Tag Archives: excerpt

  • The Politics of Policymaking in Canada

    The Public Servant’s Guide to Government in Canada, written by Alex Marland and Jared J. Wesley, is a concise primer on the inner workings of government in Canada. As former public servants themselves, these authors know the difficulties in understanding how modern government operates, and how hard it can be to find your place within it. In this post, Jared J. Wesley discusses his own experience of working as a public servant, and how The Public Servant’s Guide to Government in Canada came to fruition.


    The longest day of my public servant career featured a layover in the Regina airport.  At a national meeting of government executives, I had spent the better part of the afternoon advising a provincial government minister against appearing before a House of Commons parliamentary committee to support a piece of federal legislation.  “Think of the profile it would give us,” he told his political chief of staff.  “And think of the road trip,” replied the staffer.  “With respect,” I interrupted, “it’s not customary for provincial ministers to testify in parliamentary hearings.  In fact,” I frantically consulted my notes, “Alberta has only sent one minister before a federal committee in the past twenty years.  And you’d need approval from the Premier’s Office.” “We’re anything but customary,” I could read on the minister’s face. “It actually lowers your status,” I went on.  “You should engage your federal counterparts on a government to government basis.  It preserves your authority – your government’s authority – as opposed to being treated like just another federal stakeholder.”

    The last line felt almost rehearsed; I had written a briefing note on it just a day before.  I was told to stand down, as the minister placed a call to the Premier’s Office.  I placed a call of my own, to my executive director.  Within a few hours, the Ottawa trip had been shelved.  I found that out while sitting in the Regina airport, listening to the minister tell insensitive jokes to his staff within earshot of a dozen other travellers.  I tried my best to ignore it, and pretended to be on my phone to avoid eye contact. The situation worsened when we arrived back in Calgary to find that our connecting flight to Edmonton had been canceled due to a blizzard.  While I was on my blackberry booking a hotel for the night, the minister grabbed my phone.  He told me that taxpayers wouldn’t stand for it, and ushered me into a waiting minivan he’d rented.  Over the course of the five-hour, stormy, midnight drive, he regaled us with even more offensive commentary, mostly directed at his political opponents.  I arrived home in time to change clothes for work.  I didn’t tell anyone the story until the minister left office years later, and even then, concealed his name and framed it as a cautionary tale.

    At the time, I had spent my entire adult life studying politics. I’d written a few books and a few more journal articles about party politics and policymaking. But none of it had prepared me for the day-to-day interactions like those just described. While they may not have the privilege of working directly with elected officials, new public servants confront similar knowledge gaps in their first weeks on the job. If they are like me, they quickly realize that government is more complex, yet somehow more informal, than their textbooks and professors described. While useful, theories of democracy, frameworks of public administration, and historical knowledge fit uneasily with the fast-paced, evolving nature of public service in Canada. Core concepts like accountability take on entirely new meanings. Beyond the public sector bargain that dictates you must provide “fearless advice and loyal implementation,” bureaucrats realize they have multiple responsibilities, are accountable to a whole host of people, and are subject to a wide range of forces seldom covered in assigned readings and seminar discussions. Relationships with elected officials, supervisors, deputy ministers, colleagues in other organizations, friends and family, and the general public are all at play in a public servant’s work. Fortunately, ethical dilemmas like the ones I encountered are few and far between. Yet navigating these various modes of accountability can be challenging nonetheless.

    As former public servants, Alex Marland and I know this first-hand.  Learning new subject matter can be difficult enough when you join a new department or unit.  On-the-job training seldom covers the “small-p politics” involved in public service work, leaving you to read between the lines on various organization charts to figure out where you fit into the broader government structure.  This can be vexing for interns and new public servants, and even some long-time bureaucrats lack a firm understanding of how government actually works.  That is why we wrote The Public Servant’s Guide to Government in Canada.

