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Political Science Canadian

Governing Canada

A Guide to the Tradecraft of Politics

by (author) Michael Wernick

UBC Press
Initial publish date
Oct 2021
Canadian, General
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2021
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Oct 2021
    List Price

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What does it really take to govern effectively? Michael Wernick, a career public servant with experience working at the highest levels of Canadian government, shares tips, insider knowledge, and essential advice in this first-ever practical governance handbook. From choosing a Cabinet and getting the most out of it, to delivering on the prime minister’s mandate letter, readers will get a close-up look at how day-to-day political work actually happens. Wernick’s three decades "in the room" with prime ministers, cabinet ministers, and other members of government make this a must-read not only for politicians, but for anyone who aspires to understand them.

About the author

Contributor Notes

Michael Wernick was Canada’s twenty-third Clerk of the Privy Council – the top public servant in the federal government. His appointment capped a distinguished public service career in which he worked closely with three prime ministers and their Cabinets, as well as with four ministers as their deputy. Wernick has worked as a deputy minister in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, as well as in the Privy Council Office. He lives in Ottawa.

Editorial Reviews

The lore [Michael has] accumulated…is a valuable contribution to Canadians’ understanding of how they’re governed…[Governing Canada] is nearly devoid of juicy insider gossip—never Wernick’s style—but full of pithy advice to political leaders in general.



MacLean's Magazine

This is a must-read book for anyone who wants to understand how government works.

The Herle Burly Podcast

Governing Canada offers a blueprint on Cabinet-making.


This is as inside government as you can get…the writing is clear, concise, and doesn’t rely on confusing jargon

The Hill Times, The Hot Room Podcast

…invaluable for anyone studying public administration or seeking to move up the ranks of government.



Winnipeg Free Press

In Washington, D.C., and other capital cities, former staffers race to publish books after their administrations leave office, frequently to settle scores or enhance their own reputations…Governing Canada takes the high road. It unlocks Wernick’s expertise and serves as a resource for an intended audience of aspiring politicians, policy and decision makers, business and non-profit leaders, diplomats, academics, students and the media, providing a detailed picture of how government works and the secrets to being successful.

Carleton Newsroom

Succinct, evocative, blunt and never dull.

The Globe and Mail

Wernick…does not tell war stories, nor betray confidences, nor attempt to settle old scores. Instead, he offers all of us a front row seat to politics and policy making and he performs an important public service in drafting what is essentially an owner’s manual to official Ottawa. It’s a good, digestible read, which I highly recommend to Ottawa insiders and armchair observers alike.

Policy Magazine

Governing Canada is…an account of the real world of government. Wernick believes, insider par excellence that he was, that all governments blend policy and politics. Their leaders must be bifocal, or they will fail…this is a book that accepts the political dimensions of government as indispensable.

Literary Review of Canada