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The Role of Public Service Commission in Canada Essay

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Updated: Aug 20th, 2019


The role of Public Service Commission in Canada has experienced considerable change over the years in the process of providing professional services, and at the same time safeguarding merit within its scope of service. Human resource has also experienced modernization through various employment Acts. However, there are various issues and trends influencing the operational and legislative impact of Public Service Commission which cannot be treated in isolation to the whole issue (PSC 2).

The commission should endeavor in fulfilling its mandate on protecting and promoting merit within the government. In addition to these, Canada has had difficult time dealing with issues concerning liberal democracy within its political boundaries. Various policies have always been enacted by the government which acts as potential guidelines towards fulfilling as well as enhancing government mandates (Whitaker 54).

Outline and assess the scope of public sector employment in Canada. What are the main issues facing the federal government with respect to personnel policy and how well do you believe the federal government is organized to manage its personnel responsibilities?

The public sector employment in Canada has undergone significant changes regarding human resources. The public service has been on a hiring trend looking for large numbers of young men, Canadian citizens, with vast skills and interests in various fields of service.

The Canadian government is currently interested in the young generation having management skills and interested in working with federal public service commission. The young professionals are considered to have potential abilities which could be utilized by the government in designing policies suitable for meeting future needs of Canadians (Johnson 619-621).

One of the main issues facing the federal government with respect to personnel policy is the issue on merit, politics and disparity on socio-economic activities. Professionalization of the public service requires the government to provide necessary services which calls for the existence of pro-active skills capable of utilizing the available services. In response, the government tried to establish merit system within the public service in its provinces starting with Saskatchewan (Johnson 619-621).

Several current and impending challenges affect the PSC in the process of implementing their role as policy makers. Public Service Commission is endowed with the responsibility of being both managers and overseers on policies and programs regarding the running of government departments. The shift within the Human Resource landscape was recognized by some commissions as far as 1979, this brought about several discussions within subsequent years on the issues meant to determine necessary regulations amongst employees.

These included flexibility, roles and responsibilities as well as efficiencies. There is growing trend on the issues involving scarcity of talent and leadership as a result of issues such as; the aging workforce, shifting focus on the emotional status of workers and increase in the number of operations worldwide 9(3-6).

Canada is known to have high number of post-secondary graduates; this is because of the country’s strength in formulation of education policies. Despite strength in literacy level, it’s noted that Canada lags behind when it comes to technical and advanced level of education amongst the population.

Despite the positive trend in the economic recovery, there has been little imbalance caused by wholesale migration of the population towards the Western region of the country. Challenge would be experienced on the issues concerning computer and information technology which currently tends to shape-up the level of interactions both at personal and across business networks.

Such adoption has brought dramatic change within various places of work since every department is styling up to catch up with the rest of the world. There is also the issue on stakeholders forming alliances for the purposes of addressing various shortcomings within the employment sector. This has made it difficult for the government to coordinate issues between them and the private sector since there are more bodies involved (PSC 7-8).

The other issue facing the federal government concerns the cultural diversity within Canadian major cities such as Toronto. This has contributed to creation of disharmony within the work places on issues such as religion and languages hence putting the government on task of creating policies meant to reconcile such diversity.

There is also the issue on demographic crisis where the rate of labor entrants is lower than that of departures. Federal public service is currently leading in the number of employers, hence with the current trend, is facing difficulties on the issues concerning recruitment and retention of employees. The level of imbalance within the workplaces is expected to create differential attitudes amongst employees.

The young generation appears so much self-centered concerning their various jobs since they believe in mentorship, training and creation of job opportunities by the government. Such cultural trend has been so much entrenched within the Canadian working population hence calling for the government to review its major policies (PSC 9).

The level of unpreparedness of the government concerning employment issues is clearly revealed on the level of insecurity within companies. According to employer surveys, companies are realigning their pay packages for the purposes of retaining generation Y workers since there is less inflow from the millennial.

However, apart from employing young generation, there is need for revising policies which could help in attracting mid-career professionals (PSC 10). The federal government pushed for every reason to remove the laws granting powers to public sector unions on organizing strikes concerning their employment rights.

However, for quite some time the numbers of unionized members have been falling drastically. This has been followed by potential shift in the structure guarding the labor market which results in continual erosion on values safeguarding organized labor amongst the employees. Despite these, the federal government is not doing much to bridge the gap on financial security between government and private workers.

The federal government is also facing the crisis on funding pensions due to certain factors such as economic downturn. Other factors include increase in the number of pensioners, stagnation experienced on the long-term interest rates and low return on the countries assets (PSC 12). There is notable decline in ethics within various government sectors which has seen considerable decline of public trust towards the government.

However, the public sector has experienced improvement due to the job losses within the private sector as a result of economic downturn. There is significant corporate greed as well as poor management within the government departments which led to poor drive on interest on professions within the public service professions. Tension exists between the government and the methods of governance which tends to foster for open policy creation processes, contrary to the traditional management practices (PSC 34).

There has not been any clear evidence showing the level of federal government’s engagement in the full transformation on the basic roles within PSC. The government has been so much motivated by their short-term goals on cutting the budget rather than focusing on long-term goals based on transforming the nature of the government (Johnson 561).

Why have successive governments attempted to limit the influence of bureaucrats during the policy-making process? What methods were used to counteract this influence? Were they successful?

Bureaucrats as opposed to politicians are directly involved in the process of policy formulation but are not under any obligation to answer to the public concerning these policies. The responsibility of being answerable to the public concerning policies is instead vested on the politicians (Whitaker 54). The issue is also linked to democracy since bureaucrats were believed to involve themselves in shaping some public policies secretly.

