Civil Service Systems in Comparative Perspective series
Edited by John Halligan
Chapter 6: The Canadian public service: balancing values and management
O.P. Dwivedi and John Halligan Canada is perhaps the most enigmatic of the Anglo-American systems. The public service system reflects both the Westminster tradition and the influence of the neighbouring United States. Yet the country’s administrative tradition and its public service remain distinctively Canadian. In terms of reform, two features are well established. First, there is the innovative, creative developmental quality that has produced many influential experiments over the decades and a willingness to appropriate reforms from elsewhere. The second feature is the lack of assurance when it comes to implementing these initiatives. This suggests two related paradoxes: Canada was the first to explore management reform but was slow to incorporate and institutionalise it, and in some respects the public service remained unmanagerialised; second, despite having never fully embraced managerialism, the Canadian public service exhibits many standard management features and has experienced the tensions and conflicts produced by attempts to change the administrative culture. The Canadian reform pathway has been one of evolution and incremental change rather than systemic reform. Canada might be seen to be better placed by virtue of having avoided the more extreme experiments in the Westminster family, but has it found a middle ground that offers an effective merger of old and new? We find observers lamenting either the lost management opportunities and the failure to commit politically (Aucoin 1995) or the influence of management values superimposed on durable traditional principles (Dwivedi and Gow 1999). This chapter examines the defining characteristics of the Canadian public service...
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