Transcript: The Power Behind Democracy's Throne | Apr 29, 2021

An animated slate reads "The Democracy Agenda. A TVO and Toronto Star partnership."

Steve sits in a room with white walls, a low slanted ceiling and several framed pictures on the walls including one of George Drew and one of Walter Kronkite. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a blue shirt and a striped blue tie.

A caption on screen reads "The power behind democracy's throne."

Steve says BEHIND EVERY PRIME MINISTER, PREMIER, AND CABINET MINISTER STANDS AN ESSENTIAL DEPUTY MINISTER OR SENIOR CIVIL SERVANT. WHERE, IN THAT PAIRING, DOES THE REAL POWER LIE? JOSEPH HEATH IS AUTHOR MOST RECENTLY OF, "THE MACHINERY OF GOVERNMENT: PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION AND THE LIBERAL STATE." AND HE JOINS US, AS PART OF OUR JOINT INITIATIVE BETWEEN TVO AND THE TORONTO STAR - ON THE DEMOCRACY AGENDA - TO CONSIDER THAT QUESTION...

Joseph is in his late forties, clean-shaven, with short, spiky brown hair. He's wearing a blue suit and a spotted midnight blue shirt.
A picture of his book appears briefly on screen. The cover features a drawing of a complex mechanism of metal cogs.

Steve continues JOSEPH, IT'S GOOD TO HAVE YOU BACK ON THE PROGRAM. HOW ARE YOU MANAGING?

Joseph says I'VE BEEN DOING OKAY. THANK YOU.

Steve says GLAD TO HEAR THAT. WE ARE GOING TO EXPLORE THIS RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE ELECTED POLITICIANS AND THE CIVIL SERVICE FOR REAL, BUT WE THOUGHT WE WOULD JUST PLUCK A CLIP OUT OF FICTION TO GET US STARTED BECAUSE THIS IS JUST TOO DELICIOUS TO PASS UP. HERE IS FROM THE VERY WELL-KNOWN TELEVISION PROGRAM "YES, MINISTER," THE BRITISH COMEDY SHOW. HERE IS APPLEBY EXPLAINING HOW IT WORKS TO HIS MINISTER'S PERSONAL PRIVATE SECRETARY. GO AHEAD, CHAD. LET'S RUN THAT.

A clip plays on screen with the caption "Yes Minister."
In the clip, two men play public officials. They're both in their fifties, clean-shaven, and wear suits.

Official 1 says IF IT'S OUR JOB TO CARRY OUT OUR GOVERNMENT POLICIES, SHOULDN'T WE BELIEVE IN THEM?

Official 2 says WHAT AN EXTRAORDINARY IDEA. WHY?

Official 1 says I HAVE SERVED 11 GOVERNMENTS IN THE PAST 30 YEARS. IF I BELIEVED IN ALL THEIR POLICIES, I WOULD HAVE BEEN PASSIONATELY COMMITTED TO KEEPING OUT OF THE COMMON MARKET AND PASSIONATELY COMMITTED TO GOING INTO IT. I WOULD HAVE BEEN UTTERLY CONVINCED THAT THE RIGHTNESS OF NATIONALIZING STEEL AND OF DENATIONALIZING IT AND DENATIONALIZING IT. CAPITAL PUNISHMENT. I'D HAVE BEEN A KEYNESIAN. ABOVE ALL, I WOULD HAVE BEEN A STARK STARING RAVING SCHIZOPHRENIC.

The clip ends.

Steve says GOSH, THAT WAS A GOOD SHOW. HOW WELL IN YOUR VIEW, JOSEPH, DOES THAT CLIP SUM UP HOW CIVIL SERVANTS ARE SUPPOSED TO DEAL WITH THEIR POLITICAL MASTERS?

The caption changes to "Joseph Heath. Author, 'The machinery of government.'"

