Unit 4 - Ministers and Cabinet Decison-Making Systems Flashcards Preview

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the centralization of decision-making power and authority in the hands of the prime minister and key advisers with respect to policy and program matters. Also referred to as the command and control mode.

  • also referred to as first minister centered
  • emerged with the election of former Prime Minister Jean Chretien
  • involve the increased centralization of power in the hands of the first minister and their closes advisers
  • cabinet, has experienced a loss of power and influence is growing in the hands of the centre of government and the first minister

What is court government?


Donald Savoie, describes the shift from cabinet power to make decisions to the prime minister, shifting to the first minister making decisions informally with a few close allies
- ability to respond swiftly to say a sudden crisis
- when power is centered in the hands of a small number of actors, there is the ability to meet, discuss and decide very quickly
- Diversity of perspectives simply can’t be incorporated into this mode
- the lack of transparency and openness of government to its citizens


What is the Department of Finance?

  • One of the key support departments in the federal government and also a central agency of great power and authority. Finance is responsible for setting the annual deferral budget and providing the prime minister and cabinet with advice on macro-economic policy, trade and taxation
  • Provides the prime minister with most of its macro economic information about health of the national economy and its effects of government activity in general
  • develop the governments budget along side the PM, department and its ministers

What does the Department of Finance give advice on to the Cabinet

  • International trade
  • foreign borrowing and debt repayment
  • overseeing the national debt
  • balance of payments and foreign exchange

What is the departmentalized cabinet?


A system of cabinet organization dominant in Ottawa prior to the 1960s and noted for its lack of central agencies and cabinet committees. Policy making was largely decentralized to each department, working under the leadership of the minister and prime minister. Deputy minister possessed great power in this system.


What are the core features of departmentalized cabinet?

  • each minister was responsible for their department
  • each department functioned on its own, with few formal links to any other
  • Policy making was largely incremental with little long-range planning
  • cabinet possessed few coordinating mechanisms
  • the PM alone was responsible for coordination and systemic planning
  • ministers and their departments were fairly autonomous
  • policy making operated in departmental silos
  • strong cabinet ministers could wield great authority over their department and its policy field
  • weaker cabinet ministers would come to be reliant/dependent upon strong DMs
  • Strong DMs could wield enormous power and influence in this system
  • by the end of World War II, DM s were being referred to as mandarins
  • by the 1960s the democratic legitimacy of the departmentalized cabinet system was being called into question

What is mandarins?


A deputy minister in the departmentalized cabinet system. The term invokes the seemingly omnipresent power and authority of deputy minister in the running of government


First among equals?


the person or thing having the highest status in a group


What is institutionalized cabinet?


The system of cabinet organization prevalent in Ottawa from the 1960s on and noted for often intricate systems of cabinet committees supported by an array of central agencies. Institutionalized cabinet systems are designed to facilitate more rational and systematic policy making by requiring it to arise from a decision-making system involving planning, prioritization, and programming bases on consensus among a plurality of cabinet committees and central agencies. Such a system is intended to heighten the influence of elected ministers in decision making by lessening the political and administrative influence that any senior unelected official can have

  • Former Prime Minister Pearson sought to reform unstructured and chaotic cabinet procedures of the Diefenbaker government
  • Wanted a new approach to executive action that offered greater systemization to decision making and enhancing the power of elected ministers

How does institutionalized cabinet work?


Cabinet committees, priorities and planning, and central agencies


Cabinet committees in institutionalized government?


Institutionalized cabinets, groups departments into spheres of policy and program interests, and the minister of the “sister” departments sit on a given cabinet committee
Ex. economic development
- Each PM has full discretion to establish, disband, or reconfigure cabinet committees


Cabinet committees share what certain basic functions?

  • Provide a forum for ministers with complementary portfolios to discuss policy and program concerns and developments of mutual interest
  • also hold discussion about departmental budget allocations under the policy and expenditure management system
  • now all ministers are expected to debate initiatives of sister department and come to a consensus about which should go to full cabinet ratification
  • each minister now acts on the checks and balance of another
  • process meant that now that policy proposals now relied on the approval of elected ministers and not the power of senior department management

What are priorities and planning committee in institutionalized government?


The overarching cabinet committee in institutionalized cabinets of the Trudeaus and Mulroney eras. P&P was chaired by the prime minister, with the mandate of coordinating all other cabinet committees and setting the strategic policy direction of the government. P&P was disbanded by Chretien in 1993, and its strategic policy-making role reverted to the full cabinet under the leadership of the prime minister.
- the cabinet no longer meets regularly, meets only to discuss what had already been approved by the p&p and standing committees


What are the 6 main functions of priority and planning committee?

  • Setting long range priorities
  • tackling short-term political crises
  • establishing broad goals and objective for other standing cabinet committees
  • reviewing all standing committee decisions and resolving disputes
  • setting budgetary parameters under the PEMS for committees and departments
  • establishing policy and program initiatives in the name of the full cabinet

Central agencies regarding institutionalized cabinet?

