Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

The Handbook of Canadian Public Administration

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

The Handbook of Canadian Public Administration

Article excerpt

Christopher Dunn (ed.), The Handbook of Canadian Public Administration (Don Mills, Ontario: Oxford University Press Canada, 2002), xi + 556pp. Cloth. £40. ISBN 0-1954-1510-8.

The Handbook is offered as a new kind of text, assembling the expertise of a large number of subject specialists drawn mainly from academia rather than delivering an overview by a single generalist. The key to such an approach is the editor's skill in fashioning these diverse contributions into a useful overall introduction to public administration. As he observes in one of his own contributions, searching for the Holy Grail in Canadian public administration requires distillation of lessons 'from the massive experimentation of 11 jurisdictions and a complex world of reform of governance' (p. 305). A non-Canadian reader might reasonably expect such a handbook to focus on how these competing jurisdictions cope with the 'new public management', which the Handbook acknowledges to be the driving rationale in public service delivery, entailing supply-side innovations that 'steer rather than row the boat'. Canada's modest practical contributions to the concept are contrasted with the far more radical approaches taken by the unitary administrations of the United Kingdom and New Zealand.

The disadvantages of the handbook's design are evident for those wishing to explore such issues in detail. The twenty-nine chapters are divided into functional sections starting with visions and expectations, and proceeding to cover four further dimensions: policy, organisation, management and human resources. This makes it difficult to trace an argument about the effect of Canada's complex system of governance on new public management initiatives through a set of contributions that vary considerably in style and focus. …

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