The Public Servant's Guide to Government in Canada
The Public Servant’s Guide to Government in Canada is a concise primer on the inner workings of government in Canada. This is a go-to resource for students, for early career public servants, and for anyone who wants to know more about how government works. Grounded in experience, the book connects core concepts in political science and public administration to the real-world practice of working in the public service. The authors provide valuable insights into the messy realities of governing and the art of diplomacy, as well as best practices for climbing the career ladder.
- World Rights
- Page Count: 128 pages
- Dimensions: 5.6in x 0.3in x 8.5in
"The Public Servant’s Guide is skillfully written, wry and sometimes funny."
Blacklock’s Reporter, March 2, 2019
"[This is] a book that every new and aspiring public servant should have in their learning library. Small but mighty in its 108 pages, The Public Servant’s Guide provides lots of tips, advice, and learning that would take a few years on average to accumulate."
Alana Del Greco
"There is an unmistakable need for a book to guide public servants, aspiring public servants and students of government at a time when public sector institutions are being challenged on all fronts. Marland and Wesley have answered the call with a well-written and comprehensively documented contribution to the literature.
Donald J. Savoie, Canada Research Chair in Public Administration and Governance, Université de Moncton
"Marland and Wesley have done a wonderful job of capturing and sharing the basic elements and essence of what it takes to succeed in a career with the Canadian public service. The authors have sprinkled their guidance with sufficient history and background stories to make this read not only informative but interesting as well. I’m confident that the Public Servant’s Guide will become a companion document for many working in Canada’s public sector, regardless of their level or location."
Dr. Robert P. Taylor, CEO, Institute of Public Administration of Canada
"The Public Servant’s Guide to Government in Canada links key ideas, institutions, and actors in public administration with what these mean for public servants who want to better understand the government(s) they serve. The authors bring concepts and practices alive with advice on how neutral, non-partisan, and loyal public servants (including those who want to become public servants) can navigate and contribute to an increasingly complex and political system of government."
Andrea Rounce, University of Manitoba
"If you buy only one book as a recent grad or new public servant with the limited funds that come from student debt and contract positions, you should buy this one. I wish that I had this guide when I was starting out."
Alana Del Greco, IPAC Toronto Board Member
Author InformationAlex Marland is Professor of Political Science at Memorial University of Newfoundland.
Jared J. Wesley is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Alberta.
Table of contents
List of Figures and Tables
Purpose of The Public Servant’s Guide to Government in Canada
1 REVIEW OF CORE CONCEPTS
What Is a Public Servant?
Core Principles of Canadian Government
The Division of Power
The Main Institutions of Government
2 THE PUBLIC SECTOR BARGAIN
Government as an Organization
Threats to the Public Service Bargain
Guiding Principles for Public Servants
3 THE POLITICS OF PUBLIC POLICY
What Is Public Policy?
The Public Policy Cycle
Public Policy Lenses
4 THE POLITICS OF PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION
Centralization of Power
Public Administration Is Political
The Merit Principle
The Structure and Machinery of Government
5 THE ART OF NAVIGATING LIFE IN GOVERNMENT
Knowledge of Power
Ethics of Public Service
6 ROLES AND COMPETENCIES OF A PUBLIC SERVANT
Roles and Occupations in the Public Service
Relational and Experiential Learning
7 ACHIEVING YOUR CAREER GOALS
Finding Purpose in a Public Service Career
Finding Balance in a Public Service Career
Finding Community in a Public Service Career
Glossary of Terms
About the Authors
Read An Excerpt
Review of Core Concepts
The authors recognize that readers have different backgrounds, training, experience, and information needs. You are encouraged to peruse the chapters and content that you believe to be most applicable to your situation at a given time. Some readers may find it helpful to consult the Glossary of Terms on page 97.
Public servants make choices and take actions that profoundly shape Canadians’ lives every day. Our homes are safer because of the building code standards they help develop and enforce. The food we eat and the medicines we use are of higher quality and potentially lower cost because public servants provide oversight. Internet, radio, television, and print media content that we consume is influenced by policies they administer. Public servants play a role in developing and implementing all public policy related to our cars, the roads we travel, speed limits, the price of gasoline and insurance, who is licensed to drive, the availability of public transportation, whether there are bike lanes, and the rules of the road. In fact, by the time most Canadians arrive at their destination to begin the workday, chances are they will have indirectly interacted with government hundreds of times. Some may go on to have direct interactions during their day. Perhaps they will visit a government website, contact a politician, visit a hospital clinic, pay a tax bill, or argue over a parking ticket. We all regularly engage with various forms of government and, by extension, with the employees who loyally implement the policy decisions made by those holding political office.
In many ways, public servants stand on the front lines of Canadian democracy. Whether offering policy advice to cabinet ministers, delivering services to citizens, or working in concert with political staff, their roles require familiarity with common principles that underpin the practice of politics and governance in Canada. A refresher for some and a primer for others, this chapter summarizes core concepts about democratic governance and public administration.
What Is a Public Servant?
Generally speaking, we are concerned with the nonpartisan workers in the core public service, namely those in government departments, Crown corporations, and agencies. They are alternatively known as civil servants and bureaucrats, but for consistency we refer to them as public servants. This encompasses the permanent, salaried personnel in government and those on contracts, including short-term staff such as interns and co-operative education students. The roles and responsibilities of these employees are the focus of The Public Servant’s Guide to Government in Canada.
Working in government can be a demanding and rewarding caree path, one that directly employs roughly 4 million Canadians,1 as part of the world’s most effective civil service.2 Examples of the thousands of public servant job titles include:
• airport response specialist
• area licensing administrator
• bilingual branch library technician
• chief cook on a marine vessel
• citizen services officer
• community social service worker
• competition law officer
• director of integration and multiculturalism
• economic development analyst
• environmental planner
• equipment operator
• junior program analyst
• laboratory manager
• manager, strategic planning
• program coordinator
• public outreach education officer
This book emphasizes the roles and duties of public servants in the federal and provincial governments of Canada. Some content applies to employees in territorial, municipal, and Indigenous governments. Politicians and political staff are featured throughout this book because they work closely with public servants. Other people on the public payroll are not strictly considered public servants because government is not their primary employer. Public sector workers such as teachers, nurses, doctors, professors, military personnel, police and corrections officers, and others are subject to their own professional codes. They have their own separate training facilities, regulatory bodies, associations, and unions. What all of them have in common is that public sector workers are paid, at least in part, using public money. Moreover they are all subject to decisions made by the small number of decision- makers who run the government.
Subjects and Courses