Reforming Government on the Globe & Mail's Wiki

A few months ago John Ibbitson – the Globe and Mail columnist who used to cover Ottawa and now covers Washington, DC – asked me if I’d help edit the 3rd chapter of his new book, Open & Shut.

The chapter, entitled Yes, Mr. President; No, Prime Minister asks why is it that after 8 years of President Bush, President Obama is able to quickly change the direction of government whereas in Canada, newly elected parties often struggle to implement their agenda.

Last week the book was released. As part of the launch process the Globe and Mail created a wiki dedicated to the book’s themes where readers can critic or expand on its ideas and analysis. More interestingly, as readers post to the wiki John will respond to their  ideas, critics and thoughts on a blog hosted by the Globe.

To kick off the wiki on Open Government, John asked me if I would write a short essay answering the following the question:

Federal politicians, and federal public servants, seem increasingly remote and disconnected from the lives of Canadians. Open and Shut maintains that this is because the public service remains closed to outsiders, and because Ottawa has ceded so much power to the provinces. Do we want our federal government to matter more in our lives, and if so, what should we do to give it meaning?

You can see my response, and what I hope will eventually become a growing number of comments on the future of the public service, here.

As an aside, two other sections have been created. One is on Open Politics, which is teed up by John Duffy (political strategist). The other is on Canada/US integration, which is kicked off by Scotty Greenwood (executive Director of the Canadian-American Business Council).

11 thoughts on “Reforming Government on the Globe & Mail's Wiki

  1. Conrad Barwa

    That doesn't seem like much of an essay Dave – bit short but then I am more of a waffler than you! I wanted to read more about what you thought regarding the US on this score – I know Canada will be your main focus but comparatively, American govt structures are fascinating given the influence they exert on FP issues.You have a grammatical error on the first line of the fourth para here btw.

  2. david_a_eaves

    Hey Baba, yeah, I would like to have written more, sadly they gave me a 300 word limit (!) which I over stepped by a conservative 250 words… so was definitely constrained.What is interesting in the US is how the locus of power over FP shifts. The last 8 years marked a sharp decline in the State Department's influence, to a degree with America's Department of Defense was virtually running foreign policy. The president can essentially install a team of people at the head of the ministry and then rely on them exclusively, or ignore them completely in favour of another group at another ministry. Furthermore, the influence of a strong Secretary seems further magnified since they can control their ministry in a way ministers in the Canadian cannot. While such an outcome is possible in Canada, it is harder to imagine it getting to such an extreme state. I do hope to write on this further…(thank you also for pointing out the typo, very much appreciate it when people do that – I've even added that copy edit button to make it easier)

  3. Conrad Barwa

    Ah I see, that is a short word limit! I guess I was expecting more with your use of the word essay :DThe American system fascinates me, not only because of its obvious importance but because it is so unlike anything I am familiar with. India – like Canada I assume (correct me if I am wrong here) has a variant of the Westminister model of government which I understand; the US system is quite unlike this; so I grapple with it and the party system there. Certainly the lack of a civil service in the way you see in the UK to manage things is, interesting; yet because of the importance of the legal system and the litigation factor the US is well served by specialists – just not ones that are permanent state employees.Yeah, I pointed out the typo because I know you are particular about these things – me I don't bother and my spelling is atrocious as you can see from my FB ditherings ;) Didn't notice the copy edit button – first time I have seen that and don't know quite how to use it but will try next time. You know how much of a luddite I am when it comes to technology!

  4. CharlesGYF

    I know you think the process was flawed but I'm more interested in what you think of the voting system. Might it be better than FPTP – IYHO?

  5. Jeremy Vernon

    I went to Indigo (which I still call Chapters…) to pick this up, discount card in hand.After hunting for the elusive volume in the disasterously arranged “book” store I turned over the cover to reveal the price of the slender publication.$19 plus tax!I'm a full-time student, as such I'm weary of overpaying for books, especially those that are optional . This work is no longer than 30 or 40 letter-sized pages. I can't justify spending that kind of cash on an afternoon's read and I'm almost certainly in the “most likely to buy” demographic. Suddenly, the innovative “openness” of the book and its message of accessibility etc. rang a little hollow. Elizabeth May's book was even worse – these books are $10 cheaper than a cloth edition of Ignatieff's latest tome.I know this seems a ridiculous quibble – but it speaks volumes (pun intended) about the author and publisher's commitment to the message of the book when they erect absurd price barriers to what are essentially pamphlets. It also highlights how decrepit the business model of book publishing is becoming.

  6. Jeremy Vernon

    Coincidentally and pointedly, I could purchase a trade edition of Barack Obama's “Audacity of Hope” for a mere $6 p.t. even without my discount card. I understand the differences in volume etc etc – but $19 for a tiny paperback is a bald-faced cash-grab.Might someone suggest Lulu ( to Mr. Ibbitson and Mrs. May next time 'round.

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