Joseph says I HAVE TO SAY THERE'S THIS REALLY, REALLY, OLD JOKE IN THE CIVIL SERVICE, THAT HALF THE POWER POINTS IN THE CIVIL SERVICE START WITH THIS JOKE, THAT "YES MINISTER" WAS A DOCUMENTARY, NOT A COMEDY. WHAT HE'S DESCRIBING IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT FEATURES OF THE BRITISH CIVIL SERVICE WHICH CANADA SHARES AND THAT'S CIVIL SERVICE NEUTRALITY. THE THOUGHT IS THE CIVIL SERVICE ISN'T SUPPOSED TO TAKE A POSITION. THE ADVANTAGE OF THAT ARRANGEMENT IS THAT IT ALLOWS THE SAME CIVIL SERVANTS TO REMAIN IN THEIR POSITIONS WITH CHANGES OF GOVERNMENT. THAT'S ACTUALLY A HUGE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CANADA AND THE UNITED STATES. AND SO WHEN WE FOLLOW AMERICAN NEWS, WE ALWAYS SEE THE ISSUE ABOUT THE PRESIDENT TRYING TO GET SENATE APPROVAL FOR VARIOUS APPOINTMENTS, BECAUSE WHEN AN AMERICAN PRESIDENT COMES IN, ABOUT 5,000 PEOPLE LOSE THEIR JOBS AND GET DIRECTLY REPLACED. AND THEN PROBABLY ANOTHER 40,000 TO 50,000 PEOPLE DOWN THE LINE LOSE THEIR JOBS AND GET REPLACED. SO THEY HAVE A PARTISAN CIVIL SERVICE. IN CANADA WE HAVE THE SAME ARRANGEMENT THAT SIR HUMPHREY IS DESCRIBING THERE WHICH IN SOME CASES THE NEW GOVERNMENT CHANGES AND THEY MIGHT SHUFFLE THE DEPUTY MINISTERS BUT NO ONE ACTUALLY LOSES THEIR JOB. EVERYBODY STAYS IN POSITION. THAT OF COURSE GIVES THE CIVIL SERVICE DISTINCTIVE FORMS OF POWER IN THE BRITISH/CANADIAN SYSTEM THAT THEY DON'T HAVE IN THE AMERICAN SYSTEM.

Steve says LET ME FOLLOW UP ON THAT. IN THEORY, DON'T WE LIKE ABOUT THAT IN OUR SYSTEM? GOVERNMENTS CAN CHANGE INASMUCH AS VARIOUS ISSUES OF THE DAY BUT WE LIKE TO HAVE INSTITUTIONAL MEMORY IN PLACE THAT PROVIDES CONTINUITY AS WELL AND PRESUMABLY THE DYNAMIC BETWEEN THOSE TWO... TENSION AND BENEFITS... IS A GOOD THING FOR DEMOCRACY. NO?

The caption changes to "The Democracy Agenda. A TVO and Toronto Star partnership."

Joseph says YES. IT'S OFTEN DESCRIBED AS A KIND OF A BARGAIN OR A TRADE-OFF. AND SO THE THING THAT POLITICIANS GET OUT OF IT IS THAT THEY GET A MORE EFFECTIVE CIVIL SERVICE. I MEAN, IT'S A PROBLEM WITH PEOPLE WHO COME IN FROM OUTSIDE AN ORGANIZATION IS THEY DON'T KNOW HOW TO GET THINGS DONE. SO YOU GET A HIGHER LEVEL OF PROFESSIONALISM. AND IT'S ABSOLUTELY THE CASE THAT IN CANADA, PART OF THE REASON THE QUALITY OF GOVERNMENT IS HIGH IS BECAUSE WE HAVE THIS HIGHLY PROFESSIONAL CIVIL SERVICE. THE DOWNSIDE IS THAT YOU DON'T GET FROM THE POLITICIANS' PERSPECTIVE IS THAT YOU DON'T GET LOYALTY, AND IN PARTICULAR, YOU DON'T HAVE PEOPLE WHO ARE PERSONALLY LOYAL TO YOU INTO THOSE POSITIONS. ALTHOUGH I SHOULD MENTION THAT THINGS HAVE CHANGED SINCE "YES MINISTER." IT'S IMPORTANT NOT TO TREAT "YES MINISTER" AN DOCUMENTARY. ONE OF THE THINGS ABOUT YES MINISTER IS IN THAT TV SHOW IT WAS BEFORE THE DEVELOPMENT OF POLITICAL STAFF. NOW POLITICIANS TYPICALLY ARE... I MEAN THERE, IN THAT SHOW, THERE'S A SINGLE MINISTER WHO IS THE ELECTED OFFICIAL SURROUNDED ENTIRELY BY CIVIL SERVANTS, WHO ARE CONSTANTLY PULLING THE WOOL OVER HIS EYES AND NOT LET HIM ACCOMPLISH ANYTHING AND SO FORTH. NOWADAYS A PERSON HAS A CHIEF OF STAFF AND A DOZEN PEOPLE WHO ARE PARTY LOYALISTS AND NOT CIVIL SERVANTS. SO THINGS HAVE ALSO EVOLVED IN THE DIRECTION, IN PART BECAUSE POLITICIANS ARE NOT ENTIRELY THRILLED WITH ALLOWING THEIR POLITICAL FORTUNES TO REST ENTIRELY IN THE HANDS OF PEOPLE THAT THEY HAVE... THAT DON'T OWE THEM ANYTHING AND THAT HAVE NO PARTISAN LOYALTIES.