    At around 100 pages, it is a short, practical primer about how modern government operates. The book offers an insider’s perspective on how public service sits at the nexus of theory and practice, politics and professionalism. It is written in an accessible style suitable for anyone seeking to learn more about the Canadian system of government. The book contains a summary of core concepts about government and working in the public service. In it, we explain the linkages between politics, public administration, and public policy, dispelling many myths about how public servants should remain a-political in their day-to-day work. For new or would-be public servants, the Guide offers advice about life in public administration – what to expect and what to do to reach your full potential. We have included tips from bureaucratic colleagues for improving your performance and carving your career path.

    The Guide wouldn’t have provided letter-for-letter advice on how to deal with the minister in the Regina airport, or on that snowy ride home to Edmonton.  But it would have given me a better sense of my own role in the situation.  If you are looking for a concise overview about government in Canada, and your place within it, The Public Servant’s Guide to Government in Canada is written for you.


    If you want to find out more about The Public Servant's Guide to Government in Canada, click here to view the table of contents and read an exclusive excerpt from the book.


    Jared J. Wesley is a pracademic—a practicing political scientist and former public servant—whose career path to the University of Alberta’s Department of Political Science has included senior management positions in provincial public services. While in the bureaucracy, he gained valuable experience in the development of public policy and intergovernmental strategy. He also served as Director of Learning and Development, establishing policies and curriculum to train provincial public servants. As an Associate Professor of Political Science, he studies and teaches the politics of bureaucracy and the bureaucracy of politics.

    Alex Marland is a professor of political science at Memorial University in St. John’s and a former public servant in the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. Alex’s interest in the practical side of governance is grounded in his discreet research interviews with politicians, political staff, and public servants. His book Brand Command: Canadian Politics and Democracy in the Age of Message Control (UBC Press 2016) won the Donner Prize for Best Public Policy Book by a Canadian.

  • An excerpt from 'Queering Urban Justice'

    The Toronto chapter of the Black Lives Matter movement (BLM-TO) organizes public interventions to resist anti-black racism in the GTA. One of the most prominent of these actions is the sit-in they staged to block the 2016 Toronto Pride Parade from moving until festival officials signed a pledge to be more inclusive of black and brown trans and LGTBQ people.  Within hours, news outlets across Canada were debating the merits of BLM-TO’s tactics (here).

    Two of BLM-TO’s founding members, Janaya Khan and Leroi Newbold, facilitated a public teach-in at the bookstore A Different Booklist.  A transcript of this event is published as “Black Lives Matter Teach-In” in QUEERING URBAN JUSTICE, a new anthology edited by Jin Haritaworn, Ghaida Moussa, and Syrus Marcus Ware, with Río Rodríguez. The following exchange is an excerpt (pages 141-143):    

    COMMUNITY MEMBER: Can you speak to what is unique about do­ing anti-Black racism organizing in Canada as opposed to other places?

    JANAYA: We know deeply, as I’m sure some of you who do different social justice work here know, of the uphill battle trying to talk about social justice in Canada. They’ll invalidate racism here and say we’re not as bad as the US. When did our standards become so low that we can justify real violence by saying we’re not as bad as the US? Because we don’t have Black people dying every twenty-eight hours like they do? When did that become the standards of justice for Black people? We are legitimately in a state of emergen­cy in Canada. We already were.

    One major issue we’ve faced here in Ontario is our Special In­vestigations Unit [SIU], that’s who we’re supposed to look to in the event that police use force against persons in this province. They were supposed to be a group of civilians, but they’re a group of ex-cops. According to their own report, from 2012 to 2013, there was a 22 per cent increase of incident reports of police officers using force against a person. There’s been a 51 per cent caseload increase for this small group of people. That tells us that our police are actually getting more and more militarized and aggressive, and that our SIU is not changing in order to be accountable to its populace. It is changing to better support police officers in their masquerading. In their pretence of justice and pretence of law enforcement, which has just really manifested itself around anti-Black racism and the killing of Black people.

