ARCHIVED - A Literature Review on the Evolution of the
Concept of Merit in Public Service:
Canadian and Comparative Perspectives

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March 2008

Important Notice: The Public Service Commission of Canada respects the Official Languages Act and the relevant Treasury Board policies, and is committed to ensuring all information and services on this site is available in both English and French. However, visitors should be aware that some information from external sources that are not subject to the Official Languages Act is only provided as a convenience and is available only in the language in which it was provided.

Kenneth Kernaghan,
Department of Political Science,
Brock University

Professor Kenneth Kernaghan was commissioned by the PSC to conduct a review of the documentation on the concept of merit. The objective was to explore the concept of merit and its implications in Canadian and international public administration. Various models of merit and their organizational implications were identified by drawing upon current and historical literature, as well as associated government documentation.

Table of Contents

1. A Literature Review on the Evolution of the Concept of Merit in Public Service: Canadian and Comparative Perspectives

A literature review can take various forms, ranging from what is in essence an annotated bibliography to description and analysis of a subject supported by substantial reference to the most valuable writings about it. This study takes the latter form, but also includes a separate annotated bibliography.

The first section of Part I of this study examines the meanings and interpretations of merit and outlines a framework for analysis. The subsequent sections take a chronological journey through the evolution of merit, with particular reference to Canadian experience... The historical approach in Part I provides a basis for understanding the complexities of the concept of merit and the choices made in its interpretation and application. This study takes the story up to 2003, the date of the new Public Service Employment Act that came into force in 2005. Part II of the study takes a comparative perspective to illuminate Canada's treatment of merit by examining choices made or considered in other countries. These two parts are followed by a selected annotated bibliography.

It is a simple matter to compile a long list of writings that "touch on" the concept or practice of merit in Canada's federal public service and, especially, its evolution. There are, however, remarkably few scholarly writings that provide a rigorous focused examination of the theoretical, conceptual, empirical or comparative dimensions of merit. In addition to a review of major writings on merit, this study will be supported by references to writings that deal with merit less directly.

1.1 Part I - The Historical Dimension

1.2 The Meanings of Merit

Many discussions of merit, both in the formal literature and in public service discourse, are not based on an explicit, agreed-upon definition of the term. This can result from a lack of rigour but it can also be the result of manipulative intent. The use of nebulous or shifting meanings of merit may suit the purposes of one or more parties to a discussion or decision on the practical application of merit in particular cases. Moreover, the matter of definition is complicated by the fact that the meaning of merit has shifted over time. Merit has become a much richer and more complex concept that is infused with central, and sometimes contending, public service values.

The first point that should be made about the meaning of merit is that a careful distinction must be made between the merit "principle" and the merit "system." This distinction is a central and enduring feature of discussions on merit, both in Canada and elsewhere. A helpful examination of the distinction is contained in The Biography of an Institution by J.E. Hodgetts et al.1 This book sets a discussion of the meaning and application of merit within the broader context of the history of the federal Civil Service Commission from the Civil Service Act of 1908 to the Public Service Employment Act of 1967. In addition to several references to merit-related issues, the book makes two explicit references to statements on the difference - and the relationship - between the merit principle and the merit system. The first reference is from the 1962 report of the (Glassco) Royal Commission on Government Organization:

It was the intention of the Civil Service Act of 1918 to establish the "merit principle" as the guide to recruitment, selection and promotion in the public service. ... A distinction ... must be made between the merit principle and the "merit system," i.e., that collection of rules, regulations, policies and procedures peculiar to the Canadian civil service which have been designed to implement the principle.2

The second reference is to a 1968 definition of the merit principle by H.R. Dowdell 3 that is cited in the Hodgetts book's final chapter dealing with "Special Problems in the Administration of the Merit System." In Dowdell's original essay on which the Hodgetts book draws, Dowdell had argued that the merit principle "is really two inter-related principles."4 Hodgetts et al explain that Dowdell defined the merit principle "as including two major propositions, that Canadian citizens should have a reasonable opportunity to be considered for appointment and that selection should be based exclusively on the candidate's fitness for the job."5

In his essay, Dowdell had gone on to say that "[t]hese principles are among the most important goals of policy in public personnel management. The merit system is the mechanism in use at any given time by which these goals may be achieved. ... A merit system is an administrative device which can and should be adapted to changing circumstances." 6

The current definition of the merit system is very similar to these earlier ones. The Public Service Commission defined it recently as "the collection of processes, practices, rules and procedures governing particular appointment actions." Moreover, "some of these are prescribed in legislation or regulations. Others flow from enabling provisions in legislation or regulations. Still others are the result of policy decisions made either by the Public Service Commission ... or by organizations."7

Hodgetts et al then assert that "[t]he most serious problems associated with the merit system have centred around the definition of what "a reasonable opportunity" to be considered for appointment means, and how "fitness for the job" is determined."8 These issues will be a continuing theme in this study.

1.3 Framework for Analysis

The distinction between the merit principle and the merit system can usefully be conceptualized as a relationship between the principle, which is often described as a public service value, and the system, which is composed of several other values (sometimes described as principles). Values are defined here as enduring beliefs that influence the choices we make from among available means and ends. As already noted, the merit system involves to a large extent the application of public service values to specific cases. It is notable also that the "People Values" section of the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Service provides that "[a]ppointment decisions in the Public Service should be based on merit" and "Public Service values should play a key role in recruitment, evaluation and promotion." And the PSC, as part of its role in setting policy regarding merit under the 2003 Public Service Employment Act (PSEA) requires that the guiding values of fairness, transparency, access and representativeness assist organizations in the appointment process."9

It is now widely acknowledged that a focus on public service values can be used as a management tool.10 Consider, for example, the appointment values just noted, and the emphasis within the PSC itself on a values-based rather than a rules-based approach to staffing. It has long been recognized also that reference to values can provide an effective framework for analyzing developments and reforms in the public service.11 Thus, this study will examine the evolution of merit in substantial part through the lens of public service values. The values in play include not only those in the category of people values noted above but also those in the categories of democratic, ethical and professional values, as set out in the Values and Ethics Code.

1.4 The Importance of Merit

The Public Service Commission has provided a succinct summary of the importance of the merit principle and the merit system in its assertion that

[t]he merit system has been the foundation of a competent, professional, non-partisan public service for almost a century. It plays an essential role, not only by protecting against political patronage, but also by ensuring that employees are hired and can advance based on their ability to do the work rather than on personal favoritism. The merit system reflects a commitment to fundamental public service values and is comprised of more than just the merit principle alone.12

The importance of merit is evident from a consideration of the central public service values with which it has been associated throughout the broad sweep of Canadian history. For the first fifty years after Confederation, merit was pursued as a means of promoting the values of efficiency and non-partisanship against the evils of political patronage. In the midst of this period, the1891 royal commission on the civil service recommended a public service based on merit so that the service would "soon become attractive to many persons who now seek other avenues of employment, and in general the title of public servant" would become "an honour to be coveted."13 This early vision for Canada's public service remains centrally important today, namely the development of a public service widely perceived as a highly regarded profession that can attract and retain the best and the brightest of the country's citizens.

This theme of Canada's pursuit of a professional public service is taken up in a monograph by Kenneth Kernaghan entitled A Special Calling: Values, Ethics and Professional Public Service. While the study does not focus on merit, it does emphasize merit's enduring importance within the broader perspective of the development of a professional public service, animated by high standards of values- and ethics-based behaviour. The merit story is told in the context of its significant relationship to other concepts and practices in public administration. Kernaghan notes the Dwivedi-Gow assertion that from 1918 to the late 1960s, the tension between responsible government and career public service "was managed by an equilibrium that allowed ministers to be responsible for their department's destinies but granted public servants a career based on selection by merit, political neutrality, anonymity, secrecy, and accountability."14 In earlier publications, Kernaghan had taken up these themes in two articles that highlighted the importance of safeguarding merit appointments to, and within, the public service.