Steve says WELL, LET ME PURSUE THIS ISSUE OF PARTISAN LOYALTY WITH YOU. BECAUSE YOU'RE QUITE RIGHT, THE CIVIL SERVICE IS SUPPOSED TO BE NEUTRAL. BUT WE MAY WELL REMEMBER AN INCIDENT, I THINK IT WAS ABOUT FIVE AND A HALF YEARS AGO WHEN JUSTIN TRUDEAU FIRST BECAME PRIME MINISTER AND HE WENT TO THE LESTER B. PEARSON BUILDING IN OTTAWA TO MAKE A COURTESY CALL ON THE FOLKS WORKING IN GLOBAL AFFAIRS AND SAY, YOU KNOW, I'M THE NEW GUY AND I JUST WANT TO MEET YOU. AND HE GOT SUCH A ROCK STAR'S WELCOME, THE CHEERS, THE CELL PHONES THAT WERE TAKING PICTURES, IT FULFILLED EVERY SKEPTICAL CONSERVATIVE'S VIEW OF HOW OTTAWA WORKS, WHICH NAMELY IS, THE LIBERALS HAVE STACKED THE CIVIL SERVICE FOR YEARS. IS THAT A FAIR CHARGE THE WAY YOU LOOK AT IT?

Joseph says A LOT OF PEOPLE CRINGED, ACTUALLY, A LOT OF CIVIL SERVANTS CRINGED WITH THAT PARTICULAR EPISODE WITH JUSTIN TRUDEAU AT FOREIGN AFFAIRS. SO THERE'S A COUPLE THINGS ABOUT IT. FIRST OF ALL, IT'S IMPORTANT TO SAY THAT THE INSTITUTION OF CIVIL SERVICE NEUTRALITY OR PUBLIC SERVICE NEUTRALITY, AS WE SAY IN CANADA, IS MORE POPULAR WITH LIBERALS THAN IT IS WITH CONSERVATIVES. THAT IS, CONSERVATIVES OFTEN HAVE THE SUSPICION THAT THEIR CIVIL SERVANTS ARE ALL LIBERALS WHO ARE JUST KIND OF NOT... DON'T HAVE THEIR PARTY CARDS SIGNED BUT ARE TACITLY LIBERAL. SO A LOT MORE PRESSURE GETS PUT ON THE CIVIL SERVICE AND THE INSTITUTIONS OF NEUTRALITY WITH CONSERVATIVE GOVERNMENTS. YOU SAW IT WITH THE HARPER GOVERNMENT, BUT YOU CAN ALSO SEE IT REALLY, REALLY CLEARLY WITH MORE CONSERVATIVE GOVERNMENTS AT THE PROVINCIAL LEVEL. IN SOME PROVINCES ASPECTS OF NEUTRALITY HAVE BEEN DISMANTLED BECAUSE OF THIS CONCERN THAT THEY'RE REALLY JUST CLOSET LIBERALS. CIVIL SERVICE NEUTRALITY CUTS BOTH WAYS. ON THE OTHER HAND YOU'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO OBSTRUCT THE POLICIES AND INITIATIVES OF THE GOVERNMENT AND OBSTRUCTIONISM IS OFTEN WHAT PEOPLE WORRY MOST ABOUT. BUT IT ALSO IS INTENDED TO PRECLUDE EXCESSIVE ENTHUSIASM FOR THE GOVERNMENT AS WELL. THERE ARE EPISODES WHERE CANADIAN CIVIL SERVANTS HAVE GOT IN TROUBLE FOR BEING TOO LOYAL TO THE MINISTER RATHER THAN DISLOYAL TO THE MINISTER. IT IS IMPORTANT TO KEEP IN MIND... SO THAT THING AT FOREIGN AFFAIRS. ON THE ONE HAND IT SHOWED DISLOYALTY TO THE PREVIOUS GOVERNMENT. BUT IT ALSO SHOWED EXCESSIVE LOYALTY TO THE GOVERNMENT OF THE DAY. AND THAT WAS WHAT CAUSED A LOT OF SORT OF DISAPPROVAL AMONGST SENIOR CIVIL SERVANTS ABOUT THAT BEHAVIOUR.

Steve says JOSEPH, LET'S DO A FOLLOW-UP ON THAT COMMENT BY READING AN EXCERPT OF YOUR BOOK, "THE MACHINERY OF GOVERNMENT: PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION AND THE LIBERAL STATE," AND HERE WE GO.

A quote appears on screen, under the title "Where is power?" The quote reads "I hope to have provided an alternative to the old civil service statement of duty, 'fearless advice, loyal implementation.' This will no doubt remain a useful phrase to drop when politicians are in the room, but it dramatically understates the amount of raw power that is directly exercised by the civil service.
Unfortunately, there has been something of a conspiracy of silence around this reality, between civil servants not wanting to be impolitic and academics enamored of highly idealized conceptions of democracy."
Quoted from Joseph Heath, "The machinery of government." 2020.

