Canada's machinery of government is out of joint. In Breaking the Bargain, Donald J. Savoie reveals how the traditional deal struck between politicians and career officials that underpins the workings of our national political and administrative process is today being challenged. He argues that the role of bureaucracy within the Canadian political machine has never been properly defined, that the relationship between elected and permanent government officials is increasingly problematic, and that the public service cannot function if it is expected to be both independent of, and subordinate to, elected officials.
While the public service attempts to define its own political sphere, the House of Commons is also in flux: the prime minister and his close advisors wield ever more power, and cabinet no longer occupies the policy ground to which it is entitled. Ministers, who have traditionally been able to develop their own roles, have increasingly lost their autonomy. Federal departmental structures are crumbling, giving way to a new model that eschews boundaries in favour of sharing policy and program space with outsiders. The implications of this functional shift are profound, having a deep impact on how public policies are struck, how government operates, and, ultimately, the capacity for accountability.
About the author
Donald Savoie is a self-effacing professor of public administration at Université de Moncton, where he holds the Clément-Cormier Chair in Economic Development. His recent books include Governing from the Centre (1999) and Breaking the Bargain (2003). When he is not writing scholarly works, he is advising provincial, territorial, and federal governments here in Canada, the United States, the OECD, and the World Bank. He golfs with premiers, prime ministers, and presidents of multinational corporations. He was born and raised in the Acadian village of Bouctouche, in rural New Brunswick.
'Savoie makes the compelling case that democracy and its vital institutions are weak and dangerously near collapse. His argument, detailed with academic discipline and journalistic flair in Breaking the Bargain, is that the rules and boundaries that once separated politicians and bureaucrats have been tossed in history's dumpster. Far from some dusty tome, this is dramatic stuff with real-life implications.'
'Donald Savoie has once again produced a timely and serious book. In Breaking the Bargain, Savoie has opened up the black box of government by examining the intricacies of the relationship between ministers, Parliament, and the bureaucracy... Savoie writes crisply on the history of the traditional bargain between cabinet ministers and the public service, and he evokes well the era when Canada was recognized for having one of the finest public services in the world...but the Ottawa of the Mandarinate was like Athens on the Rideau compared to the Ottawa of today with its horde of lobbyists, a media gone mad over personal scandal, a cabinet which is more like a focus group than the centre of decision-making, and public servants currying favour rather than pointing out error.'
The Globe and Mail
Other titles by Donald Savoie
The Rural Entrepreneur John Bragg
The Force Behind Oxford Frozen Foods and Eastlink
"Thanks for the Business"
K.C. Irving, Arthur Irving, and the Story of Irving Oil
A Future for the Fishery
Crisis and Renewal in Canada's Neglected Fishing Industry
Looking For Bootstraps
Economic Development in the Maritimes
Moi, je suis de Bouctouche
Les racines bien ancrées
Court Government and the Collapse of Accountability in Canada and the United Kingdom
Economic Development in the Maritimes
Governing from the Centre
The Concentration of Power in Canadian Politics
Regional Economic Development
Canada's Search for Solutions (2nd Edition)