The Current

Donald Savoie: Duffy trial reveals how public service 'lost its way'

The Prime Minister's Office wields a lot of of power throughout the public service. Too much power, according to Donald Savoie who says that power has become so centralized, and the public service has become so beholden to top-down orders, it may be warping our democracy.
Public policy expert Donald Savoie says the PMO has become the centre of power and policy is driven top-down without input from frontline public servants which is not good for democracy. (Greg Banning)
"There is one person on trial here - that person is Mr. Duffy."- PM Stephen Harper

Mr. Duffy may be the one on trial, but the proceedings have turned a microscope on the Prime Minister's own office this summer -- and dogged Stephen Harper along the campaign trail.   

Rarely -- if ever -- before has the PMO, (Prime Minister's Office) been on such public display, as Canadians become familiar with names like current chief of staff Ray Novak, and his predecessor Nigel Wright. Their testimony in Senator Mike Duffy's fraud trial has laid bare the inner workings of government, shedding light on how top-level bureaucrats who normally stand mute behind politicians, actually work behind the scenes to make governments function. To a degree that will be surprising for many, but not for Donald Savoie. 

Donald Savoie is the Canada Research Chair in Public Administration and Governance at the University of Moncton.    In his new book What is Government Good At?: A Canadian Answer, Mr. Savoie argues over the last 35 years, the public service has lost its way  - and it's happened on the watch of both Liberal and Conservative governments. 

Today we look at how the public service has changed viewed through the prism of the Duffy trial. 

Donald Savoie joined us in our Moncton studio.

We did request an interview with the Prime Minister's Office and the Conservative Party of Canada.  Nobody was made available.

This segment was produced by The Current's Sujata Berry.


♦ Canada's democratic institutions are on trial - Donald Savoie, The Globe & Mail
♦ Kady liveblog in review: Mike Duffy trial, Day 38 - Ottawa Citizen