Steve says I HATE TO SUM UP SOMETHING AS SCHOLARLY AS YOUR WORK IN SUCH A TRITE PHRASE, BUT YOU SEEM TO BE DEEPLY CONCERNED ABOUT THE FACT THAT THE IDEAS THAT WE'VE BEEN TALKING ABOUT ARE HOPELESSLY OUT OF DATE AND THE CIVIL SERVICE TODAY HAS NOT ONLY TAKEN UNTO ITSELF BUT ALSO HAD DOWNLOADED TO IT... OR MAYBE UPLOADED TO IT... FROM POLITICIANS MORE RESPONSIBILITIES BECAUSE POLITICIANS CAN'T HANDLE IT ANYMORE? ARE WE IN TROUBLE BECAUSE OF THIS, IN YOUR VIEW?

Joseph says WELL, I THINK PART OF THE REASON THAT WE'RE NOT IN AS MUCH TROUBLE AS WE MIGHT BE WITH THE DECLINE OF DEMOCRACY AND OF PUBLIC DISCOURSE IS THAT WE DO HAVE THIS FAIRLY AUTONOMOUS CIVIL SERVICE THAT LOOKS AFTER MANY FEATURES OF THE BUSINESS OF GOVERNMENT. SO, I MEAN, WHAT OCCASIONED THE WRITING OF THE BOOK IS THIS PHENOMENON THAT'S SOMETIMES DESCRIBED AS THE RISE OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE STATE OR AS THEY LIKE TO SAY IN THE UNITED STATES, THE DEEP STATE, RIGHT? IT'S THIS IDEA THAT YOU HAVE ALL THESE DEPARTMENTS OF GOVERNMENT THAT ARE NOT REALLY DIRECTLY BEING CONTROLLED BY ELECTED OFFICIALS. AND THAT'S... YOU KNOW, OBVIOUSLY THE CASE. IF YOU LOOK AT A PORTFOLIO LIKE HEALTH CARE. SO IN ONTARIO, THERE'S MORE THAN A HALF MILLION PEOPLE WHO ARE IN ONE OR ANOTHER WAY A GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE IN THE HEALTH CARE SECTOR. AND THEY'RE ALL UNDER THE SUPERVISION OF THE MINISTER OF HEALTH AND LONG-TERM CARE. BUT THE THOUGHT THAT THE MINISTER IS, YOU KNOW, INVOLVED IN THE FINE DETAIL OF ANY OF THE MANAGEMENT OF THESE HEALTH ORGANIZATIONS IS OBVIOUSLY AN ILLUSION, RIGHT? SO HALF A MILLION PEOPLE. THAT WOULD MAKE IT A GIGANTIC... EVEN A CORPORATION WITH A CEO WHO HAD BEEN IN THE FIRM FOR 50 YEARS WOULD STRUGGLE TO REALLY EXERCISE EFFECTIVE CONTROL OVER 500,000 EMPLOYEES. SO IT'S CLEAR IN THE MINISTRY OF HEALTH. THE WAY THE MINISTRY OF HEALTH RUNS, NOT ONLY DOES IT HAVE A DEPUTY MINISTER A HALF DOES ASSOCIATE MINISTERS, AND SO FORTH. THERE'S A HUGE EXECUTIVE BUREAUCRACY THERE. WHICH OFTEN DOESN'T CHANGE FROM GOVERNMENT TO GOVERNMENT. SO THE MINISTER IS EXERCISING A KIND OF SUPERVISORY FUNCTION. BUT IN TERMS OF WHO'S RUNNING IT, IT'S CLEARLY THE CASE THAT IT'S BUREAUCRATS, UNELECTED OFFICIALS, WHO ARE RUNNING THE SYSTEM. BUT THAT OF COURSE IS A GOOD THING BECAUSE, ON THE OTHER HAND, YOU KNOW, IF YOU WERE TO HAVE A GOVERNMENT ELECTED WHO DIDN'T CARE ABOUT HEALTH CARE AND WASN'T PARTICULARLY INTERESTED IN BEING IN THAT BUSINESS, NEVERTHELESS THE HEALTH CARE SYSTEM WOULD CONTINUE TO FUNCTION MORE OR LESS THE WAY IT HAS BEEN. WHY? BECAUSE THE GOVERNMENT HAS UNDERTAKEN A COMMITMENT TO THE POPULATION TO DELIVER HEALTH CARE. AND THAT CAN'T BE SUBJECT TO THE KIND OF CAPRICIOUS WHIM THAT SOMETIMES GETS MANIFESTED IN THE RESULTS OF DEMOCRATIC ELECTIONS.