A 1976 article on "Politics, Policy and Public Servants: Political Neutrality Revisited"15 set out an ideal-type model16 of political neutrality. Among the six principles of the model is the assertion that public servants are appointed and promoted on the basis of merit rather than of party affiliation or contributions. It is argued that public servants have a duty to follow this principle because of their dominant role in managing the personnel process in general and the merit system in particular. This call for merit appointments, and the implicit admonition against political patronage, is set within the framework of an examination of inter-dependent principles on political neutrality, ministerial responsibility, public service anonymity and, finally, security of tenure, involving the notion of career public service.

Kernaghan examined the issue of career public service in a second ideal-type model outlined in a1991 article entitled "Career Public Service 2000: Road to Renewal or Impractical Vision?"17 Among the four major principles contained in this model is the statement that in a career public service "[a]ppointments to, and within the public service, are based on merit, in the sense that the person appointed is the one who is best qualified." The other three principles relate to political neutrality, making appointments from within the public service, and career assistance. The article explains the pressures to depart in practice from the merit principle and notes, by way of example, that "career public service may require the appointment of the 'best-qualified' person, whereas, all things considered, the most effective management of human resources may simply require a 'qualified' person." This argument was prominent in the debates leading to the adoption of the 2003 Public Service Employment Act.

Subsequently, Evert Lindquist took up the discussion of career public service in a 2002 essay on "Government Restructuring and Career Public Service: Do We Need a New Cosmology?" He accepted the Kernaghan framework and noted that the principles are mirrored in public service institutions in Australia and the UK. He observed also that the principles of career public service "are embedded in a broader web of interconnected concepts related to responsible, parliamentary, and contemporary government."18 He added to the Kernaghan principles the following "elements of career public service" - lifetime careers, a single public service, accountability to ministers, anonymity, transparency, control by Parliament, collective bargaining, and representative public service.19 Lindquist also emphasized the importance of several values shaping modern career public services, namely representation, transparency, adaptability and responsiveness, and career development.

We shall see that several of the elements and values identified by Lindquist are central to contemporary discussions of the importance of merit. Aside from the longstanding implications of merit considerations for political neutrality and career public service, note should be made of the more recent emergence of a need to balance merit with representativeness. This is an especially important element of merit discussions in Canada because of pressures for a federal public service that is not only representative on such criteria as religion, sex and ethnicity but also takes account of the country's regional and linguistic diversity.

Ken Rasmussen examines the importance of merit in a 2007 conference paper entitled "The Biography of a Concept: The Origins of Merit in Canada."20 He views merit as a potentially key element of the institution and profession of the public service. He notes that during the period before 1918, the leading advocates of a merit-based public service were seeking a substantive type of merit - a notion of merit as an ideal that "embodied a much larger ethic of service, duty and professional responsibility for the public interest."21 What Canada got, however, was an instrumental type of merit in the form of a system of structures and procedures that departs substantially from the ideal. Rasmussen argues that merit "should represent and give key expression to the values that animate the public service and make it a unique organization with distinct aims and ambitions."22

Patricia Wallace Ingraham, in her recent examination of the state of merit in the US federal government, makes a similar argument. She expresses the merit principle as a merit ideal and distinguishes the ideal from the merit system. She argues strongly that "merit is a value." Merit "is related to values, ideals and ethics, to the appropriate role of the civil service in a democracy, and thus to governance in a democratic society."23

1.5 The Evolution of Merit

While there are many landmarks in the history of merit in the federal public service, certain events stand out as major markers in its interpretation and application. Four events are especially notable - the 1918 Civil Service Act, the 1967 Public Service Employment Act, the 1992 Public Service Reform Act, and the 2003 Public Service Employment Act. Each of these events marks the culmination of developments during a distinct time period in the post-Confederation evolution of the concept and practice of merit. We begin with a brief reference to merit considerations during the pre-Confederation period.

1.5.1 The Pre-Confederation Years to 1866.

The index of J.E. Hodgetts' book on the pre-Confederation development of the public service (1841-1867)24 contains no entry for merit. However, the index does contain several references to patronage - a powerful and persistent enemy of merit. Public service appointments during the pre-Confederation period were largely patronage-based. Indeed, Gordon Stewart argues that by 1828 patronage "had come to occupy the centre stage in Canadian politics."25 And Jeffrey Simpson, in his history of political patronage in Canada, notes the remarkable extent to which patronage appointments had pervaded government decisions, large and small, by 1850.26 Hodgetts detected a few signs of merit considerations in staffing the public service as early as 1857. By this date, some lip service was being paid to the principle of simple pass examinations, and efforts by such professions as engineering and surveying to improve their standards enhanced the performance of professionals who joined the public service.27 Still, at the time of Confederation, public service appointments were, in very large part, patronage appointments.

1.5.2 The Post-Confederation Period to 1919

The prevalence of patronage carried over into the politics and public service of the new country. Indeed, patronage was the central theme in the evolution of Canadian public administration for the next fifty years. This is a absorbing story of the eventual triumph of merit, efficiency and political impartiality over patronage and corruption. The story is recounted in detail (primarily since 1908) in the Hodgetts et al book on The Biography of an Institution noted above. The story is also told, either in part or in briefer compass, in R. MacGregor Dawson's The Principle of Official Independence and The Civil Service of Canada, Ken Rasmussen's "The Biography of a Concept," Doug Ostrom's The Government Generation, Alasdair Robert's So-Called Experts, Jeffrey Simpson's Spoils of Power, and Gordon Stewart's The Origins of Canadian Politics. (See annotated bibliography in Appendix A.)

These books document the successes and the failures, the progress and the disappointments, in the gradual movement towards a merit-based public service. They describe small as well as significant advances. For example, immediately after Confederation, the 1868 Canada Civil Service Act divided the public service into the Inside Service (inside Ottawa) and the Outside Service (outside Ottawa). While the Cabinet retained authority to make appointments to the Outside Service, a Civil Service Board composed of deputy ministers received the modest authority to examine candidates who were nominated by Cabinet ministers.

The examinations were largely voluntary, simple pass examinations that "succeeded in keeping nothing out of the service except ignorance."28

The (Langton) Royal Commission on the civil service (1868-1870) was the first of several royal commissions established during this period. This commission did not focus on the patronage problem; nor did it recommend that appointments be based on merit as determined by competitive examination. Next came the 1877 Select House of Commons Committee on the Civil Service that was chaired by George Elliot Casey, a strong advocate of a professional public service in general and competitive examinations in particular. The Committee's recommendations for an independent civil service commission and for appointments based on competitive merit were not carried out.

A second Royal Commission on the civil service (the McInnes Commission, 1880-1881) recommended the creation of a Board of Civil Service Commissioners that was independent of partisan influence. And the government's response in 1882 was a new Civil Service Act that created a three-person Board of Examiners with authority to hold twice-yearly simple pass or fail examinations for both appointment and promotion. Ministers continued to make the appointments from among the qualified candidates.

A third Royal Commission on the civil service (the Hague Commission, 1891) proposed that a Civil Service Commission be established to promote merit-based appointments, in part on the basis of open competition as opposed to the simple qualifying examination. However, the Board of Examiners was kept and political patronage remained a pervasive and persistent enemy of merit.

A significant achievement in the battle against patronage resulted from the recommendations of a fourth Royal Commission on the civil service (the Courtney Commission, 1907-1908). The 1908 Civil Service Amendment Act created an independent two-member Civil Service Commission to administer competitive examinations for nearly all appointments to the Inside Service. Candidates proposed for promotion by ministers or deputy ministers were required to have a certificate of qualification from the Commission. A notable innovation was the requirement that public servants refrain from involvement in partisan political activities and from attempting to influence the Commission.

