly: ‘Legislation, like the government, has only two purposes: first, to prevent internal disorder, and second, to repel foreign invaders.’² Police forces guaranteed social peace; courts settled legal disputes, the army protected the nation from outside threats. In addition, diplomatic responsibilities for the state in representing the ‘people’ to others were assumed, while economic functions were limited to issuing currency and collecting taxes.

      Starting in the nineteenth...


    • 8 Coping with Complexity: Innovation and Resistance in Crafting the Expenditure Budget, 1961–1985
      (pp. 229-256)

      As the Robarts government assumed a broader range of responsibilities and deepened its impact on the provincial economy through its spending and its programs, the task of creating a budget became more demanding. The response came in three parts. First, budget responsibilities (especially around drafting the actual budget) were transferred from the Department of Economics and Intergovernmental Affairs. The second step was increasing and improving the bureaucracy’s capacity to understand economic trends and, just as important, to explain them to both politicians and to itself. It was not just a question of hiring the right individuals, however. With new people...

    • 9 Budget Making in the Ontario Ministry of Finance, 1985–2000
      (pp. 257-286)

      Provincial government fiscal planning has evolved over time, influenced by a variety of factors including economic conditions, budgeting philosophy, political expediency and ideological direction, coercive pressure from financial markets, public and ministerial requests for new programs and policy initiatives, and changes in accounting policy. Prior to 1960, Ontario generally followed the principle of balanced annual budgets and pay-as-you-go capital financing. As such, the government’s annual budget was described as a form of ‘accounting exercise,’ providing details about the allocation of government resources to particular programs, balanced by the associated tax revenues necessary to fund these programs. This budgeting philosophy downplayed...

    • 10 ‘Guardian’ as ‘Spender’: Infrastructure Investment, 1960–2005
      (pp. 287-319)

      This chapter explores the trends and drivers of infrastructure expenditures conducted by the Ontario Ministry of Finance in the latter half of the twentieth century. According to the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants the term ‘infrastructure’ can be defined as any non-financial asset having physical substance that is acquired, constructed, or developed, and (1) is held for use in the production or supply of goods and services; (2) has a useful life extending beyond an accounting period and is intended to be used on a continuing basis; and (3) is not intended for sale in the ordinary course of operations...

    • 11 Guardians in Check: The Impact of Health Care on the Ontario Budget, 1960–2004
      (pp. 320-350)

      At the height of his career, Aaron Wildavsky, the undisputed American dean of public-sector financial management studies, published an article inCanadian Public Administrationon the topic of ‘spending limits’ in American and Canadian budgeting.⁴ Voicing his frustration with the inability of governments to curb spending, Wildavsky probed both systems for clues as to why public sectors in both countries proved unable to withstand the demands on the public purse. In his vain search for an explanation, he examined a number of factors, ranging from efforts to install program-based budgeting systems to political inertia. Twenty-five years later, and fifteen years...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 351-360)

    The evolution of public administration can be grasped through a number of methods. One of them examines how public service organizations are shaped by politicians in order to better deliver on the services the government of the day has promised. Another strategy is to examine how structural change is brought about by slower-evolving external forces such as socio-economic transformations, cultural changes, and ideological shifts. In cases such as these, scholars typically like to examine business plans, internal memoranda, annual reports, and program evaluations. A third strategy is to consider public administration through the eyes of the public servants themselves. In...

  9. Contributors
    (pp. 361-364)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 365-365)