Steve says SO THE MOTTO FROM DAYS OF YORE OF THE CIVIL SERVICE OFFERING QUOTE, UNQUOTE, FEARLESS ADVICE BUT LOYAL IMPLEMENTATION AT THE SAME TIME, DO YOU FEEL WE'RE NOT IN THOSE TIMES ANYMORE?

The caption changes to "Joseph Heath. University of Toronto."

Joseph says YEAH. SO I FEEL THAT THAT SLOGAN DOESN'T EXACTLY CAPTURE WHAT THE CIVIL SERVICE DOES. AND SO IT'S A USEFUL PHRASE, BUT, I MEAN... NONE OF IT'S WRONG. LIKE, THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO OFFER FEARLESS ADVICE AND THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO OFFER LOYAL IMPLEMENTATION. BUT THEY DO MORE THAN THAT, WHICH IS THAT, FIRST OF ALL, THEY EXERCISE AN ENORMOUS AMOUNT OF DISCRETION, WHICH MEANS THAT A HUGE AMOUNT OF WHAT THEY DO INVOLVES FILLING IN THE BLANKS AND MAKING DECISIONS BECAUSE LAW AND MINISTERIAL DIRECTIVES ARE DONE AT A VERY, VERY HIGH LEVEL OF SATISFACTION. SO OFTEN A LAW WILL SAY SOMETHING ALONG THE LINES OF JUST KIND OF: DO WHAT'S RIGHT. AND THEN THE INTERPRETATION OF WHAT'S RIGHT GETS LEFT TO THE CIVIL SERVICE. AND THAT CAN'T REALLY BE DESCRIBED AS EITHER ADVICE... I MEAN, IT'S SORT OF IMPLEMENTATION BUT IT'S NOT REALLY JUST IMPLEMENTATION. THEY'RE MAKING DECISIONS. AND THEN THE SECOND THING IS THAT THEY HAVE A LOT OF POWER AND THEY HAVE THE CAPACITY TO PUSH BACK AGAINST POLITICIANS. AND THE CHARTER OF RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF ADMINISTRATIVE LAW HAVE BEEN INSTRUMENTAL IN THAT BECAUSE COURTS HAVE INTERVENED WITH THE GROWTH OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE STATE, COURTS HAVE TAKEN AN INCREASED INTEREST IN THE WAY IN WHICH THE ADMINISTRATIVE STATE CARRIES OUT ITS RESPONSIBILITIES. AND THAT HAS CREATED A WHOLE SET OF COURT DECISIONS THAT CONSTRAIN THE WAY IN WHICH ADMINISTRATION CAN BE DONE. SO THAT, ALONG WITH OTHER THINGS, MEAN THAT WHEN MINISTERS SIT DOWN AND SAY, "I'D LIKE TO DO THIS," OFTEN THE ANSWER FROM THE CIVIL SERVICE IS, "OH, NO, YOU CAN'T DO THAT." SO THAT IS KIND OF ADVICE. BUT IT'S MORE THAN JUST ADVICE. LIKE, THEY'RE SAYING, "YOU CAN'T DO THAT." IF THE MINISTER PUSHES, THEY OFTEN SAY, "WELL, WE'RE NOT GOING TO DO THAT." PARTLY THAT'S BECAUSE THEY HAVE VERY COMPLEX ACCOUNTABILITY RELATIONSHIPS. THEY'RE NOT JUST ACCOUNTABLE TO THE MINISTER. IN MANY CASES THEY'RE ACCOUNTABLE TO PARLIAMENT BUT THEY'RE ALSO ACCOUNTABLE TO THE JUDICIARY, THEY'RE ACCOUNTED TO VARIOUS CONSTITUENCIES, TRIBUNALS, ET CETERA. THERE'S A LOT THERE NOT CAPTURED BY THAT SLOGAN.

Steve says I APPRECIATE THAT. I ALSO HEAR THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN IS MINISTER GOES TO DEPUTY MINISTER AND SAYS "I WANT TO DO THIS." WHAT TRADITIONALLY HAPPENS IS THE DEPUTY SAYS, "ALL RIGHT, WE'LL STUDY IT FOR A LITTLE WHILE AND COME BACK TO YOU WITH THREE OPTIONS." THAT'S WHAT HAPPENED. DEPENDING ON HOW INVESTED THE MINISTER IS ON THE ISSUE, HE OR SHE PICKS A, B, OR C OR DON'T DO ANYTHING AT ALL. ARE YOU SAYING THAT'S NOT THE WAY IT WORKS ANYMORE?

Joseph says THAT'S THE WAY IT WORKS... WELL, I SHOULD SAY, WHEN YOU WERE... I WASN'T QUITE SURE WHERE YOU WERE GOING INITIALLY. SOMETIMES WHEN THE MINISTER SAYS, WE'RE GOING TO STUDY IT AND COME BACK WITH OPTIONS THAT'S A WAY OF OBSTRUCTING AN INITIATIVE.