    Here in Canada we recognize, particularly in Toronto, that it’s not about critical masses as much as it is about critical connec­tions. Everyone here in this space needs to be making critical con­nections. We need to be having conversations about anti-Black racism in Canada because for the first time, in a long time, people are talking about anti-Black racism here. In this era, Black Lives Matter Toronto is pushing that narrative. But revolution happens in cycles, and we’re going to honour our elders, and look towards our Indigenous people and our Black people, as we read more and more about what’s come before us. Histories of this work aren’t accessible, they are not archived, but guess what – we al­ready know they’re there because we have been living and sur­viving in those conditions. This is why a space like A Different Booklist is so incredibly important. Because it is literally a part of Black Toronto; it’s a part of Black Canada’s history. That is why we need to support it.

    Also, what we are dealing with here is fundamentally not about just the Harper government – get rid of it, get rid of it. What we’re dealing with is not just one party, politician, or institution. If we were to get rid of the current government, anti-Black racism would continue to exist. What we are dealing with is a belief system. It is a belief system that Black people are [inherently] inferior, and that we actually don’t feel pain, that we don’t hurt, that we don’t love. That is what anti-Black racism is. It manifests itself in lock­ing us up. There’s an article in the Toronto Star that said that Black youth spend the longest time in the Children’s Aid Society’s care. That’s an extension of the prison industrial complex. I was one of those youth; I grew up in that. I can tell you it did not help. It made things increasingly difficult. It made me known to the police. Why? Because they treated me as an adult, and I was twelve years old. And then fourteen years old. These are the contexts our orga­nizing is born out of.

    For more about Queering Urban Justice, click here.

  • An excerpt from 'Homophobia in the Hallways' by Tonya D. Callaghan

    On a cold day in March 2011, an inconspicuous, unremarkable group of students at St Joseph’s Catholic Secondary School in Mississauga, Ontario, did something remarkable, something that, in their school – indeed in Catholic schools across Canada at the time – was unthinkable. They requested permission to establish a club, a Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA) club in their school. To the unenlightened eye, their action appeared small, routine even. It was a logical request for an in-school club whose focus would be to make the school a safe space for lgbtq students and their straight allies by raising awareness about, and so hopefully reducing, school-based homophobia. It was not even an original idea; GSAs had originated in the United States almost 25 years before. Unbeknown to these students, they would soon be taking on a significant battle for Canadian LGBTQ rights. Their actions set off a series of events that would reverberate across the country.

    The students quickly learned that St Joseph’s school was not ready for such a club. A maelstrom ensued. The students, led by 16-year-old Leanne Iskander, encountered strong opposition first from their principal and then from administrators at the district level. By June, they remained in a standoff. The students vowed to continue their fight in the next school term.

    The establishment of a GSA in a secular Canadian public school barely seems an issue worth noting, judging by the lack of media stories about such attempts. There is, in fact, no formal mechanism in place to ban GSA clubs in non-religious public schools. Starting a GSA club in a secular public school has often, though not always, proved no more controversial than setting up an anti-racism or debate club. Students who join a GSA in a non-religious school have the right to broadcast their club meeting schedule over the school’s public address system, actively solicit other students for their club using posters and other means, meet on school property, and name their club a GSA without any concern over the use of the word gay. Note that publicly funded separate Catholic schools are accountable to civil, not church, authorities. Religious bodies do not have a constitutional or legal interest in separate schools, and, as such, Canadian Catholic separate schools are not private or parochial schools as many are in other countries.

    In Canadian Catholic schools, such as St Joseph Secondary School in Mississauga, however – a publicly funded school, I must emphasize – Leanne Iskander and friends’ request to establish such a club was rejected outright more than once and caused serious alarm, not only for the administrators of St Joseph’s but also for its school district, the Ontario bishops, and the Ontario provincial government.