Bureaucrats were also associated with various forms of unethical behaviors such as corruption as well as inefficiency in performance. They are known to have great command on information which forms vital area within policy making process, and this tend to ignore opinions of senior government officials.

This makes bureaucrats have the freedom to impose their own policy preferences without consulting the government. Such process creates confusion on the necessary changes desired by the government concerning a policy during implementation process. They have great influence on shaping policy outcome and implementation since their contributions can never be ignored (Whitaker 59).

To limit such influence the government resorted to the use of middle-class movements which were aimed at reducing the powers and influence of the bureaucrats. The move created freedom within the government administrative circles since it was deprived of any political influence. Creation of various boards and commissions helped in the smooth running of government functions since politicians were no longer involved (Johnson and Molloy 203-223).

The nature of appointments also changed whereby merit system was adopted hence assisted in eliminating favoritism and bias amongst the political class. Another mechanism used was establishing counterweight endowed with the responsibility of giving political policy advice which would neutralize bureaucratic influence (Whitaker 60-61).

The government applied the use of private-sector management which assisted in controlling markets providing better regulation conditions as compared to bureaucratic systems. This intervention launched by conservatives did not work well since it only contributed towards lowering of bureaucrats’ status on influence but never led to total elimination of bureaucracy within government. They discovered that their aim on reducing bureaucracy through this method required more of it to achieve the purpose.

There was also the introduction of the chief of staff around every minister serving in the government, this aimed at assisting ministers in political administration within their various departments. The idea also proved unsuccessful since they did not represent any formal role within the ministries (Whitaker 62-63).

To reduce the high level of command bureaucrats had over information, the government tried to prevent departments from exposing their various policy papers. This was aimed at making it easy for the ruling political party to impose any policy of their interest on individuals. While the bureaucrats had knowledge on policy formulation and identification of various errors within policies, the politicians did not, hence the idea proved ineffective (Whitaker 65).

What were the reactions to the recommendations of the Gomery Report? Why did critics believe the recommendations would have a negative impact on government and the public service? Why did the Harper government reject key recommendations in the Report? What initiatives did the Harper government enact in response to the Report?

In relation towards Commissioner Gomery’s recommendations the Liberals decided to come up with some restrictions and their own regulations concerning the manner in which the government was to conduct business.

Their aim was to corner the government whereby they directed that the bureaucrats were not to be entrusted with any issue before weighing the quality of their characters. This resulted into high level of mistrust within the government lowering the morale of workers hence dwindled the efforts of restructuring the relationship between politicians and bureaucrats (Whitaker 68-69).

Critics believed that the recommendations would bring chaos within the government and the public service since there was little truth in them. They believed the recommendations were baseless since they only covered false relations to the problem they were to address.

According to critics the recommendations would grant politicians an illegal upper hand which would grant them powers to manipulate government systems for the purposes of achieving self ulterior motives (Whitaker 69). At the same time part of the recommendations seem to promote mistrust between ministers and their assistants.

The report brought sharp divide amongst the academicians with the non-partisans arguing that the recommendations would fuel bad relations between the politicians and the bureaucrats. They argued that the report deemed to represent a clear departure from the manner in which Canadian federal government should function, hence could be very detrimental to the public.

They solidly opposed the issue on the report which sought to increase the powers of unelected public officials above that of ministers. This was viewed by the critics as a means of damaging the nature of accountability which existed within various departments concerning management and administrative issues. There was no clear demarcation within the report on issues concerning politics, policies, administration and issues concerning management (Whitaker 71-72).

Harper government rejected key recommendations in the report since they contributed towards diminishing the political power of the bureaucrats and at the same time did not grant recognition towards the chain of accountability within the cabinet. There was no firm line within the report that separated bureaucrats from elected officials and also the report sought to reduce the political control of the prime minister of senior public servants.

Part of the key recommendations contradicted with the stated conservative rules. This could be seen within the part of the report which supported greater autonomy and accountability for the bureaucrats which contradicted governing philosophies of the Harper Conservatives (Whitaker 72).

In response to the Report Stephen Harper’s government established itself with clear focus and control over all its businesses. Harper government revealed its impatience with policies within the report which did not consider Conservative views. The government was strongly committed in imposing conservative policy agendas which acted as source of neutralization to Gomery recommendations. He ensured that all departments within the government operated fully under conservative objectives (Whitaker 72-73).


Federal public service remains to be Canada’s largest employer despite changes which might occur within other government departments. Canada is faced with the threat of shrinking native population giving way to new immigrants within the employment sector. This has given rise to so many issues and trends within the workplaces which ultimately affect the normal operations of the public service.

Tensions experienced within the PSC could well be handled by the Privy Council Office which is a body concerned with crisis management (Johnson and Molloy 203-223). Concerning political administration, there is great importance in delegating roles based on government’s policies, rules and regulations to avoid unnecessary conflicts.

Works Cited

Johnson, David. “Thinking Government: Ideas, Policies, Institutions, and Public Sector Management in Canada”. (2nd Ed.).Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004

Johnson, David & Andrew, Molloy. “The Quiet Crisis and the Emergence of La Releve.” Canadian Public Administration, 2 (2009): 203-223

Public Service Commission (PSC). “Emerging Trends Affecting the Public Service Commission and the Public Service Employment Act.” Public Policy Forum Research, (2009): 3-50

Whitaker, Reg. “Political Versus Administration: Politicians and Bureaucrats.” Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010

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