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Jonathan Craft

Today’s large, well-resourced and specialized minister’s office is a major departure from the initial workings of Canada’s system of government. This chapter outlines the pertinent Canadian institutional context as well as the catalysts for the evolving nature of its political arm of government. A functional approach to understanding advisers’ policy work is presented with a focus on its advisory and non-advisory dimensions. Updated empirics are provided covering the prime minister’s office and ministers’ office advisers which underscore the contingent and relational nature of advisers’ influence. Advisers’ capabilities, ministerial expectations regarding their roles, and the ability of advisers to access and lever the resources held by others are all crucial to their impact within the core executive. Taking up the call for a second wave of advisers’ research, the unique opportunities advisers’ work creates for policy learning and failure avoidance is identified, as is the need for greater attention to the instruments with which advisers do their work.

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Jonathan Craft and Michael Howlett

Most studies of policy formulation focus on the nature and kind of advice provided to decision-makers and think of this as originating from a system of interacting elements: a ‘policy advisory system’. Policy influence in such models has historically been viewed as based on considerations of the proximate location of policy advisors vis-à-vis the government, linked to related factors such as the extent to which governments are able to control sources of advice. While not explicitly stated, this approach typically presents the content of policy advice as either partisan ‘political’ or administratively ‘technical’ in nature. The chapter assesses the merits of these locational models against evidence of shifts in governance arrangements that have blurred both the inside versus outside and technical versus political dimensions of policy formulation environments. The authors argue that the growing plurality of advisory sources and the polycentrism associated with these governance shifts challenge the utility of both the implied content and locational dimensions of traditional models of policy advice systems. A revised approach is advanced that sees influence more as a product of content than location. The authors conclude by raising several hypotheses for future research linking advisory system behaviour to governance arrangements.

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Jonathan Craft and Michael Howlett

The concept of ‘policy advisory systems’ was introduced by Halligan in 1995 as a way to characterize and analyse the multiple sources of policy advice utilized by governments in policy-making processes. The concept has proved useful and has influenced thinking about both the nature of policy work in different advisory venues, as well as how these systems work and change over time. The chapter sets out existing models of policy advisory systems based on Halligan’s original thinking on the subject which emphasize the significance of location or proximity to authoritative decision-makers as a key facet of advisory system influence. It assesses how advisory systems have changed as a result of the dual effects of the increased use of external consultants and other sources of advice – ‘externalization’ – and the increased use of partisan-political advice inside government itself – ‘politicization’. It is argued that these twin dynamics have blurred traditionally sharp distinctions between both the content of inside and outside sources of advice and between the technical and political dimensions of policy formulation, ultimately affecting where influence in advisory systems lies.