Steve says SOMETIMES THEY DON'T COME BACK AT ALL.

Joseph says OR HOPE THE MINISTER FORGETS OR THERE'S A NEW MINISTER BY THE TIME THE COMMITTEE COMES BACK OR WHATEVER. THAT CAN GO ALL KINDS OF WAYS. ONE OF THE THINGS THAT'S HAPPENED AS WELL, THOUGH, IS POLITICIANS HAVE IN MANY WAYS BECOME LESS INTERESTED IN GOVERNING AND... I SHOULD SAY THAT THAT'S... THAT RIGHT NOW DURING THE CoVID PANDEMIC IT'S A BIT OF A STATE OF AN EXCEPTION TO THAT, WHICH IS THAT ELECTED OFFICIALS VERY MUCH HAVE THEIR EYE ON THE BALL WITH RESPECT TO THE MAJOR ISSUE AND THE EMERGENCY THAT'S CONFRONTING OUR SOCIETY. BUT IF YOU THINK BACK TO WHAT POLITICS WAS LIKE THREE YEARS AGO, ONE OF THE THINGS THAT POLITICIANS, YOU KNOW, LEARNED OVER THE LAST 20 YEARS WAS THAT JUST GOVERNING EFFECTIVELY AND RUNNING THE HEALTH CARE SYSTEM SAY IN A COMPETENT MANNER DOESN'T GET YOU RE-ELECTED. BUT INCREASINGLY THERE'S A VERY NARROW SET OF WEDGE ISSUES THAT BECOME OF INTEREST TO POLITICIANS BECAUSE THEY'VE BEEN TOLD BY THEIR STRATEGISTS THAT THOSE ARE THE ISSUES ON WHICH VOTES HINGE. AND SO INCREASINGLY MINISTERS ARE NOT INTERESTED IN THE ENTIRE PORTFOLIO, BUT RATHER ARE PURSUING THESE KIND OF NICHE QUESTIONS. SO THEY'RE NOT LIKELY TO SAY, "OH GIVE ME THREE OPTIONS ON HOW TO REDUCE WAIT TIMES IN THE HEALTH CARE SYSTEM," BUT THEY'RE MORE LIKELY TO SAY, YOU KNOW, "I'M REALLY INTERESTED IN SAFE INJECTION SITES. AND SO I WANT YOU TO DO A BUNCH OF BRIEFS AND PUT TOGETHER SOME DATA ON PRO AND CON SAFE INJECTION SITES." I USE THIS EXAMPLE BECAUSE AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL DURING THE HARPER GOVERNMENT, HEALTH CANADA SPENT AN ENORMOUS AMOUNT OF TIME TALKING ABOUT SAFE INJECTION SITES AND THE MINISTER SPENT A HUGE AMOUNT OF TIME TALKING ABOUT SAFE INJECTION SITES, NOT BECAUSE THAT'S AN ISSUE THAT'S OF ENORMOUS RELEVANCE TO THE HEALTH OF CANADIANS, IT'S BECAUSE POLLING SHOWED THAT THAT WAS AN ISSUE ON WHICH PEOPLE WERE WILLING TO... LIKE, VOTES WERE DEPENDENT UPON THAT ISSUE. IT WAS A WEDGE ISSUE, IN OTHER WORDS. SO PAUL MARTIN DECIDED HE WANTED TO TACKLE WAITLISTS. HE DIDN'T EXACTLY GET A LOT OF CREDIT FOR HAVING DONE THAT. WHY? BECAUSE THAT'S ONE OF THESE GIGANTIC SLOW-MOVING ISSUES THAT AFFECTS MILLIONS OF PEOPLE BUT ONLY IN THE VERY LONG TERM. RIGHT? AND SO POLITICIANS INCREASINGLY ARE NOT INTERESTED IN THAT KIND OF THING. WHAT THEY ARE INTERESTED IN IS, YOU KNOW, FLASHPOINT STUFF THAT GETS PEOPLE EXCITED AND UPSET LIKE IV DRUG USERS GET FREE DRUGS FROM THE GOVERNMENT AND THINGS LIKE THAT.

Steve says WE'RE GOING BACK 30 YEARS HERE BUT BOB RAE BECAME PREMIER IN 1990 AND HE DISCOVERED AND HIS MINISTERS DISCOVERED THAT HE COULDN'T GET ANY OF HIS AGENDA THROUGH THE BUREAUCRACY BECAUSE MANY OF THEM WERE ACTIVELY HOSTILE TO IT. SO HE IN ESSENCE REPLACED HIS OWN DEPUTY MINISTER, THE SECRETARY TO CABINET, AND PUT IN, FRANKLY, HIS FORMER CAMPAIGN MANAGER, DAVID AGNEW INTO THAT POSITION. IF HE DIDN'T, NOTHING IS GOING TO HAPPEN. PEOPLE HAD A HEART ATTACK AT THE TIME THIS HAPPENED BECAUSE THEY THOUGHT IT WAS THE MIX OF PARTISAN POLITICAL WITH WHAT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE POLITICALLY NEUTRAL. AND AS YOU LOOK AT IT AND GIVEN THE BROADER CONTEXT, WAS IT PROBLEMATIC?

