International Handbook of Public Management Reform
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International Handbook of Public Management Reform

Edited by Shaun Goldfinch and Joe L. Wallis

This major Handbook provides a state-of-the-art study of the recent history and future development of international public management reform.
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Chapter 11: The Challenge of Renewing Governance in Canada

Stephen Tomblin


Stephen Tomblin Canada is federal system, containing ten provinces and three territories, with a written constitution, and considerable decentralized power. A constitutional monarchy, it exhibits the characteristics of a Westminster system, with an elected House of Representatives, an appointed Senate, a Prime Minister-led Cabinet and conventions of ministerial responsibility. Since the 1990s Canada has faced a number of new policy and public policy challenges. With globalization, declining citizen trust, a national unity crisis and increasing public debt, there has been pressure by critics to rethink state–society relationships and values. However, partly constrained by the demands of its decentralized federalism and strong institutional limits, it has lacked the widespread NPM-inspired and other public sector reform found in the ‘sister’ Westminster systems of the UK, Australia and New Zealand. Indeed, while other countries are responding by developing more cohesive national policies and frameworks, provincial and the national governments in Canada have failed to either achieve a consensus, or co-ordinate policy responses. It appears that in the Canadian political game, decentralization and incrementalism are more likely responses to new interdependent problems than ‘big bang’ changes. What sets Canada somewhat apart from other countries influenced by new public management (NPM), particularly New Zealand and the UK, is its history of provincebuilding and decentralization. Such structures have exhibited remarkable resilience in the face of challenge. As argued by Cairns, critics of federalism underestimated the defenders of the status quo. Passivity, indifference, or the absence of strong opposition from their environment may be all that...

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