The staying power of political patronage was evident in the Outside Service which amounted to about eighty percent of total public service employment and which experienced a substantial turnover of public servants with each change of government. The 1912 Murray Report on the Organization of the Public Service of Canada proposed that the distinction between the Inside and Outside Services be eliminated, that merit be the sole basis for appointments and promotions, and that a superannuation system be adopted to attract and retain good-quality employees.

The 1918 Civil Service Act29 (as amended in 1919)30 sounded the death-knell for political patronage in the wide-ranging form in which it had existed for half a century after Canadian Confederation. The Civil Service Commission's 1917-1918 Report had noted that the two central elements of the merit system were "the selection and appointment of individuals without regard to their politics, religion or influence" and the application of "the methods of scientific employment to maintain the efficiency of those employees after they enter the service."31 Thus, in terms of public service values, the emphasis at the end of this first post-Confederation period was on the democratic value of political neutrality and the professional value of efficiency.

In this context, reference should be made to Alasdair Roberts' monograph entitled So-Called Experts: How American Consultants Remade the Canadian Civil Service, 1918-21. Roberts notes two erroneous assertions about this 1918-1919 period that were made by certain critics of Bill C-26 - Canada's Public Service Reform Act that became law in 1992. The first error was the assertion that there was neither a Civil Service Commission nor a Civil Service Act before 1919. The second error was the claim that the motivation for the 1918-1919 reforms had been largely rampant bureaucratic patronage. Roberts argues that the reforms were almost solely designed to remedy political patronage "which was widely regarded as a moral outrage ..."32

Hodgetts et al observed that the Civil Service Act did not provide a precise definition of the merit principle. Its meaning was taken for granted. The Act did provide what was in effect a legislative description of the mechanics of the merit system.33

1.5.3 1920-1967 - Balancing Merit and Efficiency

The main focus of the Roberts monograph is on the adverse and long-term consequences for administrative efficiency of the rigid centralized controls over departments given to the Civil Service Commission by the 1918-1919 legislation. Especially strong concern focused on the Commission's power to classify public service jobs. Roberts cites Adam Shortt, a former member of the Commission and a well-respected reform advocate, as complaining that the public service was now subject to "a vicious system, detrimental alike to efficiency and merit."34 The 1930 (Beatty) Royal Commission on Technical and Professional Services, the 1946 (Gordon) Royal Commission on Administrative Classifications and the 1961 (Glassco) Royal Commission on Government Organization all echoed Shortt's criticism. The Glassco report noted that the longstanding control system "remains substantially undiminished" and that while it might prevent a resurgence of patronage, it was "costly, frustrating and unproductive."35

Complaints about the rigid centralized controls over public service departments were voiced by the 1979 (Lambert) Royal Commission on Financial Management and Accountability and, as late as 1990, by the Public Service 2000 report.

In addition to its power over classification, the Civil Service Commission had in 1918 received authority over competitive examinations, political partisanship and special preferences. Especially notable for the issue of merit was the Commission's power to ensure that appointments were made on the basis of competitive examinations. While the Commission previously had only the authority to screen out unqualified candidates for the Inside Service, it now had authority to provide open competition for all jobs, in both the Inside and Outside Services. In addition, the Commission received authority over promotions, transfers and dismissals.

The 1918 Civil Service Act had provided that no public servant "shall engage in partisan work in connection with any ... election, or contribute, receive, or in any way deal with any money for any party funds." Violations were punishable by dismissal. This restriction on partisan political activities remained largely unaltered until the 1967 Public Service Employment Act.

The 1918 Act also gave the Commission authority to grant special preference in appointments and promotions to particular groups of people, namely veterans, local residents and persons who held or had held public service posts. The special treatment of returning servicemen was in appreciation of their contributions to the defence of Canada and in recognition of the educational and training opportunities that they had foregone and which would have better enabled them to compete for public service positions. This special preference for servicemen was an early and modest precursor of the issue of equal opportunity (or affirmative action) for appointments to the public service that later became such a central concern in human resource management. Note that the Act made no special arrangements for ensuring adequate representation in the public service for any other groups, including Francophones and women. Neither bilingualism nor gender was an element of merit at this time.

For this 1920 to 1967 period, several events affecting merit either directly or indirectly are chronicled in the scholarly literature, especially in Hodgetts et al. In the early 1920s, some politicians tried to re-instate political patronage and senior public servants sought to decentralize managerial authority from the Civil Service Commission to departments. The Commission's strong support for a superannuation system led to the 1924 Civil Service Superannuation Act that provided pension benefits better than any private sector system and that was viewed by the Commission as a key element of the merit system. In the same year, the Senate Special Committee (the Béique Committee) on the Civil Service stressed the importance of the merit principle while asserting its approval of the Commission's work in reorganizing the public service.

Hodgetts et al concluded that political patronage had been largely eliminated during the 1920s,36 but its staying power is demonstrated by historian H. M. Clokie's observation, as late as 1944, that Canada had not "fully emancipated herself from the laxness of appointment by favour which tends to paralyze all efforts to attain a sound merit system."37

This period witnessed the stirring of the debate that continued into the 21st cemtury over the appropriate division of responsibilities between the Civil Service Commission and the Treasury Board (and its Secretariat). While the powers of both organizations grew during the Second World War, the Board's executive control over personnel policy increased substantially. The Commission became less of a control agency and more of a service one. The 1946 (Gordon) Royal Commission on Administrative Classifications in the Public Service identified the division of responsibilities as the major weakness in the central control and direction of the public service. It recommended that the Commission's statutory powers under the 1918 Civil Service Act be exercised by the Board so that the Commission could focus on the extremely important task of recruitment "on a merit basis." The government did not implement this recommendation - and the debate continued.

The 1951 Financial Administration Act strengthened the Treasury Board's position by giving it statutory authority over many of the powers it had gradually accumulated since the early 1930s. It was specifically granted authority "to exercise all or any of the powers, other than powers of appointment, of the Governor in Council under the Civil Service Act."

Then came the1958 Civil Service Commission report on Personnel Administration in the Public Service,38 generally known as the Heeney report after Arnold Heeney, chairman of the Commission. On the basis of an historical review of personnel administration in the federal public service, the Heeney Commission concluded that the career system established by the 1918 Civil Service Act had significantly improved the efficiency and morale of the service and guarded against a return to the inefficiency and political patronage of the pre-1918 period. The Commission also concluded, however, that the Act applied excessively centralized controls and that the size, scope and nature of the public service had changed enormously over the forty years since 1918. Unlike Alasdair Roberts' minimization, noted above, of the extent of bureaucratic patronage by 1918, the Heeney Commission observed that it is too often forgotten that the need at that time was not just to eliminate political patronage, but also to free the public service "from nepotism, the coddling of incompetent favourites, the granting of promotions for consideration and similar abuses."39 The Commission reasoned that the success of the Act in keeping both abuses in check argued "for the preservation of the essential legal safeguards of the merit principle. At the same time, in the vastly different social and economic conditions [of today], it has become evident that a monolithic merit system is not in itself enough."40

The Heeney Report envisaged a clear, exclusive and independent role for the Civil Service Commission in the management of the merit system, with continuing responsibility for recruitment, appointment and promotion. Its description of the merit system is very similar to the Dowdell definition of the merit principle provided earlier. The merit system was described as one "under which appointments are made on the basis of an objective determination of the relative merit of qualified candidates, under which all qualified Canadians have an opportunity for consideration for appointment, and under which duties performed are equitably compensated."41 At the same time, the report argued, provision must be made for "greater speed, flexibility, and simplicity in meeting" the administrative needs of departments "without prejudice to the merit principle."42 Thus, the merit principle was not viewed, as it had been since 1918, in an absolute sense, but rather as a concept that should be implemented in the light of such contending considerations as efficiency. Aside from the matter of merit, the key proposal of the Heeney report was that the Civil Service Commission serve as an independent arbiter on staff relations issues such as pay determination. This proposal was not adopted by the government of the day and was clearly rejected by the new Civil Service Act of 1961.

