Thirty years ago, Anglo-American politicians set out to make the public sector look like the private sector. These reforms continue today, ultimately seeking to empower elected officials to shape policies and pushing public servants to manage operations in the same manner as their private-sector counterparts. In Whatever Happened to the Music Teacher?, Donald Savoie provides a nuanced account of how the Canadian federal government makes decisions.
Savoie argues that the traditional role of public servants advising governments on policy has been turned on its head, and that evidence-based policy making is no longer valued as it once was. Policy making has become a matter of opinion, Google searches, focus groups, and public opinion surveys, where a well-connected lobbyist can provide any answers politicians wish to hear. As a result, public servants have lost their way and are uncertain about how they should assess management performance, how they should generate policy advice, how they should work with their political leaders, and how they should speak truth to political power - even within their own departments. Savoie demonstrates how recent management reforms in government have caused a steep rise in the overhead cost of government, as well as how the notion that public administration could be made to operate like the private sector has been misguided and costly to taxpayers.
Abandoning "textbook" discussions of government and public service, Whatever Happened to the Music Teacher? Is a realistic portrayal of how policy decisions are made and how actors and institutions interact with one another and exposes the complexities, contradictions present in Canadian politics and governance.