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Deputy ministers and politicization in the government of Canada : lessons learned from the 2006-2007 Conservative transition Wells, Shannon Leigh

Abstract

This thesis analyses the 2006-07 Conservative transition in the Government of Canada by asking the following: is there evidence of overt partisan politicization of the deputy ministers during this transition? Significantly, there is no evidence of overt politicization. Harper has not forced departure of incumbent deputy ministers, nor has he appointed a significant number of known partisan allies from outside the public service. Instead, Harper has retained the overwhelming majority of deputy ministers who served the previous Liberal government. However, the 2006-07 transition also suggests considerable lateral career mobility of deputy ministers within the highest levels of government. The thesis argues that lateral mobility is explained by the "corporate" governance structure in the government of Canada, according to which deputy ministers are expected to identify with the government's broad policy goals and mobilize support for them. High degrees of lateral mobility during the Conservative transition provide evidence to suggest that a potentially rigid bureaucratic system can be made responsive to the policy priorities of a new government without compromising the professional norms of a non-partisan, career public service.

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