This new Act did, however, implement several of the Heeney proposals. It maintained the independent status of the Civil Service Commission and the central elements of the merit system. The Commission retained its authority over classification, and its capacity to safeguard merit was strengthened by the expansion of its authority to hear public servants' appeals not only on promotions but also on such matters as demotions, transfers and dismissals. In addition to these appeal rights, public servants were given the right, through their staff associations, to be consulted on all matters related to remuneration and conditions of employment.

The 1961 Civil Service Act was quickly overtaken by the deliberations and recommendations of the Glassco Royal Commission on Government Organization that was appointed in 1960 and that reported in 1962. This major inquiry was charged with the task of recommending changes that "would best promote efficient, economic and improved service in the dispatch of public business."43

The Commission viewed the 1961 Act as grossly inadequate in dealing with the challenges of public personnel management. After making the distinction between the merit principle and the merit system quoted earlier in this paper, the Commission argued that

[t]he merit system, in many of its current practices, frustrates the attainment of the principle; in its name many absurd procedures are tolerated; the system has become an end in itself; overriding the need to 'get the job done'; and all too frequently it has engendered such delays in the attempt to get the "best" man that his loss to a more nimble employer was ensured. It is paradoxical ... that a system designed to improve the public service by eliminating improper influences on appointments should exact, in the process, such high costs.44

Similar criticism was directed at the Civil Service Commission's excessive controls in such areas as promotion and transfers, training and development, and classification.

Leslie Barnes, in his book on The Personnel Function in the Federal Public Service of Canada, asserts that the Glassco Commission was probably "responsible for more significant changes in the personnel function of the civil service than any other event since Confederation, with the possible exception of the establishment of the modern CSC in 1918."45 Among the Glassco Commission's recommendations affecting merit was the proposal that departments should have authority to recruit their own employees for senior, administrative and technical positions, while the Civil Service Commission would handle recruitment for more junior positions and would certify all initial appointments to the public service. Most of the Commission's management functions would be transferred to a new Personnel Division in the Treasury Board or to departments.

These recommendations led to massive reform in the federal personnel system, notably through the 1967 Public Service Employment Act (PSEA), amendments to the Financial Administration Act (FAA), and the Public Service Staff Relations Act (PSSRA). The latter act established a collective bargaining regime for the public service. The PSEA clearly established the Civil Service Commission (renamed the Public Service Commission) as the government's central staffing agency while the FAA clearly established the Treasury Board Secretariat as the central management agency with authority over personnel management, including determination of the terms and conditions of employment.

The changes brought about the PSEA are especially notable for their influence on merit. Section 10 of the PSEA stated that:

Appointments to or from within the Public Service shall be based on selection according to merit, as determined by the [Public Service] Commission, and shall be made by the Commission, at the request of the deputy head concerned, by competition or by other such processes of personnel selection designed to establish the merit of candidates as the Commission considers in the best interests of the Public Service.

Moreover, section 12 of the Act provided that in determining the basis for assessing merit, the Commission may "prescribe selection standards as to education, knowledge, experience, language, residence or any other matters" that the Commission deems "necessary or desirable having regard to the nature of the duties to be performed ..."

Note the modified interpretation of merit flowing from these sections. The Commission was authorized not only to determine the precise meaning of merit but also to make appointments by means other than the competition process. This enabled the Commission to engage in such modern selection approaches as continuous staffing programs. The Commission was also authorized to hear appeals from employees in regard to such matters as promotions, demotions and dismissals.

During this period from 1920-1967, the evolution of merit continued to be influenced primarily by the public service values of political neutrality and efficiency. The number of patronage appointments was dramatically reduced, in part by continuing severe constraints on public servants' involvement in partisan political activities. Enhanced efficiency was pursued through appointments based on merit rather than partisanship and through strong central controls over departments in the sphere of personnel management. Over time, however, the tension between merit and efficiency became more evident. It was argued increasingly during this period that efficiency was actually reduced rather than enhanced by that aspect of the merit system that involved the exercise of central controls over departments by the PSC and Treasury Board. Also during this period, the importance of other public service values, especially representativeness, began to increase.

1.5.4 1968 - 1992 - Balancing Merit and Other Public Service Values

No authors have taken up the mantle of Hodgetts and his colleagues by providing a detailed examination of the evolution of merit since 1967. The rest of the story is available in piecemeal form in a variety of scattered academic writings and government reports.

The theme of representativeness - and its complicated relationship to merit emerged early on in this period. The long story of representative bureaucracy, affirmative action, employment equity and managing diversity in the federal public service cannot be told here. Special note should be taken, however, of developments during this period that manifested the tensions between and among such public service values as representativeness, responsiveness, fairness, equity, efficiency and effectiveness. This issue was brought to the fore in the late 1960s and the1970s by solid evidence of the considerable extent to which Francophones and women were underrepresented in the public service. Aboriginal peoples, persons in visible minorities and persons with disabilities were subsequently added to the list of disadvantaged groups.

The issue of representativeness has remained a prominent theme in discussions of merit since that time because it goes to the heart of the distinction between the merit principle and the merit system discussed earlier in this paper. As early as 1978, the PSC noted that "the policies of merit ... should continue to provide for appointment to, and career advancement within, the Public Service to be based on the merit of each individual but taking into account the requirements of ... other principles."46 These other principles were identified as efficiency and effectiveness, sensitivity and responsiveness, equality of opportunity, and equity. This same point was made by the 1979 D'Avignon report described below.

The findings of two major inquiries that reported in the late 1970s had a significant impact on personnel management in general and merit in particular. The first inquiry was the (Lambert) Royal Commission on Financial Management and Accountability that was created in March 1976 and that reported in March 1979. This Commission recommended that the PSC should report directly to Parliament regarding its responsibility for safeguarding merit appointments, but that Treasury Board (to be renamed the Board of Management) should have full responsibility for staffing.

The second inquiry - the 1979 D'Avignon Special Committee on Personnel Administration and the Merit Principle - was appointed in December 1977 and reported in September 1979. Like the Lambert Commission, the D'Avignon Committee preferred that personnel management be handled by a single body (Treasury Board) and that the PSC's main duty should be to report to Parliament for its protection of the merit principle. The Committee also took up the issue noted above of reconciling the merit principle with other principles. It argued that "if the public service is to attract that talent it needs, legislation must permit selection on the basis of ... the individual's ability to meet ... more than the requirements of a specific set of duties."47 The merit principle was to be balanced with such other principles (or values) as efficiency, effectiveness, representativeness and equity.

Thus, by the late 1970s, there was growing recognition that the merit principle needed to be interpreted and applied in the light of certain values that underpinned the merit system. Indeed, values subsequently became a pervasive feature not only in the management of human resources in general and of merit in particular but also of the public service as a whole. The D'Avignon Committee articulated the overall importance of values in public administration when it called for a "philosophy of management" in the form of "a clear declaration of a credo based on the beliefs, values and attitudes of corporate management, which constitutes the bed-rock on which the practices of management and management systems are based."48

Reference to values became a recurring theme in discussions of the meaning of merit. This was evident in the report of Public Service 2000 (PS 2000),49 an inquiry into the state of the public service that was established in December 1989 and that reported in December 1990. The report (a government white paper) called for a change in public service culture based on a number of "simple and unchanging values" that have characterized the public service since the early 1900s, including non-partisanship, impartiality and professionalism.50 The fact that ministers are prohibited by Parliament from political interference in the appointment process was described as fundamental to the concept of merit and the foundation for the professionalism of the public service.

