La nouvelle gouvernance publique et la Commission de la Fonction Publique
The impetus to management reform: new public management
The modern public management reform era began in the 1960s as public administration began to be subject to analysis and evaluation from a managerial perspective (Lindquist and Paquet 2000). In Canada, the Glassco Commission on Government Organization epitomized this development, dominated as it was by the new breed of management consultants then coming on stream in the private sector (with Grant Glassco, the commission chair, being one of the most prominent).
Let the managers manage
The central conclusion of the Glassco commission, as it was for reports of a similar nature elsewhere, was the need to enhance management in the public service. By then public administrators were widely perceived as exercising significant power and influence in what today we call ‘governance’, that is, the framing of the public policy agenda, the development of policy options, and the advising of government on the relative merits these options. The commission did not quarrel with the critical role played by the senior public service in governance on the policy front. But it did single out what it took to be major shortcomings and deficiencies on the management front. In particular, it singled out deficiencies in the management of departments as organizations, the management of public money as financial resources, and the management of public servants as personnel (now human resources). Simply put, it portrayed public-service executives as managerially impoverished, lacking the required strategic management perspectives and attitudes, and at the same time, required to comply with corporate-government administrative rules and procedures not of their own making.
As elsewhere, the impoverishment of management in government was attributed largely to an excessively centralized structure of management authority, including the Treasury Board, the Finance Department, and the Civil Service Commission. The original rationale for such centralized command and control was the perceived need to protect against the risk of the abuse or misuse of both public financial resources and public-service appointments by ministers or public servants in the executive branch of government.
The result was a period of reform that began in the 1960s, in which a good deal of decentralization of authority was effected across a broad front of public administration. It was directed at enhancing management by deregulating the corporate management controls that had been developed and enforced by central agencies, including the Civil Service Commission, and by delegating or even devolving management authority to the departments of government under ministerial direction and management, headed by deputy ministers (or the equivalent). The assumption, by this time, was that the gains to be had by improved management via the empowerment of the line managers, who actually managed organizations and public-service programs, outweighed the risks of diminished corporate controls over line managers.