    The increasingly public battle between this particular group of students in St Joseph’s Catholic Secondary School and their Catholic school administrators is significant because it represents the growing discontent between publicly funded Canadian Catholic schools and Canadian society at large. In Canada, same-sex legal rights have been steadily advancing – in 2005 Canada became the fourth country in the world to legalize marriage equality nationwide (Rayside, 2008) – and Canadian gay Pride parades regularly attract millions of tourist dollars. In the publicly funded Canadian Catholic school system, however, advances in same-sex legal rights have been virtually non-existent. When trying to determine how to manage the existence of lgbtq people (students, teachers, aids, and support staff included) in Canadian Catholic schools, Catholic education leaders turn to Catholic doctrine rather than to their legal authority – Canadian human rights law. Catholic doctrine describes “homosexual acts” as “acts of grave depravity” that are “intrinsically disordered” and count among the list of “sins gravely contrary to chastity” (cited in Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops [OCCB], 2004a, p. 53). Needless to say, relying on Catholic doctrine as a guide for curricular and policy decisions makes Canadian Catholic schools hotbeds for homophobia.

  • An excerpt from 'Prairie Fairies' by Valerie J. Korinek

    Prairie Fairies makes a contribution to a small but important literature analysing the history of gay liberationist activism in Canada and of the ways that Canadian activism was inspired by – and aware of – American developments, while differing from them in important ways.  Importantly, in a context where, as Miriam Smith has argued, the “national” movement was never more than a “set of loose networks … rather than a coherent actor,” local queer organizations were the source of most activities. The prairies thriving activist scenes, in Winnipeg and Saskatoon in particular, would play an important role in generating local activism and contributing to the “national” liberationist scene. Westerners played a more significant role than earlier pan-national works have acknowledged, including [the fact] that western activist groups hosted three of the eight national gay and lesbian conferences held between 1973 and 1980.

    Gay liberationist strategies and tactics continued to be articulated and used in the west well into the mid-1980s. At a time when many central Canadian organizations would shift to “rights talk” and legal “equality seeking” in the early to mid-1980s, westerners continued with various platforms of the liberationist strategies, including consciousness-raising, education, and human rights matters when they arose. Taking a historical, regional approach to gay and lesbian activism captures continuity and change, offers more perspective into social actors and local organizations, and deepens our knowledge of the breadth of regional queer political work. It was AIDS that changed the focus of western Canadian activist organizations, as well as activist migrations and burnout, not a shift to “rights” talk in the advent of the new Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

    By 1985, AIDS had arrived in all the prairie cities and this plague dramatically transformed the organizational, activist, and queer communities in the various cities, as attention turned from liberationist goals to medical advocacy and support. Hopefully, future historians will research and write that social history. The connections and debates fostered about health, politics, sexuality, and relations between lesbians and gay men post-AIDS offers another vantage point on questions about place, sexuality, and queer politics. AIDS conclusively ended any anachronistic or utopian notion that prairie cities were not home to sizable populations of lesbians and gays, or that LGBT residents would be content to be second-class citizens with respect to medical care, political representation, or basic human rights protections.

    From 1930 to 1985, Prairie Fairies demonstrates that queer people created communities; fostered social, educational and social service opportunities; and, indeed, created spaces for prairie residents to be gay or lesbian. People found pockets of urban spaces in which to be queer – this became a precursor to formal politics for some individuals, but also a way to assert a political identity in a place constantly trying to ignore, silence, or eradicate such differences. Putting the queer westerners back into the modern history of prairie cities and prairie societies reclaims important literal and historical space for prairie queer people, and moves them from the margins to the centre of the historical frame. From the 1930s through to the mid-1980s, queer westerners were part of vibrant queer and straight communities, and stories of these “mavericks” ironically fit beautifully within the prairie historiography at the very same time that their existence challenges everything we thought we knew about these provinces.

  • Behind the Book with Bob Maunder and Jon Hunter

     

    Bob Maunder and Jon Hunter, in their book Love, Fear, and Health: How Our Attachments to Others Shape Health and Health Care, discuss how attachment – the ways in which people seek security in their close relationships – can transform patient outcomes.

    Love, Fear, and Health: How Our Attachments to Others Shape Health and Health Care

    What is Love, Fear and Health about?