Seven of the ten PS 2000 task forces dealt with issues of human resource management, including staffing, classification, compensation, and training. In this white paper, the government announced its intention to clarify responsibilities for human resource management, with the PSC acting as an agent of Parliament in safeguarding the merit principle and the executive being responsible for deploying the human resources made available to it by Parliament. The government also proposed to permit appointments to be made either to position or to level and to introduce a system of deployments whereby managers could move staff more easily to a position at the same level.

This deployments proposal was adopted by the 1992 Public Service Reform Act that amended the Public Service Employment Act and the Public Service Staff Relations Act. The Public Service Commission received authority to set standards of competence for both deployments and promotions as a basis for the assessment of individual merit (a candidate's qualifications measured against standards) as opposed to the previous emphasis on relative merit (qualifications compared with those of other candidates). While this amendment was designed in large part to enhance efficiency, it signalled a significant change in the traditional interpretation of merit and foreshadowed the merit reforms contained in the 2003 Public Service Employment Act.

1.5.5 1993-2003 - Moving to a New Meaning of Merit

By the mid-1990s, the essence of the merit system was being expressed in terms of certain public service values. According to the PSC,

[a]ppointments to the Public Service are based on merit, and Public Service employees advance in accordance with merit. This means that the knowledge, experience, abilities and personal suitabilities of candidates are evaluated against the requirements of the position. It also means that the best qualified person (relative merit) or a qualified person based on a standard of competence (individual merit) is selected, and that treatment of Public Service employees and those seeking employment in the Public Service is fair and equitable. The Public Service must be highly competent, totally professional and politically neutral in providing advice to the government and quality services to the Canadian public. It also must be representative of the population it serves. Its staffing system must be easy to manage, economical to operate and sufficiently flexible to meet changing operational needs and driven by ... values (fairness, equity and transparency)...51

Increasingly, from the late 1960s to the mid-1990s, the government had adopted affirmative action/employment equity initiatives to make the public service more representative of certain under-represented groups and, thereby, more reflective of the diversity of Canadian society.52 By the mid-1990s, as indicated in the above quotation, representativeness had become a central element of the merit system. The preferences to veterans and a few others authorized by the 1918 Civil Service Act pale in comparison to these efforts in the late years of the century to ensure a more fair, equitable and representative merit system.

A mid-1990s event that had a substantial long-term impact on merit was the 1996 report of the (Tait) Task Force on Public Service Values and Ethics.53 The report stressed the desirability of reasserting political neutrality as one of the fundamental values of the public service because of its inextricable links with such other essential values as merit, fairness, equity, impartiality and professionalism (p. 26). Like other government reports discussed in this study, the Tait report noted the administrative inefficiencies resulting from efforts to safeguard merit appointments. Unlike these other reports, however, the Tait report warned against bureaucratic as well as political patronage and noted that

[t]here is clearly some kind of trade-off between due processes which protect merit, equity, and neutrality on the one hand, and speed or organizational responsiveness and performance on the other . . . Over the past two decades there has been a discernible shift in the public service appointment process to favour greater managerial discretion. We do not suggest that this is a harmful trend in itself. But we do think that if it goes too far, without appropriate safeguards, it could undermine the institution it seeks to serve by creating the appearance, if not the reality, of bureaucratic patronage.

The report also stressed "the continuing importance of neutrality and merit as values fundamental to maintaining confidence in the public service as a great Canadian institution serving the common good."54 Four categories of public service values were identified, with merit falling in the category of "professional" values along with such values as effectiveness and professional competence.

In the late 1990s, the PSC adopted the strategic objective of moving to a values-based merit framework to accompany its substantial delegation of staffing authority to departments. The framework was intended to "help managers take on ownership of staffing and be accountable for making staffing decisions" - to help managers to "better appreciate that their staffing decisions determine whether appointments are based on merit so that the public service is professional, non-partisan and reflective of our society."55 Thus, the PSC intended to move away from a rules-based approach to staffing to one that stresses the values underlying the staffing function. On the basis of the Tait Report and a Consultative Review on Staffing, the PSC identified three results values (non-partisanship, responsiveness, competence), three process values (fairness, equity, transparency), and two management principles (flexibility, affordability/efficiency) that underpinned its values-based approach to staffing.56

In 2001, a PSCAC publication of the Public Service Commission Advisory Council (PSCAC) on Merit in the Public Service57 provided valuable insight into the never-ending debate over the appropriate meaning of merit and into the issues surrounding it shortly before the enactment of a new public service employment act. The report defined merit in terms of three values:

Fairness refers to objectivity, and to not bestowing an unfair advantage upon any candidate; equity refers to the provision of "reasonable access to competitive opportunities to potential candidates", and to greater representativeness; transparency refers to results that are clear and easily explainable to everyone concerned.

Given the history of merit, it is not surprising to read in the PSCAC report that "the term merit is surrounded by ambiguity and has different meanings for different people." Moreover,

many members [of the PACAC] called for an objective, measurable definition of merit while some were more interested in a flexible definition which ensured that no exceptions would be needed and was sufficiently robust to be functional over time. There appeared to be a need for a merit definition that did not permit interpretation, particularly by the courts. The issue of the subjectivity of merit in decision-making surfaced, e.g., weighting and assessment of personal suitability, setting of basic qualifications. In contrast, there was a call to better communicate that subjectivity is a part of the decision-making process like it or not.

The many contentious issues relating to merit that were identified were grouped into three categories: Legislation (e.g. need for proper recourse mechanisms); Process (e.g. need to measure and value experience); and Other Staffing Related Issues (e.g. more effective means of dealing with poor performers). A possible solution to these issues lay in legislation that was largely non-prescriptive on process but that allowed the co-development (by union and management) of staffing processes and provided a mechanism for impasse resolution.

A Task Force on Modernizing Human Resources Management in the Public Service appointed by the Prime Minister in April 2001 was asked to recommend a modern human resources management policy, together with a legislative and institutional framework, that would make it possible to attract, develop and keep the high-quality employees needed for the new century. The recommendations of the task force led to the 2003 Public Service Modernization Act. This Act included a new Public Service Labour Relations Act to replace the existing Public Service Staff Relations Act and to regulate the relationship between the government as employer and the unions; amendments to the Financial Administration Act to devolve some human resource management authorities to deputy heads from Treasury Board; and a new Public Service Employment Act (PSEA).

The PSEA not only provided legislative definition of merit; it also provided a definition that departed considerably from the traditional one. Under the new Act, an appointment is considered to be based on merit when the Public Service Commission or the delegated manager is satisfied that the person to be appointed meets the essential qualifications of the work to be performed. The Commission or the delegated manager must also take into account:

  • any additional qualifications that the deputy head may consider to be an asset for the work to be performed, or for the organization currently or in the future;
  • any current or future operational requirements of the organization that may be identified by the deputy head; and
  • any current or future needs of the organization or the public service.