  • intentionally designed to support Cabinet by providing analysis and options that do not stem from the departments
  • cabinet will receive information from the department but also receives separate analysis of the same issues from central agencies largely in the form of a memorandum to cabinet
  • departments are in competition with other departments due to limited resources such as funding and staff
  • look at the whole government, not just one department to assess whether a policy recommendation it financially, administratively, legally viable and whether it solve the root of the problem
  • intentionally designed to support Cabinet by providing analysis and options that do not stem from the departments
  • cabinet will receive information from the department but also receives separate analysis of the same issues from central agencies largely in the form of a memorandum to cabinet
  • departments are in competition with other departments due to limited resources such as funding and staff
  • central agencies look at the whole government, not just one department to assess whether a policy recommendation it financially, administratively, legally viable and whether it solve the root of the problem

What is a deputy minister?


The administrative head of a department. Deputy ministers are appointed by the prime minister and serve as the most senior public servant in charge of a department. The deputy’s role is to be the chief executive officer of the department, responsible for its routine administrative functioning, while also working with the responsible minister on policy and program development


what is the role of a deputy minister?


administrative head and chief manager, responsible to the minister and the prime minister for
- administration of policies and programs
- development and assessment of policy initiative
- liaison and communication
- attention to routine departmental needs for financial, personnel and legal administration
Overall, is responsible for ensuring that the department is able to fulfill many duties


What is the role of Associate and Assistant deputy ministers?

  • Two steps beneath Deputy Minister within the Hierarchy
  • In charge of one of the main functional divisions within a department
  • responsible to the prime minister, the person to assure the PM that the department is capable of advancing the policy and program agenda and that they are serving the interests of the minister

Lack of Partisanship
- Brings managerial judgement which was gained from years of practical experience in how the departments can be managed, its programs best implemented and administered and its policies best developed

associate deputy minister

  • senior position
  • departments usually have on of two who work closely with the deputy minister

assistant deputy minister

  • seven - ten who work in large departments who support the work of the deputy minister and associate deputy ministers
  • have specialized policy, operational or administrative portfolios
  • the chief specialists for each of the functional subgroups

How are Deputy Minister appointed?

  • appointed at the pleasure of the Prime Minister
  • a deputy is removed from office when a prime minister usually newly elected, deems such a move necessary to ensure smooth implementation of the policy agenda and that those in this position are working closely with the prime minister

Has Four Characteristics?

1) Come from the professional public service
2) they function as the non-partisan head of the department
3) responsible to the Prime Minister
4) Insulated from the power of the minister they serve


What is the candidate pool for deputy ministers?

  • senior public servants with decades of experience within various branches of government
  • most people are in their fifties when they receive their first appointment
  • once appointed they are eligible for lateral transfers from one department to another
  • Most remain in one department for 5-6 years

Ministers and their deputies?

  • crucial to the power relations in any government, these relationships are complex
  • walks a fine line with a close eye on both the administrative interests of the department and the political interests of the governing party
  • the DM, must be free to offer frank commentary on administration, legal and broad political merits and demerits of policy proposals as well as the organizational means of achieving them
  • Also expected to
    1) Serve the minister
    2) Assist in the development of policies and programs desired by the prime minister, the cabinet and minister
    3) ensure that new initiative are consistent with the professional norms and administrative capabilities of the department
  • Ministers are usually in their departments for three to four years and will be fortunate enough to secure one or two significant new initiative during this time
    1) Very careful when determining which ones they will pursue
    2) Must rely on the deputy ministers for assistance as they can bring expertise and wisdom and is expected to advice the minister even if their advice is unwelcomed by the minister
  • deputy ministers are expected to give detailed and critical advice and be able to speak up and say that an issue must be reconsidered
  • deputy must always advance sound advice toward fulfilling the aims of the minister while also identifying any administrative, operational, or legal constraints

What are the main duties of deputy ministers?

  • Deputies first duty to their minister is to keep the PM out of trouble by managing the department well: maintain effective and positive communications and quickly, smoothly and (one hopes) quietly solving problems as they arise
  • second duty is to assist the minister in the development, cabinet approval, and departmental implementation of this policy agenda

What is the authority dilemma


DM are assisted by associate and assistant DM and other senior management officials. These are all public servants who manage the routine departmental administration and program implementation as well as all the standard research, policy and program analysis


The steps of decision making process


1) the p&p sets the agenda
- chaired by the Prime Minister
- established government policies and oversees all other cabinet committees
2) Department set in motion
3) the official produce the memorandum
- occur once senior officials receive approval over the action they produce is memorandum that would become the focal point of the liaisons with cabinet colleagues
- all have ministerial recommendation
- an analysis sections
- communications plan
4) Committee Reviews it
- where the sponsoring ministers stands by and defends the memorandum
- cabinet meets to discuss and the makes a decision
5) the committee report is produced
- decision is written up by staff
- explains why the report was rejected
6) Proposal is sent to full cabinet
- if proposal was accepted the full report was sent to cabinet for ratification
- a report that was not unanimously endorsed can discuss
- outcome recorded as a record of decision


What are the pros of institutionalized cabinet?