Joseph says WELL, I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT... SO I'M A FAN OF CIVIL SERVICE NEUTRALITY. I THINK IT'S A GOOD INSTITUTION. IT'S ONE WORTH PRESERVING BECAUSE IT IMPROVES THE QUALITY OF GOVERNMENT. AND I THINK THAT OFTEN PEOPLE'S TOLERANCE FOR GOVERNMENT INVOLVEMENT IN VARIOUS ASPECTS OF LIFE IS A FUNCTION OF WHAT KIND OF EXPERIENCES THEY HAVE WITH GOVERNMENT. SO QUALITY OF GOVERNMENT IS IS A PUBLIC GOOD THAT I THINK WE ALL SHOULD BE INTERESTED IN PRESERVING AND THAT REQUIRES A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF PROFESSIONALISM. IT IS IMPORTANT TO RECOGNIZE IF IT DOESN'T WORK, IF THE CIVIL SERVICE... THE CHECK ON IT, RIGHT? IF THE CIVIL SERVICE BECOMES TOO AUTONOMOUS OR OBSTRUCTIONIST, THAT POLITICIANS CAN EASILY RESOLVE THAT SIMPLY BY REPLACING THEM WITH POLITICAL STAFF. SO YOU CAN EITHER REPLACE THEM DIRECTLY OR YOU CAN SIMPLY EXPAND THE NUMBER OF POLITICAL STAFF THAT YOU HAVE IN YOUR OFFICE. YOU CAN ASSIGN NEW DUTIES TO YOUR CHIEF OF STAFF AND SO FORTH. SO IT'S NOT AS IF THE SYSTEM BREAKS DOWN. IT'S THAT THE BALANCE BETWEEN PARTISAN LOYALISTS AND NEUTRAL CIVIL SERVANTS SHIFTS DEPENDING ON HOW WELL THE CIVIL SERVICE BEHAVES. SO I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT THAT THE CIVIL SERVICE REFLECT UPON IN A MORE SOPHISTICATED AND MATURE WAY EXACTLY WHAT IT IS COMMITTED TO WITH RESPECT TO NEUTRALITY AND WHAT IT'S NOT COMMITTED TO WITH RESPECT TO NEUTRALITY TO GET GREATER CLARITY ON THOSE ISSUES. SO THAT THEY KNOW MORE CLEARLY WHEN THEY'RE CROSSING THE LINE AND WHEN THEY'RE NOT CROSSING THE LINE. SO A SLOGAN LIKE ADVICE WITHOUT IMPLEMENTATION DOESN'T GIVE PEOPLE USEFUL ADVICE ON WHEN THEY'RE CROSSING THE LINE. IN THE BOOK I'M TRYING TO DETERMINE WHERE IT'S LEGITIMATE FOR THE CIVIL SERVICE TO HAVE A VIEW AND WHEN IT'S NOT LEGITIMATE FOR THE CIVIL SERVICE TO HAVE A VIEW ON A PARTICULAR QUESTION. AND I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT THAT WE THINK HARDER AND MORE ABOUT THAT SO THAT WE CAN MAINTAIN THIS HIGH QUALITY PROFESSIONAL CIVIL SERVICE. BUT THE WORST CASE SCENARIO IS THAT POLITICIANS DO WHAT BOB RAE DOES AND WHAT LOTS OF... I'M FROM SASKATCHEWAN. IT'S WHAT GRANT DIVINE DID WHEN HE CAME IN. HE FIRED ALL THE DEPUTY MINISTERS. HIS ASSUMPTION WAS THEY'RE A BUNCH OF NDP STALWARTS SO I HAVE TO GET RID OF ALL OF THEM.

Steve says WHEN DAVID PETERSON TOOK OVER, AND WE'RE GOING BACK 36 YEARS NOW, HE ASSUMED AFTER 42 YEARS OF TORIES IN ONTARIO THAT HE WAS GOING TO HAVE TO FIRE ALL THE DEPUTY MINISTERS BECAUSE HE THOUGHT THEY WERE TRUE BLUE AND DISCOVERED WITHIN SIX MONTHS TIME THEY'RE ALL PRETTY PROFESSIONAL AND THEY WERE HAPPY TO DO THEIR JOBS REGARDLESS OF WHICH POLITICAL PARTY WITH AS IN POWER, AND THAT WAS A HAPPY REVELATION FOR HIM. BUT I WONDER WHAT HAPPENS TO THAT PUBLIC SERVICE WHEN A GROUP OF POPULISTS TAKES OVER AND WHETHER THAT CHANGES THE RELATIONSHIP AT ALL.

