At worst, the word "bureaucrat" conjures up Kafkaesque nightmares of faceless functionaries casting an impenetrable fog over the workings of public institutions.
They're a favourite target of indignant columnists and editorial cartoonists - underworked, obtuse, obstructive automatons with gold-plated, taxpayer-funded pensions to boot.
But "civil servant" was not always such a pejorative term. Time was, when a career in the civil service was considered a calling. Public servants gathered the best evidence and expertise to shape and inform policy and advise elected governments.
Civil servants from a bygone era, such Gordon Robertson and Arthur Kroeger, were trusted stewards of the public and national interest.
Today, Donald Savoie sees a civil service at loose ends - embattled, undervalued, and prevented from playing a vital role in the life of their country.
Donald Savoie is himself a former civil servant. He's been an advisor to federal, provincial and territorial governments, the private sector, the World Bank and the United Nations.
These days, he holds the Canada Research Chair in public administration and governance at Université de Moncton, and his new book is Whatever Happened to the Music Teacher? How Government Decides and Why.
Professor Savoie spoke with Michael from our Ottawa studio.