The concept of merit now requires that candidates be assessed in relation to the merit criteria established for the position rather than, as previously, in relation to other candidates (relative merit). The preamble to the Act gives equal status to merit and non-partisanship as the basic values to be safeguarded in public service appointments. Among other values mentioned in the Preamble are excellence, representativeness, integrity, and fair and transparent employment practices. The Act gives the Public Service Commission authority to establish policies ensuring that appointment decisions are based on sound principles. The Commission subsequently announced that in setting policy related to merit it "will require that the guiding [appointment] values of fairness, transparency, access and representativeness assist organizations in the appointment process."58 The Commission also noted that the value of access "promotes linguistic duality, representativeness of the designated groups in the Employment Equity Act, and regional and cultural diversity in the public service."59

2. Part II - The Comparative Dimension

Consideration of the options for interpreting and applying the merit concept in Canada can usefullly be informed by experience in other countries. Historically, Canadian thinking and practice in this area have been influenced largely by the United States and by the Westminster countries of the United Kingdom (UK) and Australia and, to a lesser extent, New Zealand. This part of the study examines briefly the manner in which merit is handled in the national public service of each of these countries. It is notable that the scholarly literature focusing on the evolution and current state of merit in these countries, in the form of either country studies or comparative analyses, is in short supply.

The public services of all four countries have experienced challenges in the sphere of merit that are similar to those faced by Canada. The general historical trend is to respond to the evils of patronage by adopting statutes or structures, or both, to promote non-partisanship and efficiency. Over time, central control measures taken to keep patronage in check have produced administrative inefficiencies that need to be remedied and, increasingly, merit has to be applied not only in relation to non-partisanship and efficiency but also to such other values as representativeness and fairness. The values surrounding the pursuit of merit are similar from one country to another. We shall see that while the challenges in Canada and other countries have been alike, the responses have varied significantly.

2.1 Australia

Australia has a rough equivalent to Canada's The Biography of an Institution in the form of a book by Bob Minns entitled A History in Three Acts: Evolution of the Public Service Act 1999.60 The three "acts" are the 1902, 1922 and 1999 Public Service Acts. However, another statute that had substantial impact on merit - and on human resource management more generally - was the Public Service Reform Act 1984. This Act stated clearly the major components of the merit principle as a basis for determining personnel policies, and forbade patronage, favouritism and any unjustified discrimination. In respect of merit appointments, the Act provided:

33. (1) Powers under this Act in respect of appointment shall be exercised in accordance with procedures that ensure that, in each case where an appointment to the Service is to be made –

(a) all persons who are eligible for appointment to the Service have, so far as is practicable, a reasonable opportunity to apply for the appointment; and

(b) the appointment is made on the basis of an assessment of the relative suitability of the applicants for the appointment, having regard to -

(i) the nature of the duties to be performed by the person appointed; and

(ii) the abilities, qualifications, experience and other attributes of each applicant that are relevant to the performance of those duties.

The similarity in the Australian issues and values to those in Canada was evident in the call by the 1995 Public Service Act Review Group for the Public Service Act 1922 to be replaced by a new Act that was "...built around the principles and values which stress the centrality of an apolitical public service with merit-based staffing, high standards of honesty and integrity, a strong focus on efficiency and results, and responsiveness and accountability to the government of the day while maintaining a capacity to provide quality and impartial advice."61

A new act - the Public Service Act 1999 - enshrined the importance of public service values in relation not only to merit but also to the public service in general. The Act contains the APS Statement of Values (followed by a related Code of Conduct) that sets consideration of merit within a list of fourteen other values. Subsection (1) (b) of the Statement provides that "the APS is a public service in which employment decisions are based on merit." Several other clauses are indirectly related to merit, as follows:

(a) the APS is apolitical, performing its functions in an impartial and professional manner; ...

(c) the APS provides a workplace that is free from discrimination and that recognises and utilises the diversity of the Australian community it serves;...

(l) the APS promotes equity in employment;

(m) the APS provides a reasonable opportunity to all eligible members of the community to apply for APS employment;

(n) the APS is a career-based service to enhance the effectiveness and cohesion of Australia's democratic system of government;

(o) the APS provides a fair system of review of decisions taken in respect of APS employees.

In addition, subsection 2 provides that "a decision relating to engagement or promotion is based on merit if:

(a) an assessment is made of the relative suitability of the candidates for the duties, using a competitive selection process; and

(b) the assessment is based on the relationship between the candidates' work-related qualities and the work-related qualities genuinely required for the duties; and

(c) the assessment focuses on the relative capacity of the candidates to achieve outcomes related to the duties; and

(d) the assessment is the primary consideration in making the decision.

Section 17 of the Act maintains the previous proscription on patronage and favouritism; subsection 10(1)(c) of the APS Values affirms the importance of non-discrimination and diversity; and section 18 provides that Agency heads must develop a workplace diversity program to give effect to the APS Values.

The Australian counterpart to Canada's Public Service Commission is the Public Service and Merit Protection Commission that serves the Public Service Commissioner and provides administrative support to the Merit Protection Commissioner.

The Public Service Commissioner has primary responsibility for promoting the APS values and has both statutory and policy responsibilities. The statutory responsibilities include submitting a yearly report to Parliament on the State of the Service. This report includes an evaluation of the extent to which government agencies have incorporated the APS Values and the adequacy of their systems and procedures for ensuring compliance with the Code of Conduct.62 One of the Commissioner's policy responsibilities is "promoting and upholding the merit principle." Under the Public Service Act, the Commissioner is required to issue written Directions63 in relation to each of the APS Values. Chapter 4 of these Directions sets out detailed guidance under the heading of Merit in Employment. In addition, the State of the Service report reviews the performance of government agencies in respect of each of the values, including merit. This report is a rich source of information on the state of merit in the federal public service, including survey data on employees' perception of the state of merit.

Unlike Canada, Australia not only has a Public Service Commissioner responsible for promoting merit but a Merit Protection Commissioner as well. Under the Public Service Act, the office of the Merit Protection Commissioner provides an independent external review of actions affecting individual APS employees. The Merit Protection Commissioner is responsible for ensuring that APS agencies maintain workplaces that promote a harmonious working milieu. The Commissioner also supports a statutory requirement (included in the APS Values) that Agency heads provide a fair system for review of decisions for their employees. Finally, the Commissioner supports adherence to the APS Code of Conduct and, in particular, is responsible for promoting employees' respect for the APS Values.64

Protection is provided against bureaucratic as well as political patronage. Section 17 of the Act states that appointments must be free of patronage or favoritism, and the Public Service Commissioner's Directions elaborate on this requirement.

The Public Service Commissioner, in the 2006-2007 State of the Service report, summed up the current meaning of merit and fairness in APS employment:

Merit in the APS means that employment decisions should be based on a person's ability to do the job, and that decisions must be objective, fair and avoid patronage, favoritism and unjustified discrimination. For ongoing employment or promotion, all eligible members of the community should have a reasonable opportunity to apply for jobs and there must be a competitive assessment of applicants' suitability to perform the duties of the job. Fair selection procedures together with the application of merit in employment decisions are critical to ensuring that the APS attracts and retains efficient and effective staff.65

The final word is left to Bob Minns who, in his history of public service merit in Australia, notes that

[m]erit-based staffing was an underlying principle for the Commonwealth Public Service at time of Federation. The understanding and expression of merit has undergone significant evolution over the intervening 100 years, but it remains a key feature of the APS at the beginning of the 21st century.66

2.2 United Kingdom

Bob Minns also gets the first word in this section on merit in the UK public service. He observes that "it is still common to attribute the stability and integrity of the public services in Australia to their origins in British civil service reforms in the 19th century. The particular impact of the Northcote-Trevelyan Report, with its uncompromising rejection of corruption, nepotism and patronage, has served to underpin the perceived necessity for Australia to maintain a permanent career public service, at each of Commonwealth, state and territory levels, throughout the 20th century."67

In the United Kingdom, this celebrated 1854 report was followed in 1855 by the creation of a Civil Service Commission to examine the qualifications of candidates who usually had been nominated by politicians. In 1870, most government departments accepted open competitive entry for all civil service recruits. During the next fifty years (a period virtually identical to the first period in Canada's history of merit), the Commission's powers were gradually extended to embrace nearly all public service appointments. In 1880 the moral dimension of merit was captured in terms similar to the Canadian "honour to be coveted" aspiration quoted above. Dorman B. Eaton argued that in a merit-based public service "[o]ffice would rise in public respect, and government itself would have a higher dignity in the eyes of those who saw it spurning servility, while seeking the service of the ablest and worthiest among its citizens.68

The Northcote-Trevelyn report had recommended that the core values and principles of the public service be set out in statute. However, unlike Canada and Australia, the United Kingdom has never adopted a Public Service Act to provide statutory definition and protection of merit and the values supporting it. The Prime Minister, in his capacity as Minister for the Civil Service, has exercised powers over the civil service under the royal prerogative.

