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Defending a Contested Ideal

Merit and the Public Service Commission, 1908–2008

Luc Juillet and Ken Rasmussen

Publication Year: 2008

In 1908, after decades of struggling with a public administration undermined by systemic patronage, the Canadian parliament decided that public servants would be selected on the basis of merit, through a system administered by an independent agency: the Public Service Commission of Canada. This history, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Commission, recounts its unique contribution to the development of an independent public service, which has become a pillar of Canadian parliamentary democracy.

Published by: University of Ottawa Press

Series: Governance Series

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-ix

When we were first approached with the idea of writing a history of the Public Service Commission on the occasion of its centenary, our enthusiasm was initially accompanied by a few doubts. Nowadays, administrative history is not very popular amongst scholars of public administration, but, in this case, the book would necessarily be seen as a ...

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pp. xi-xii

The morning of my arrival at the Public Service Commission, my colleagues presented me with a book entitled The Biography of an Institution. Written by Professor J. E. Hodgetts et al., it was all about the first sixty years of this organization. The commission is not well known outside of the public service so I was pleased to read such a comprehensive piece of work about the organization for which I had ...

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Introduction: Democratic Government, Merit and the Public Service Commission of Canada

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pp. 1-17

The creation of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) in September 1908 represents a milestone in the history of the public service and the development of democratic government in Canada.2 The establishment of a commission independent from the government with exclusive statutory authority for appointing individuals to the public service, apart from the most senior executives, marked the birth of a nonpartisan bureaucracy. ...

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Chapter 1 The Origins of the Public Service Commission: 1867–1918

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pp. 18-47

The Public Service Commission today is the legitimate heir to the civil service reform movement of the 19th century, which dedicated its efforts to creating an independent public service that would improve the quality, fairness and morality of government by eliminating the patronage and associated corruption that had plagued the public service since Confederation.1 ...

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Chapter 2 Creating a Merit System: 1918–1944

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pp. 48-73

The context of the First World War and pressures associated with Canada's Union Government made conditions ideal for the passage of a new Civil Service Act. In 1918, a new act was enacted, and with amendments in 1919, it virtually eliminated patronage from the entire public service, not just the Ottawa-based or Inside Service.1 The demands of reformers ...

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Chapter 3 Rethinking the CSC: Gordon, Heeney and Glassco: 1945–1967

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pp. 74-96

As a result of developments beginning directly after the Second World War, the Civil Service Commission eventually handed over a number of its key responsibilities to a more powerful Treasury Board while at the same time delegating more authority to operating departments. What brought about this simultaneous centralization and decentralization was a growing managerial orthodoxy based on the belief that the division of ...

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Chapter 4 The Management Assault on the Public Service Commission: 1967–1979

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pp. 97-123

The decade immediately following the 1962 Glassco Commission report was perhaps the most active period of administrative reform in Canadian history. The Glassco Commission inspired a flurry of decentralizing reforms contained in a new legislative framework: the Public Service Staff Relations Act, the Public Service Employment Act ...

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Chapter 5 Struggling to Defend Political Neutrality: 1979–2006

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pp. 124-151

After two decades of virtually uninterrupted Liberal governments, the arrival in power of the Progressive Conservative Party in 1984 marked an important turning point in Canadian politics. The new prime minister, Brian Mulroney, had few good words to say about the public service throughout his campaign, going so far as to promise that, once in office, he would hand out "pink slips and running shoes ...

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Chapter 6 The PSC as a Cautious Reformer: Staffing Reforms during the Mulroney Years: 1984–1993

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pp. 152-183

When Brian Mulroney's government came to power in the mid-1980s, concerns about recurring federal deficits and the fast-growing national debt occupied an important place in public discourse. Government downsizing and cutbacks were prominent issues in policy discussions and the Progressive Conservative Party had made them significant electoral issues in the lead-up ...

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Chapter 7 Merit as the Essential Mandate: Repositioning the PSC: 1993–2008

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pp. 184-224

The formation of a Liberal government following the general election of 1993 seemed to offer the opportunity of a new beginning for the federal public service. The Progressive Conservatives, initially distrustful of the bureaucracy and steeped in the rhetoric of cost-cutting and government retrenchment, were returning to the Opposition benches in a state of disarray. The Liberals, under the leadership of Jean Chretien, a politician ...

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pp. 225-237

In his book on the development of the American public service, Stephan Skowronek described the establishment of the U.S. Civil Service Commission as "nothing less than a recasting of the foundations of national institutional power."2 To some extent, the same claim can be made for the establishment of the Public Service Commission in Canada. ...


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pp. 238-248

E-ISBN-13: 9780776617770
E-ISBN-10: 077661777X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780776606842
Print-ISBN-10: 0776606840

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: Governance Series