Canadian Bureaucracy III

There is a conscious effort to harness the bureaucracy as all ministers have a small personal staff to exercise political control. Further control is in effect through orders in council approved by the Governor in Council establishing rules between public servant conduct and the public. Public servants are restricted in the information which is available to the public and specify what information is to be released among other specifications of conduct. Finally, internal departmental regulations are issued which are binding on all departmental officials (35). Controls are in place to limit the acknowledged influence which the bureaucracy has.

Prime Minister Trudeau issued cost-effectiveness and systems analysis to assist him in attaining specific goals and in using central agencies as competing sources of information. Final decisions were more in the Prime Minister’s hands and the bureaucratic role became more diffuse but not lessened (36). An increase in information generation required the expansion in size and influence of the bureaucracy in political decisions.

Prime Minister Mulroney utilized brokerage politics, drawing power closer to him so that he can better orchestrate accommodating varying interests. This was a shift from Trudeau’s model of rationality. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) rose in importance as the core of public servants in the Privy Council Office decreased in influence (37).

The central agency of the PMO is responsible for planning and coordinating major new policy initiatives and advising on appointments and nominations. Prime Minister Mulroney overturned Trudeau’s tradition of making partisan appointments and appointed several permanent public servants to the office. Such a move further increased political influence of the public service. The public service was even more directly involved with fighting the flash fires of the urgent to protect the flow of implementing the important, thus directly managing the elected offfice of the Prime Minister (38). Mulroney authorized each minister to hire a chief of staff as the minister’s chief political advisor (39). This action diminished further the non-partisan nature of the bureaucracy.

The central agency of the Federal-Provincial Relations Office reports directly to the Prime Minister. Having once been a unit of the Privy Council Office, its secretary to Cabinet status is just below that of the clerk of the Privy Council. It has developed the expanded role of dealing with policy issues and the efficiency of the federal-provincial structure. Any intergovernmental program is succeptible to Federal-Provincial Relations Office intervention. The formation of this branch underscores the growing dependence on the civil service to keep the political machinery flowing efficiently and the dependency of the Prime Minister upon this arm of bureaucracy (40).

The Treasury Board Secretariat has influence upon the political arena as it is merely given general guidelines from the Cabinet Committee on Priorities and Planning and the Department of Finance for it to set spending guidelines for operating departments. It has the power to negotiate the evolution of programs whether they start new ones, diminish old ones, or to close certain programs altogether (41).

The Office of the Comptroller General shares with the Treasury Board Office in making regulations concerning financial management. The OCG guides and directs the financial evaluations of all government departments. The ultimate goal of the Treasury Board is to ensure the wise use of both financial and human resources (42), an area of control over what the government can and cannot do. Until Canada gets its fiscal house in order, this agency will limit the implementation of the politically desirable ideal. The influence of this department on politics has increased and will continue to be great at least for the short term in the present economic climate [as viewed in original writing].

The Department of Finance is more advisory, thus indirectly powerful, to Cabinet than the direct interventionist approach of the Treasury Board. The Department of Finance influences only if its advice is accepted and utilized by Cabinet. Its concern with economic policy does give it the mandate to intervene at relevant points in the policy development process (43).

The influence of the bureaucracy upon government politics has grown to entrenchment at a time when management and coordination of bureaucracy has become more crucial for efficacy and evaluation. As political parties continue to depend upon the expertise of bureaucracy, the government’s dependency and the bureaucracy’s increasing influence is assured.

We need an increase of outside non-political systems analysts of political bureaucracy just as we have government auditors to keep the bureaucracy fulfilling the legislative mandates and to offset political ideologies, burnout and to provide more civil servants to avoid cutting corners, and failures of updating public servants to policy changes.

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One response to “Canadian Bureaucracy III

  1. vote of censure A motion of nonconfidence requiring the prime minister and the cabinet to resign.

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