Then, on July 3, 2007, after many years of debate on the issue, the government announced its intention to adopt legislation to "enshrine the core principles and values of the Civil Service in law" and to "place the independent Civil Service Commission on a statutory footing." The proposed act "will also make a legal reality of the historic principle of appointment on merit following fair and open competition."69

Currently, the Office of the Civil Service Commissioners (OCSC) is responsible for ensuring that civil servants are recruited on the basis of merit with fair and open competition (in accordance with the Civil Service Order in Council 1995). Another organization - the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments (OCPA) - is responsible for monitoring, reporting and advising on the manner in which ministers make appointments to the boards of public bodies.

The Civil Service Commissioners are not civil servants; they are appointed by the Crown under royal prerogative and are independent of ministers. They issue a Recruitment Code that contains detailed guidance on the application of the principle that appointments must be made on the basis of merit. The Code does, however, encourage departments and agencies to take a flexible approach towards selection processes. The Commissioners audit compliance with this Code and consider complaints in relation to its application. In addition, they oversee the process of selecting senior civil servants; promote the core civil service values contained in the Civil Service Code; and investigate appeals under this Code. The Commissioners work with departments to promote the Code; report on matters formally raised under the Code; and liaise with nominated officers in departments who can be approached for impartial advice by staff who have concerns relating to the Code.

The Civil Service Code (first introduced in 1996 and replaced by a new Code in 2006) is part of the terms and conditions of employment for all civil servants. It sets out the core values of the civil service and standards of behaviour for civil servants. Merit is featured prominently early on in the Code with the assertion that "[as] a civil servant, you are appointed on merit on the basis of fair and open competition and are expected to carry out your role with dedication and a commitment to the Civil Service and its core values: integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality."

The Recruitment Code proscribes bureaucratic patronage or favouritism through a general emphasis on merit appointments and a specific requirement that all appointments must be above suspicion of patronage. Section 2.3 notes that "[i]f friends, relations or business contacts comprise most of the applicants for a job, it is clearly not possible to defend the procedures used - even if the successful candidate is perfectly competent."

2.3 United States

The early history of merit in the United States is commonly associated with the scandals and inefficiency of the "spoils system." This system took the form of pervasive patronage marked by the sweeping removal of public servants with a change of government and their replacement by supporters of the victorious political party. As in Canada, efforts to reduce patronage met stubborn resistance. After 1850, a few anti-patronage measures were gradually taken, and by 1870 there was substantial political and public support for substantial reform. Like Australia and New Zealand, the United States civil service was influenced by the 1854 Northcote-Trevelyn report. Douglas A. Brook notes that "the three enduring principles of Northcote-Trevelyn - entrance by examination, promotion by merit, and a unitary system - were also to become central to the U.S civil service, and none was more important than merit."70

Then, in 1881, President James Garfield was assassinated by a disappointed office seeker. Public outrage helped to bring about the passing of the 1883 (Pendleton) Civil Service Act that established a Civil Service Commission and marked the beginning of the merit system in the federal public service. Paul Van Riper, a leading American scholar on the evolution of the public service, noted that the Act brought "a merit system founded on British precedents: that is, a system of civil service requirements and organization based on (1) competitive examinations, (2) relative security of tenure, and (3) political neutrality."71 And the United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM), in Biography of an Ideal, claims that the Act's fundamental principles, "which have not changed in 120 years, have stood both the test of time and the transition of the United States from a pioneer society to one of the most complex in the world."72

The Civil Service Commission continued to play a central role in the management of merit until 1978 when the President's Reorganization Plan No. 2 of 1978 and the Civil Service Reform Act abolished the Commission and divided its responsibilities among the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), and the OPM.

The MSPB's primary responsibility is to ensure that federal public servants are appointed and retained on the basis of merit. The Board oversees the government's human resource practices through such means as special studies of the merit systems; making decisions regarding charges of wrongdoing and employment appeals against agency actions; and directing corrective disciplinary actions against an executive agency or employee. The Board also reviews certain actions of the OPM to assess the extent to which these actions affect merit.

In general, the Board does not hear and decide complaints of discrimination - that responsibility belongs to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The OSC is an independent agency of the Executive branch that investigates allegations of prohibited personnel practices; prosecutes violations of civil service laws, rules and regulations; and enforces the Hatch Act provisions on political partisanship.

The overall responsibility of the OPM is to ensure that the federal government has an effective civilian workforce. The Office pursues this objective by providing human capital advice to the President and to federal agencies; by delivering human resources policies, products and services; by ensuring compliance with merit system principles and protection from prohibited personnel practices; and by holding agencies accountable for their human capital practices.

All three of these organizations and, indeed, all government agencies operate within the framework of a statement of Merit System Principles73 (often described as "values") and of Prohibited Personnel Practices.74 These principles and practices were adopted by the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act. The Merit System Principles, shown below, are intended to provide an enduring set of principles, as opposed to procedures, that define a merit system in modern human resource management. The principles not only proscribe political patronage but, especially in section 8, bureaucratic patronage as well.

(1) Recruitment should be from qualified individuals from appropriate sources in an endeavor to achieve a work force from all segments of society, and selection and advancement should be determined solely on the basis of relative ability, knowledge, and skills, after fair and open competition which assures that all receive equal opportunity.

(2) All employees and applicants for employment should receive fair and equitable treatment in all aspects of personnel management without regard to political affiliation, race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age, or handicapping condition, and with proper regard for their privacy and constitutional rights.

(3) Equal pay should be provided for work of equal value, with appropriate consideration of both national and local rates paid by employers in the private sector, and appropriate incentives and recognition should be provided for excellence in performance.

(4) All employees should maintain high standards of integrity, conduct, and concern for the public interest.

(5) The Federal work force should be used efficiently and effectively.

(6) Employees should be retained on the basis of the adequacy of their performance, inadequate performance should be corrected, and employees should be separated who cannot or will not improve their performance to meet required standards.

(7) Employees should be provided effective education and training in cases in which such education and training would result in better organizational and individual performance.

(8) Employees should be -

(A) protected against arbitrary action, personal favoritism, or coercion for partisan political purposes, and

(B) prohibited from using their official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election or a nomination for election.

(9) Employees should be protected against reprisal for the lawful disclosure of information which the employees reasonably believe evidences -

(A) a violation of any law, rule, or regulation, or

(B) mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.

Under the heading of Modernizing Merit, the OPM has set out four guiding principles for civil service transformation: preserve the ideal [of a merit-based public service], maximize flexibility, leverage economies of scale, and ensure collaboration and coordination. To preserve the ideal, the OPM insists that the Merit Principles listed above must drive the modernization of the civil service and that these principles [or values]

"will not be compromised ... [T]hose values, and the laws and rules that give them life, assure that Federal employees are hired, promoted, paid, and discharged solely on the basis of merit and conduct - their ability to do their job. They provide special protections for veterans, victims of discrimination, and those who expose Government waste or fraud. They also guarantee our public employees due process in any action that threatens their employment, as well as the right to join unions and bargain collectively. With these enabling principles, our civil service system ensures that politics and political party, as well as other non-merit factors, have no bearing on the tenure of our civil servants...75

The statement on Merit Principles enshrines substantially the same values as those highlighted in the merit regimes of Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom, namely such values as representativeness, fairness, equity, political neutrality and integrity. It is notable, however, that the US regime also includes the values of efficiency and effectiveness.

