UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Historical evolution of the office of Deputy Minister in British Columbia educational policymaking 1919-1945 : the career of Samuel John Willis Giles, Valerie Mary Evelyn


S.J. Willis was British Columbia’s longest-serving Deputy Minister. Between 1919 and 1945 he influenced directly the policies and procedures of the province’s educational enterprise. Willis assumed a primary role in policy-making. It was to Willis that the Ministers, school inspectors, teachers and members of the public made known their suggestions and complaints. Although he continued to manage the Department with a high degree of central authority, he was more inclusive of teachers and trustees in policy-making than were his predecessors. His ingenuity in this respect is one of the central themes of this thesis. Willis set the tone for dealings with the Department. Public perceptions of the Department, and those of teachers in the field, were determined largely by their dealings with the Deputy. He managed day-to-day operations while Ministers tended political relationships and participated in government. As Deputy Minister, Willis provided political advice to his ministers, thus taking responsibility for controversial issues as an ordinary duty. All the while, Willis showed he understood the scope and limitations of his powers. He was careful to support the politicians and governments he served without assuming the mantle of elected representatives. The record of his career exemplifies that of the traditional civil servant. This study concludes that Willis’ bureaucratic legacy can be instructive to contemporary government officials and suggests that the Deputy performs an important function in providing continuity between changing governments and Ministers.

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