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Political Science Canadian

What Is Government Good At?

A Canadian Answer

by (author) Donald J. Savoie

McGill-Queen's University Press
Initial publish date
Sep 2015
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2015
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Aug 2015
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jan 2017
    List Price

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Recent decades have shown the public's support for government plummet alongside political leaders’ credibility. This downward spiral calls for an exploration of what has gone wrong. The questions, "What is government good at?" and "What is government not good at?" are critical ones - and their answers should be the basis for good public policy and public administration. In What Is Government Good At?, Donald Savoie argues that politicians and public servants are good at generating and avoiding blame, playing to a segment of the population to win the next election, embracing and defending the status quo, adding management layers and staff, keeping ministers out of trouble, responding to demands from the prime minister and his office, and managing a complex, prime minister-centred organization. Conversely, they are not as good at defining the broader public interest, providing and recognizing evidence-based policy advice, managing human and financial resources with efficiency and frugality, innovating and reforming itself, being accountable to Parliament and to citizens, dealing with non-performers, paying sufficient attention to service delivery, and implementing and evaluating the impact of policies and programs. With wide implications for representative democracy, What Is Government Good At? is a persuasive analysis of an approach to government that has opened the door to those with the resources to influence policy and decision-making while leaving average citizens on the outside looking in.

About the author

Donald J. Savoie est titulaire de la Chaire de recherche du Canada en administration publique et gouvernance (niveau 1) à l'Université de Moncton. Il a remporté de nombreux prix, dont le prix Donner 2016 pour What Is Government Good At? Il a été fait Officier de l'Ordre du Canada (1993), élu membre de la Société royale du Canada (1992) et a reçu huit doctorats honorifiques de la part d'universités canadiennes.

Donald J. Savoie's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"What Is Government Good At? is a major contribution to research on Canadian government and the threats to Canadian democracy and public administration. Savoie writes with skill and flair and there are excellent and interesting insights in every chapter of this book." G. Bruce Doern, Carleton University

“Can we get a copy of Donald J. Savoie’s “What Is Government Good At? A Canadian Answer” onto the reading stand of every candidate for president of the United States?... Savoie’s book is not a prescription as much as it is a field guide to government and

"Savoie draws clear distinctions between what government is good at, largely those things it is uniquely placed to deliver – and a much longer list of things at which government is not good. Savoie makes a strong case that government must focus on its str

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