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Spring 2016 (Vol.13, Issue 1)

Letter from the Editor

Nathalie Burlone and Anne Mévellec

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Implementing public policies with user fees that align with partisan ideology: a Canadian example

Connie Hache

The Canadian federal government not only provides public services such as infrastructure, healthcare and education that benefit all citizens, but government also provides services on an individual basis to citizens. Through a case study, this paper explores how government makes decisions that support its political party's ideology in deciding whether or not to implement user fees for services that benefit individuals. Using public choice theory, we discuss three actors with each actor striving to maximize their utility: elected officials by obtaining enough votes to form government; citizen-voters by obtaining more benefits than what they finance through general taxation; and pressure groups by spending resources on political activities to secure the group members' preferences. We then apply these three actors to a case study: the decision to increase user fees for criminal record suspensions. The case study brings forth an example of government not acquiescing to the majority of citizen-voters' and pressure groups' demands if these demands do not align with government's self-interest such as furthering their ideological stance.

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Portrait of the Risk Management Evolution in Departments and Public Organizations in Quebec, 2005-2013

Benoit Ladouceur and Étienne Charbonneau

Risk management is a process that should have a positive impact on a public organizations' performance. As such, it is desirable to offer an accurate portrait of the process and to review how its application is related to generally recognized best practices. This research paper is based on data from an annual questionnaire on the application of thePublic Administration Act compiled by Quebec's Treasury Board Secretariat (2004-2013). Within the performance regime established by the Treasury Board Secretariat, risk management should gradually be adopted, as demonstrated in this document. Large organizations should be encouraged to adopt the proposed processes more quickly. To a certain an extent, organizations dedicating resources, designating process owners or applying best practices as management support should also be more mature as far as their risk management processes are concerned. There is a slow but upward trend regarding all indicators of risk management maturity (process, policy, scope of applications) studied. Overall, large ministries and organizations tend to adopt risk management tools quicker than small ones, although small organizations have been known to catch up on their initial slower start.

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Accountability Agreements for Ontario Universities: The Balancing Character of a Policy Instrument

Victoria E. Diaz

This paper demonstrates how the choice of instrument facilitates acceptance of a new accountability requirement in the Ontario university sector as it helps balance the government's need for control with the universities' need for independence. The instrument, conceptualized as an agreement, embodies the negotiated character of the relationship between government and universities, and conveys the idea to different actors that their needs are met. Despite the promises of the instrument, when objectives are ambiguous, uncertainty is pervasive, and negotiation is limited, the increase in government control is minimized and the changes in university autonomy are negligible, thus suggesting that symbolic and rhetorical compliance may be the sustainable equilibrium between governments and governed. Nonetheless, some level of transformation is observed in the sector as the new tool contributes to strengthening priority alignment, highlighting the value of sharing stories, and increasing acceptance of reporting requirements.

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The Canadian federal government and normativity transformations: towards a reconfiguration of governmentality in Canada?

Christian Rouillard

For several decades, the Canadian federal government has been the subject of many administrative reforms whose nature, scale and resources vary considerably. The frequency of these reforms increased considerably during the 1990s, although political stability on the federal level was particularly high at the time. By using the normativity-governmentality dynamic as a heuristic model, this article focuses on the Public Service Modernization Act (PSMA) to better understand the effects of the transformation of norms on the modes of interactions and power relationships between actors, institutions and social groups in the Canadian public service context. It questions the way in which transformations in normativity change the conditions of governmentality in Canada. The main thesis of this paper argues that the normative flexibility given to managers (by the PSMA) in the staffing process does not lead to a real increase in their room to manoeuvre, due to: 1) the (re)definition of merit (confusion factor); 2) the concomitant implementation of the Financial Administration Act (inertia factor); and 3) the legacy of previous administrative reforms (the one-step-forward, one-step-back factor).

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