The only rival to Harrison McCain's entrepreneurial success was his deep attachment to his Maritime roots. From McCain's beginnings in Florenceville, New Brunswick, the early mentorship he received from K.C. Irving, to the global success of his corporate empire McCain Foods, Donald Savoie presents a compelling and candid biography of one of the most famous and down-to-earth figures in Canadian business history. Savoie, a longtime friend to McCain, describes a driven, charismatic, and energetic man who had a keen wit and a deep commitment to his business and hometown. Through unprecedented access to McCain's papers and interviews with family members, friends, and colleagues, Savoie details the decisions that McCain made alongside his brother and business partner, Wallace McCain, from the company's humble beginnings to its expansion in Europe, Australia, India, and China. McCain saw the potential of globalization before others did. Despite conflict between the brothers and the eventual fracture of their partnership, Savoie presents the McCains' dedication as so immersed in the development of their company that they had little time left for second-guessing. At a time when New Brunswick struggles to reinvent itself economically, Savoie points to former government policies and programs that helped the company thrive and holds up the example of Harrison McCain with the hope of seeing Canadian success stories like this in the future.
In the 1950s most of Acadian society was poor, uneducated, isolated, and dominated by the Roman Catholic clergy. In the following decade two individuals, Pierre E. Trudeau and Louis J. Robichaud, pointed the way for Acadians like Savoie to make important contributions to Canada's development. Trudeau's objective was Canadian unity and he turned to Acadie to show Quebec that there was a viable French Canadian presence outside their borders. Robichaud, New Brunswick's first elected Acadian premier, had witnessed Acadian poverty first hand and made it his mission to bring New Brunswick into the modern era. Savoie shows how their efforts led to fundamental change for both Canada and New Brunswick and changed his life.
Recent decades have shown the public's support for government plummet alongside political leaders' credibility. This downward spiral calls for an exploration of what has gone wrong. The questions, "What is government good at?" and "What is government not good at?" are critical ones - and their answers should be the basis for good public policy and public administration. In What Is Government Good At?, Donald Savoie argues that politicians and public servants are good at generating and avoiding blame, playing to a segment of the population to win the next election, embracing and defending the status quo, adding management layers and staff, keeping ministers out of trouble, responding to demands from the prime minister and his office, and managing a complex, prime minister-centred organization. Conversely, they are not as good at defining the broader public interest, providing and recognizing evidence-based policy advice, managing human and financial resources with efficiency and frugality, innovating and reforming itself, being accountable to Parliament and to citizens, dealing with non-performers, paying sufficient attention to service delivery, and implementing and evaluating the impact of policies and programs. With wide implications for representative democracy, What Is Government Good At? is a persuasive analysis of an approach to government that has opened the door to those with the resources to influence policy and decision-making while leaving average citizens on the outside looking in.
Thirty years ago, Anglo-American politicians set out to make the public sector look like the private sector. These reforms continue today, ultimately seeking to empower elected officials to shape policies and pushing public servants to manage operations in the same manner as their private-sector counterparts. In Whatever Happened to the Music Teacher?, Donald Savoie provides a nuanced account of how the Canadian federal government makes decisions. Savoie argues that the traditional role of public servants advising governments on policy has been turned on its head, and that evidence-based policy making is no longer valued as it once was. Policy making has become a matter of opinion, Google searches, focus groups, and public opinion surveys, where a well-connected lobbyist can provide any answers politicians wish to hear. As a result, public servants have lost their way and are uncertain about how they should assess management performance, how they should generate policy advice, how they should work with their political leaders, and how they should speak truth to political power - even within their own departments. Savoie demonstrates how recent management reforms in government have caused a steep rise in the overhead cost of government, as well as how the notion that public administration could be made to operate like the private sector has been misguided and costly to taxpayers. Abandoning "textbook" discussions of government and public service, Whatever Happened to the Music Teacher? Is a realistic portrayal of how policy decisions are made and how actors and institutions interact with one another and exposes the complexities, contradictions present in Canadian politics and governance.
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