Joseph says WELL, POPULISM HAS A LOT OF DIFFERENT DEFINITIONS BUT OFTEN POPULISM... A POLITICAL MOVEMENT THAT TENDS NOT TO RESPECT A LOT OF THE TRADITIONAL CONSTRAINTS OF LIBERALISM. AND THAT INCLUDES THE SEPARATION OF POWERS. SO, FOR EXAMPLE, LIKE TALKING ABOUT UNELECTED JUDGES IS A CLASSIC KIND OF POPULIST PHRASE. AND IT'S DEFINED TO KIND OF DELEGITIMIZE THE JUDICIARY AND THE COURTS. WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT IT IT'S A NONSENSICAL PHRASE, EVERY JUDGE IN CANADA IS UNELECTED. WHAT IT MEANS IS THEY'RE SORT OF CASTING APPETITIONS ON ANY SORT OF POLITICAL POWER THAT DOESN'T HAVE DEMOCRATIC LEGITIMACY AND AN ELECTION TO JUSTIFY IT. SO UNELECTED COURTS. POPULISTS ALSO TEND TO BE VERY, VERY SUSPICIOUS OF POWERFUL CIVIL SERVANTS WHO, IN THE PERMANENT CIVIL SERVICE HAVE ALSO NOT BEEN ELECTED. FOR EXAMPLE, CENTRAL BANKING HAS HISTORICALLY BEEN A BIG FLASHPOINT AND SOURCE OF OPPOSITION FOR POPULIST MOVEMENTS IN CANADA. WHY DOES THE GOVERNOR OF THE BANK OF CANADA GET TO DECIDE INTEREST RATES? IT MAKES AN ENORMOUS NUMBER OF DECISIONS THAT HAVE A HUGE IMPACT ON THE LIVES OF CANADIANS BUT THE GOVERNOR IS NOT ELECTED. SO POPULISTS TEND TO BE SUSPICIOUS OF THOSE FORMS OF POWER. THAT UNFORTUNATELY TENDS TO COME BACK TO BITE THEM IN MANY WAYS BECAUSE... I MEAN, SO ONE OF THE ACHILLES HEEL OF ILLIBERAL DEMOCRACIES LIKE SAY TURKEY RIGHT NOW IS THEY OFTEN UNDERMINE THEIR OWN CURRENCY BECAUSE THEY DON'T RESPECT CENTRAL BANK INDEPENDENCE. AND THE PEOPLE TEND TO HAVE PARTICULAR PREFERENCES WITH RESPECT TO MONETARY POLICY, LIKE INTEREST RATES SHOULD OFTEN BE LOW, THAT CAN OFTEN LEAD TO ECONOMIC DISASTER. IN A HEALTHY DEMOCRACY IT'S IMPORTANT TO RECOGNIZE THAT THERE ARE MANY COUNTER MAJORITY INSTITUTIONS. NOT ONLY DO THE COURTS PUSH BACK AGAINST THE LEGISLATURE BUT THE EXECUTIVE OR THE PUBLIC SERVICE OFTEN PUSHES BACK. SO THE GOVERNOR OF THE BANK OF CANADA IS IN JUST AS MANY WAYS AS INDEPENDENT AS A SUPREME COURT JUSTICE. NOW AT THE END OF THE DAY, PARLIAMENT GETS TO DECIDE, ABOUT YOU THAT DOESN'T MEAN THAT EVERYBODY JUST ROLLS OVER AND PLAYS DEAD AS SOON AS AN ELECTED OFFICIAL STARTS TELLING THEM WHAT TO DO.

The caption changes to "Producer: Wodek Szemberg, @wodekszemberg."

Steve says GOTCHA. JOSEPH, I HAVE TIME LEFT ENOUGH TO CONGRATULATE YOU FOR BEING NOMINATED FOR THE DONNER PRIZE, WHICH IS THE BEST BOOK ON PUBLIC POLICY BY A CANADIAN. IT'S GOING TO BE AWARDED IN MAY. AND OF COURSE WE'RE SCRUPULOUSLY NEUTRAL ON THIS PROGRAM BUT WE'RE DELIGHTED YOU GOT A NOMINATION FOR THAT FOR "THE MACHINERY OF GOVERNMENT." THANKS FOR COMING ONTO TVO TONIGHT AND TALKING TO US ABOUT IT.

Joseph says THANK YOU AS WELL.

Watch: The Power Behind Democracy's Throne