    We wrote Love, Fear and Health to show that close relationships are central to health. We describe how health and illness emerge from interactions between individuals, as opposed to coming just from within individuals (e.g. from genes) or from individuals interacting with other aspects of the environment (e.g. with germs). This happens in several ways. First, interactions between parents and their children are critical to the development of the child’s physical regulatory systems, which will allow her to adapt to different environments and regulate responses to stressful situations effectively. How readily these systems adapt to their environments has big implications for diseases of “wear-and-tear” that will often emerge much later in life. Lifelong patterns of what to expect and how to act in close relationships, which are called patterns of attachment, are also shaped during early parent-child interactions. These patterns influence how willing people are to ask for help and how able they are to manage distressing situations independently, which are individual differences that have a big impact on how people use the health care system. Finally, since health care always occurs within the context of helping relationships, patterns of attachment influence what happens in health care provider-patient relationships, and are something we need to take into account to make health care truly patient-centered.

    Who is it for?

    The reader who we had in mind as we were writing is a colleague, someone working in one of the many professional disciplines that collaborate in the health care system. We had some ambivalence about narrowing our audience in this way because many of the ideas in this book will be new, interesting and relevant to general readers. However, we wanted to get to some recommendations about how this way of thinking about health care should change the way it is practiced, and those recommendations need to be framed in a different way for providers than for patients, so we had to make a choice. We don’t expect our colleagues to feel familiar or comfortable with psychological theory, so we have tried to write in a way that is accessible and relatively free of jargon. So it is a fairly easy read. We were very gratified that early reviewers picked up on our intent. Dr. Jeremy Holmes call it “readable, accessible, amusing and profound” and Dr. David Naylor said that “every health care professional concerned with the psychological well-being of his or her patients should read it.”

    The book is written by two authors. How did you collaborate on the writing?

    We have been working together for a long time. We were actually in the same medical school class although we didn’t work closely together until a few years after we graduated. It was when we were collaborating as psychiatrists to medically and surgically ill patients and as teachers in the 1990s, that we started meeting every week to have a conversation about the challenges that arose with patients or with students or colleagues.

    We came back to attachment theory, which we hadn’t paid much attention to since undergraduate days because it was such a useful framework for understanding our challenges. Then we started teaching together and doing research on how attachment affects health. The book really emerged from those conversations and from a highly iterative process of teaching, pursing research ideas, and then revising based on feedback, questions, and new ideas.

    As a result of this long history of working on these issues together and taking about them, our method is highly collaborative. We literally cannot remember who first suggested most of the ideas that are woven into Love, Fear and Health. Once we get to typing, Bob usually creates the first draft and then we pass it back and forth, often through many iterations, until it feels right. We are lucky that we long ago settled on the “speak plainly and don’t worry too much about each other’s feelings” method of editing and commenting. It has saved us a lot of time and we’re still friends.

    What are the challenges of writing about the impact of relationships on health?

    This is a subject that crosses many disciplines and perspectives, and that introduces quite a few challenges. The most general of these is that a reader of the book is almost certainly not going to be an expert in all of its subject matter – so we are challenged to provide an accessible point of entry to each of the books main topics while still staying true to the scholarship that informs us.

    Another challenge has been to make the book useful. We weren’t interested in writing a book that would advance scholarship without also at least trying to improve how health care is practiced. We are influenced by perspectives on continuing education for health care professionals – providing education that is perceived to be helpful and that increases knowledge are the lowest standards of evidence for change. Actually changing behaviour and then improving patient outcomes is the real gold. We wanted to write a book that would be a step towards improving patients’ experience.

    There are a couple of other troubles that come up again and again. One is how hard it is to describe quickly what this book and our research is about. The English word “relationships” has far too many meanings for our convenience. It seems that we can’t get very far into an “elevator pitch” without having to pause and say that we are talking about a very special class of close relationships that includes parents with children, romantic partners with each other, and under the right conditions also includes patients when they are with health care providers

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