  • web of organization relationships were much more structure than departmentalized
  • Ministers has better collective policy and program decision making through the work of cabinet committees
  • could be more informed and had a larger impact

What is the centre of power?

  • The prime minister can intervene in any issue big or small
  • strong leadership to get things done
    Ex. Harper government
  • Strong command approach, however was able to set his priorities into reality
  • liberal government claimed to be far more open in comparison to the Harper government



By constitutional convention, is a group of advisers who set and manage the priorities and policy agenda

  • they collectively and individually exercise most of the powers of the Crown on behalf of Canadians
  • in theory is the collegial and collective decision-making body in Canadian government
  • Cabinet has a large role and deals with many issues they approve regulations, decide on policy matters, authorizes spending, deals with human resources
  • the first part of decision making is the pre-work involved to “iron out the major faults and disagreements”, this is completed by formal and informal meetings
  • there are no specific rules that state how cabinet should and needs to be run or how to come to an agreement on decision-making

How does the Cabinet decision-making process begin at the federal level.


Begins during a discussion held in cabinet meeting

  • A memorandum is the most common instrument used to do this
    1) Comprehensive documents that set out the policy context, rational and a ministerial recommendation
    2) Circulated in advance to ministers and then typically go through a cabinet committee first
    3) Once consensus is reached it will make its way to full cabinet

What are certain Canadian constitutional and political constraints that are imposed on certain functions of the Cabinet decision-making process?

  • Securing agreement among minister on government priorities and on action which extend beyond the bound of a single ministerial portfolio
  • securing agreement on parliamentary actions by the government required to obtain the passage of the government’s program while retaining the confidence of the House
  • providing a forum for ministerial debate on issues of general interest
  • providing adequate information to minister relative to decisions for which they will be held collectively responsible and which may impact on their individual responsibilities
  • providing adequate information to the prime minister to carry out their responsibilities and his leadership role

What are the central challenges to Cabinet?

  • Challenge of balancing the imperatives of Cabinets efficiency and effectiveness with collective and collegial deliberation and decision-making
  • when changing governments there are a lot of factors that need to be taken into consideration before a prime minister even takes office
    Ex. What will the Cabinet be like in terms of size and demographics

What are the advantages and disadvantages of Command-Mode?



  • ability to respond swiftly to say a sudden crisis
  • when power is centered in the hands of a small number of actors, there is the ability to meet, discuss and decide very quickly


  • diversity of perspective simply can’t be incorporated into this mode
  • the lack of transparency and openness of government to its citizens

What is a memorandum to cabinet?


The formal document setting out a policy proposal arising from a department and requiring discussion and ratification by cabinet in order to become government policy. A memorandum contains three elements: the policy recommendation , analysis of the policy, and a communications plan for the policy


What is an associate deputy minister?


One of the most senior executive officials responsible for providing administrative leadership of a department. Associate deputy ministers rank immediately below the deputy minister, to whom they are responsible for providing system-wide support and assistance


What is an assistant deputy minister?


One of the most senior executive officials responsible for providing administrative leadership of a department, such as ADM Human Resources. Assistant deputy minister are ranked below associate deputy ministers also referred to as ADMs and are usually responsible for a particular functional portfolio within the department


What is the treasury board?


The only statutory cabinet committee of the federal government, established pursuant to the Financial Administration Act, 1985. All other cabinet committees exist at the discretion of the prime minister. The treasury board is responsible for federal public service human resources policy, oversight, and management. The minister responsible the president of the Treasury Board, and the board usually consists of five or six ministers, one of whom is always the minister of finance. The board is assisted by its administrative wing, the Treasury Board Secretariat


What is the policy and expenditure management system (PEMS)?


A macro-system of financial management employed by the federal government from 1979 to 1993. PEMS was based on the earlier PPBS and similarly endorsed rational planning, prioritization, and program managements but allowed departments and ministers more control over financial matters


What is the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS)?


A central agency providing policy and program advice to the prime minister, cabinet, and all government departments and agencies with respect to internal matters of financial management, human resources management, and accountability. The TBS also acts as the official employer of the federal government with respect to collective bargaining and is responsible for administrative support of this function


What Is the strategic prime ministership?


The policy dynamic of a prime minister who sets the strategic direction of government by selecting four to six key policy and program aims to define his or her four-to five-year term in office. The implementation of these aims will be “brought to centre” for prime ministerial leadership and direction, while all other, more routine matters of policy and administration will be left to ordinary ministers and departments to manage