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New Political Governance in Westminster Systems: Impartial Public Administration and Management Performance at Risk


  • Editors' Note. Peter Aucoin, a distinguished professor of public administration at Dalhousie University and a member of the Governance editorial board, passed away in July 2011. A few months earlier, Peter had submitted the following article to Governance. We sent Peter two reviews and invited him to submit a revised version of his article. Unfortunately, Peter was not able to complete his revisions. As a tribute to our friend and colleague, and in light of the merits of the work, the editors have decided to publish Peter's initial submission. The two reviewers of that submission—Jonathan Boston and John Nethercote—have agreed to expand their reviews into reflections on Peter's manuscript. Peter's colleague and collaborator Mark D. Jarvis of the University of Victoria copyedited Peter's text, but it should be noted that we have decided not to make any substantial changes to the initial manuscript. Readers should keep in mind that there might be statements in this article that Peter himself would have qualified or omitted if he had the opportunity to complete revisions in light of the reviewers' comments. Further, Peter saw this as the start of an ongoing research program. We do think, however, that the publication of this manuscript and the accompanying reflections is an appropriate tribute to Peter, whose career was distinguished by commitment to open dialogue on the great questions of contemporary governance.


This article examines the phenomenon of increased political pressures on governments in four Westminster systems (Australia, Britain, Canada, and New Zealand) derived from changes in mass media and communications, increased transparency, expanded audit, increased competition in the political marketplace, and political polarization in the electorate. These pressures raise the risk to impartial public administration and management performance to the extent that governments integrate governance and campaigning, allow political staff to be a separate force in governance, politicize top public service posts, and expect public servants to be promiscuously partisan. The article concludes that New Zealand is best positioned to cope with these risks, in part because of its process for independently staffing its top public service posts. The article recommends this approach as well as the establishment of independently appointed management boards for public service departments and agencies to perform the governance of management function.