Power at the Apex - Donald Savoie

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22 Apr 2012
Power at the Apex: Executive Dominance
Donald Savoie
Power is concentrated in hands of the PM and Cabinet
o Hand of the PM has been considerably strengthened
1976 election to the office of the PQ gave rise to court government. A
provincial party committed to taking Quebec out of Canada. PM needs to
keep the country together because they’re the first to blame should it
PCO for new ministers makes it clear that the PM has direct responsibility for
the conduct of federal-provincial relations. These now cover virtually every
aspect of the federal govt’s decision-making process
Provincial premiers have direct access to the PM and do not hesitate to
pursue an issue with him. Should he decide to support the Premier, the issue
is brought to the centre of government in Ottawa for resolution.
Media can turn any issue into an important file. When this happens there’s no
distinction made between policy and administration. A file that gets media
attention, the PM will want to oversee.
Since Trudeau, PM’s have made themselves into TV personalities, however
the opposite for Cabinet ministers.
The objective of national political parties at election time is more to sell their
leaders to the Canadian electorate than it is to sell their ideas or their
What do officials in the centre do?
o Trudeau decided to enlarge the size and scope of the PMO in the
His principle secretary sought to reassure critics and Cabinet
ministers that the office would remain essentially a service
oriented organization.
PMO is not a mini-cabinet, it is not directly or indirectly a
decision-making body and is not a body at all Trudeau
PMO staffers have the PM’s ear on everything they wish to
Can also work hand in hand with a minister to initiate a
Can also undercut a proposal when briefing the PM
o PCO: Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet has 3
main responsibility
As PM’s Deputy Minister, provides advice and support to the
PM on a full range of responsibilities as head of government
As Secretary, provides support and advice to the Ministry as a
whole and oversees the provision of policy and secretariat
support to the Cabinet and Cabinet committee
Head of Public Service, responsible for the quality of expert,
professional and non-partisan advice and service
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