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Political Science General

Governing from the Centre

The Concentration of Power in Canadian Politics

by (author) Donald Savoie

University of Toronto Press
Initial publish date
Jun 1999
General, Public Affairs & Administration
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jun 1999
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Dec 2003
    List Price

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Redefined during the past thirty years, the centre of government currently extends itself further than ever before. Central governmental agencies are 'where the rubber meets the road', where public service meets politics, and policy becomes reality. So who's driving this car? Agencies such as the Privy Council Office, the Finance Department, and the Treasury Board exert their influence horizontally, deciding how policy is made and how money gets spent According to Donald Savoie, these organizations, instituted to streamline Ottawa's planning processes, instead telescope power to the Prime Minister and weaken the influence of ministers, the traditional line departments, and even parliament, without contributing to more rational and coherent policy-making.

This is scholarship at its best: rigorous and riveting. The government operates as a combination of known procedures and the more elusive subtleties of human relationships and unspoken codes of behaviour. Donald Savoie's long-time involvement in government affairs allows him to read through the surface of the results of his extensive research-which included several interviews with elites-in order to expose all the levels of power at play. Indispensable reading for students of politics, public policy, and public administration, Ottawa watchers, journalists, lobbyists, and civil servants who want to know what is really going on.

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.

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Editorial Reviews

'Donald Savoie has achieved the impossible: He has written an interesting book on Canada's bureaucrats. Most studies of public administration are about as fascinating as the digestive system of a snail, but Savoie ... has made the world of our Mandarin masters come to life. Governing from the Centre describes an important and dangerous turn in Canadian politics.'

National Post

'Governing from the Centre ... is a remarkably lucid description of "inside" federal Ottawa as being far more a prime ministerial affair than most people realize. It details what a lot of us have sensed but have not been able to define and thoroughly explain.'

Toronto Sun

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