Unit 5 - The Civil Service in the Westminster Tradition Flashcards Preview

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Flashcards in Unit 5 - The Civil Service in the Westminster Tradition Deck (16)
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Define anonymous for civil servants


The civil service is anonymous which, goes hand in hand with ministerial responsibility, meaning that individual civil servants do not serve as the public representative of the government, but rather operate “under the radar” providing confidential advice to the minister.


Define merit-based for civil servants


the civil service is merit-based meaning that civil servants are hired and promoted for their abilities and experiences not because of their political affiliation or on the basis of personal relation with the government in power

  • civil servants are hired based on their education, skills and experience
  • this is a key feature for how civil servants are hired and promoted to ensure that the best qualifies persons work for the public

define non-partisan for civil servants


Civil servants are non-partisan, meaning they do not serve the partisan interests of any given actor or political party, but rather are called to provide balance, non-partisan advice to the elected government, and to implement any policies, programs, and services that the government chooses to pursue

  • demands that civil servants refrain from engaging in certain political activities that would impair or give the appearance of impairing the ability ability to serve the government in a non-partisan manner
  • has been affirmed in a series of judicial decisions
  • core to democratic legitimacy
  • civil service is politically neutral and thus willing to serve any government that is elected into office
  • in the Canadian system, civil service comprises individuals who build their careers in the civil service

Define permanent for the civil servants


The civil service is permanent which allows civil servant to build their careers without worry that they will be replace by a newly elected government
- the civil service continues in their tenure even when a new government comes to power, a new government does not hire an entirely new civil service but inherits the current civil service


What are the four characteristic of the Civil Service?


1) The non-partisan nature of the civil service
2) the merit-based system is employed
3) The civil service is permanent
4) the civil service is anonymous


What is the principle of ministerial responsibility?


The principle that cabinet ministers, as legal heads of departments, are individually responsible and answerable to parliament for all matters dealing with the running of their department portfolios. Collectively, ministers are responsible for all policy and program decisions made by cabinet on behalf of the government. All ministers are expected to participate in setting strategic policy and to support the strategic and tactical initiatives


What is public service bargain?


A concept that has emerge to describe the relationship between civil servants and elected ministers

  • certain aspects of Canada’s civil service bargain are formally codified in law
  • the bargain is not however set in stone but rather a tactic agreement, a generally accepted set of informal rules that have arisen through political practice over time
  • in certain cases, the bargain and its principle have been purposively adapted to adjust to new pressures and opportunities facing government
  • purposive adaptation demands adjusting the role of the civil service and its relationship to ministers in ways that do not abandon the core values that the bargain originally sought to protect
  • in other cases, civil servants or minister “cheat” on the bargain; they abandon the traditional bargain by showing little concern for the principles it is intended to uphold

The Canadian civil service is generally presumed to operate under what is termed as what?


“Schafferian bargain” modelled on the British Westminster system of government


Why do bargain and its underpinning principles matter?

  • respects the principles of merit-based appointments, permanency, anonymity and non-partisanship along with ensuring that the civil service retains a permanent pool of experienced administrators
  • the respect for the bargains, and especially the principle of non-partisanship, is core to the democratic legitimacy of Canada’s system of government
  • civil servants as discretion and power in the management of public funds, policies, and programs, yet they are not themselves directly accountable to voters
  • their accountability is indirect, channeled through their duty of loyalty to the elected government of the day
  • ## if a civil service ignore its duties or is viewed as loyal to a particular power casts doubt on its ability to provide non-partisan advice and loyal implementation to the party that is elected to govern

What other words are used to refer to the Civil Service?


Civil service is sometimes referred to as the public service or bureaucracy and sits within the executive branch of government

  • consists of the bureaucratic officials that provide policy advice to ministers, that deliver programs and service within departments and agencies of a given government
  • the civil service is the administrative arm of the government

Did the Canadian civil service always follow the Westminster tradition?


No it did not prior to 1908
The Civil Service Commission which is now known as the Public Service Commission of Canada was created to oversee staffing


What is bargain like today?

  • remains a fragile compact rooted in convention
  • continues to be tested and abandoned at different times and in different ways by both civil servant and elected officials through both purposive adaptation and reckless cheating
  • ongoing challenges: must update the bargain for new realities without abandoning the core values and objective that the traditional Westminster bargain sought to secure in the first place - values and objective that, despite being enshrined in certain legal dictates, can be abandoned if political and administrative actors are not committed to them

Bargain in the Digital Age


Civil servant-to-citizen communication in day-today activities of government has only grown in the digital age as rapid information flows and real time, networked and “anywhere” digital interaction

  • information is a key tool of government in the digital age which is a powerful level to build trust between government and citizens and to draw on a broader range of data and insights when designing policy and delivering services
  • In general, civil servants have been encouraged to develop profession presences on social media to engage in networked, public and self-directed and informal communications with the public

What is the central challenge of bargain in the digital age


Places new pressures on the bargain

  • the civil service has to embrace a more fluid, open, networked, and regularized model of civil servant-citizen communication online, especially through social media, purposively adapting how the principle of anonymity is enacted while respecting duties of non-partisanship, the confidentiality of given minister and the role of the minister as the publicly accountable actor for government decisions
  • on the other hand, there is room for both civil servants and elected officials to cheat on the bargain by engaging in highly public, potentially far-reaching, partisan campaigns that betray the bargain and the principle of permanency, neutrality, and merit on which it rests

What is an example where elected officials have strained the public service bargain?

  • Ex. Manitoba under the former NDP with Christine Melnick
  • The federal government sought to centralize immigrant settlement services which had been devolved to the provinces
  • NDP was opposed to losing this responsibility and thus opposed the centralization whereby the federal government would decide which services are provided, how they are provided and what funding is provided across Canada
  • The controversy occurred when Minister Melnick was reported to have instructed a public servant in her department to invite stakeholders such as immigrant-serving non-profit organization to the Manitoba Legislature to witness a motion that opposed centralization

What is the main concern regarding the bargain?


Civil servants are in some cases drawn into tightly managed communication strategies, both on- and offline that support the partisan objectives of the party in power