Canadian Bureaucracy II

More Flexibility

Departmental managers were requiring more flexiblility in managing. By the mid-1970’s there was an effort to coordinate approval for resources allocation with already approved programs to efficiently meet objectives (22). Goals and objectives are established in implementable terms by the bureaucracy in a way that gives flesh to a policy. The efficacy of these actions are then evaluated and affect the perceived viability of the policy the actions were meant to implement (22).

Bureaucratic political influence increased even more when by 1976 individuals were being recruited to executive positions more according to policy skills than to any development of management skills (23).

The governmental departments which have the greatest power and thereby the greatest political influence are those which have:

overall political leadership and strategy, foreign policy and the foreign implications of domestic policy fields, aggregate economic and fiscal policy, the basic legal and judicial concepts and values of the state, and the overall management of government spending programmes (25).

One such department is the Privy Council Office. One of the six full-fledged central agencies, (26) the most senior public servant in the Privy Council Office is the Clerk of the Privy Council and the Secretary to the Cabinet. This is considered the most senior federal public servant. Staffed by career public servants, the Privy Council Office is politically sensitive but not suppose to be partisan (27). Its two primary roles are support for the Cabinet and Cabinet committees and advice on machinery of government (28). The secretariat attached to each Cabinet committee gives advisory input on new policy initiatives or possible solutions to ongoing problems. In this milieu interdepartmental problems are resolved. Political influence is underscored as the Privy Council Office is involved in setting Cabinet committee agendas and in briefing the committee chairperson (29).

It is obvious that bureaucracy has immense influence but it does not have absolute power. If the actions of the bureaucracy damages the reputation of a minister there may be a Cabinet shuffle or a return to a backbench for the M.P. (30. This also damages the reputation of the bureaucracy inspite of public service anonymity (31). Anonymity ensures the freedom of the public bureaucrat to give the best input possible to the minister without the scrutiny of the public eye. Individual ministerial responsibility keeps a balance of power which provides the bureaucrat with a task to perform with respectable responsibility.

Prime Minister Trudeau revealed by an example in a press conference on December 22, 1969 that the Deputy Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and his team were largely responsible for the development of the north and the whole Indian policy (32). Breaking the convention of anonymity, Trudeau admitted the immence influence which the superbureaucrat deputy minister and the bureaucratic team wields in shaping public policy.

The Standing Joint Committee on Regulations and Other Statutory Instruments (now the Standing Joint Committee on Regulatory Scrutiny) observed in 1980:
There are also traditions in the Public Service, most notably in the drafting of statutes and subordinate legislation, which are more in keeping with administrative ease than in accountability to Parliament and observance of the law. The absence of a clearly articulated philosophy of respect for liberty and propriety in the activities of the executive government of Canada is a serious problem (33).

I suggest that the settling and the founding of this country is permeated with its pragmatic roots of the Hudson’s Bay Company which predispose the citizens of the land to accept administrative rationales of a bureaucracy. Coupling this with a growing distrust of politicians the citizens feel security and continuity in the bureaucracy. In this mood of the country’s citizens it is not so surprising that this administrative amending of policy does not receive much media attention.

Although bureaucratic committees fill a secondary place in the parliamentary process, these committees as Franks notes “are now stronger and more influential than they ever have been in the past” (34).

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