2.4 New Zealand

New Zealand's merit regime76 is similar to the regimes in the countries already examined in that merit is closely related to certain public service values. The New Zealand regime differs, however, in that use of the word merit is less pervasive in public service discourse and documents. To a large extent, the concept of merit is expressed through values such as fairness and impartiality.

As in the countries already discussed, the early period in the evolution of merit in New Zealand (from about 1850 to 1912) featured a difficult battle against the dominance of political patronage. In New Zealand, as in Australia, the fight against patronage was influenced by the Northcote-Trevelyn report in the United Kingdom. Modest progress against patronage was made in 1886 when a Public Service Act provided for competitive examinations for entry into the public service. Then, the 1912 Public Service Act created an independent Public Service Commission to eliminate patronage and establish a merit system. By the middle of the century, the Commission had been successful in minimizing political patronage, introducing a classification system and promoting improved efficiency in a unified public service.

The Public Service Commission was replaced in 1962 by the State Services Commission (SSC). The SSC's role was substantially altered by the 1988 State Sector Act that transferred responsibility for personnel management to the Chief Executives of departments. The SSC moved from the role of "employer and manager of the public service to employer of chief executives and advisor to the Government on public sector management."77

The responsibilities of Chief Executives for personnel management include

  • operating an HR policy according to the principle of being a "good employer" - that is, "an employer who operates a personnel policy containing provisions generally accepted as necessary for the fair and proper treatment of employees in all aspects of their employment,"including merit-based staffing and employment equity programs;
  • ensuring that "all employees maintain proper standards of integrity, conduct, and concern for the public interest;" and
  • working with the SSC to develop and maintain a Senior Executive Service.

The State Sector Act authorized the Commissioner of the SSC to Issue "a code of conduct covering the minimum standards of integrity and conduct for the public service" and to promote, develop and monitor "policies and programs for equal employment opportunities."

While, as noted, use of the term merit is relatively downplayed in New Zealand's public service dialogue, it is central to the issue of equal employment opportunity (EEO). A 2002 long-term strategy document of the SSC on EEO also provided a succinct summary of the SSC's thinking on merit:

EEO in New Zealand has always been associated with the merit principle where merit is carefully defined to eliminate both direct and indirect bias. The best person for the position is then appointed, based on an objective assessment of candidates against merit criteria. The definition of merit is not fixed but is related to the particular requirements of a specific position... An EEO approach to merit critically evaluates 'standards and practices and selection criteria to ensure they do not exclude qualified people from consideration for positions and employment benefits. This involves not only removing arbitrary, artificial and unnecessary barriers to employment opportunities, but a re-assessment of current standards so that a more realistic interpretation of what "merit" actually involves for particular jobs or benefits is applied'.78

In 1990, the SSC promulgated a Public Service Code of Conduct prescribing the standards of behaviour expected from "state servants." The Code provides the basis for codes that Chief Executives may wish to develop to meet the specific needs of their departments. Neither the new Code adopted in 200779 nor the detailed guidance on this Code80 mentions the word merit. The Code does, however, emphasize four values often associated with merit - fairness, impartiality, responsibility and trustworthiness. Public servants are required to treat everyone fairly and with respect (fairness), to maintain political neutrality and carry out their functions unaffected by personal beliefs (impartiality), to act lawfully and objectively (responsibility) and to ensure that their actions are not affected by their personal interests or relationships (trustworthiness).

As an aside, it is noteworthy that the State Services Act for the State of Tasmania sets out a long list of "State Service Principles" that is somewhat similar to the list of Merit Principles in the United States. One of the State Service Principles is the assertion that "the State Service is a public service in which employment decisions are based on merit."

3. Next Steps

This study has provided historical and comparative perspectives on the evolution of the concept and practice of merit from pre-Confederation Canada to the adoption of the 2003 Public Service Employment Act. The next stage in the research process is an assessment of the Act in light of these perspectives and of the views of those individuals and organizations most affected by the Act's content and implementation. In particular, there is a need to assess the extent to which the Act protects the merit principle or ideal while taking appropriate account of other important public service values.

4. Addendum on Evaluation Questions

The 2003 Public Service Employment Act (PSEA) represents the most recent stage in the evolution of the concept and practice of merit in Canada's public service. The Act constitutes the culmination of choices made concerning the meaning and interpretation of merit from pre-Confederation times to the present. Thus, it is the intentions expressed in the Act and in supporting official documents that provide the primary basis for evaluating the implementation of the new meaning of merit contained in the Act and the need for any adjustments. The foregoing historical and comparative examination of merit helps to inform the selection of evaluation questions and to identify possible alternative approaches where change may be desirable.

The challenge for the Five-Year Evaluation is to identify a limited number of specific questions that will provide a solid basis for collecting data to inform an evaluation of merit under the new PSEA. The major lines of enquiry relate to staffing, recourse and political activity. The brief list of questions provided here is simply illustrative of the kinds of questions that could be adapted and refined for inclusion in the evaluation:

  • are deputy heads establishing merit criteria for each position in relation to the four merit criteria of essential qualifications, asset qualifications, operational requirements, and organizational needs?
  • are candidates for selection being assessed in relation to the merit criteria established for the position rather than in relation to other candidates?
  • are the Public Service Commission's appointment values of fairness, transparency, access and representativeness being effectively implemented in the appointment process?
  • is staffing authority being delegated to the lowest possible level in the organization?
  • are managers being held accountable for the greater flexibility they can now exercise in making staffing decisions?
  • has the new PSEA improved the staffing process by eliminating prescriptive rules and processes, thereby creating the opportunity for simpler and more efficient appointment processes?
  • is the new form of recourse for internal appointment processes provided by the PSEA being effectively implemented?
  • are the priority appointment rights granted under the new PSEA (for surplus employees, disabled employees etc:) being effectively implemented?
  • are deputy heads establishing and communicating the criteria for using non-advertised processes and ensuring that a written rationale shows that a non-advertised process meets the established criteria and the guiding appointment values?
  • under the new PSEA, are managers better able to achieve their employment equity goals?
  • where the area of selection is limited to members of a designated group, is the limitation supported by the organization's employment equity plan or integrated human resources and business planning?
  • are there adequate safeguards to ensure that appointments are free from political influence and personal favoritism?

These questions flow largely from the PSEA's provisions on merit and from official documents elaborating on the implementation of the provisions. A second set of questions could ask whether there have been any unintended (positive or negative) impacts affecting merit in each of the subject-areas covered by the questions listed above - and whether any unintended impacts seem likely to emerge in the next few years. Similarly, for each subject-area, questions could be asked about improvements, if any, that could foster more effective implementation of the merit provisions of the Act. Finally, questions could be asked as to whether the content of the Act is deficient in any way as it affects merit and how any deficiency could be remedied.

5. Selected Annotated Bibliography

Dawson, R.M. The Civil Service of Canada. London: Oxford University Press, 1929.

This history of Canada's federal public service from the pre-Confederation years to 1928 is divided into two main parts. The first part, entitled "The History of the Canadian Civil Service," provides a detailed account (supported by valuable footnote references) of the evolution from pervasive political patronage, through the adoption of the 1918 Civil Service Act, to 1928 by which time the fight against party patronage had "not entirely ceased, but [had] lost much of its importance (p. 106)." Dawson concludes this first part by noting that abolishing patronage was not a panacea and that administrative efficiency requires positive measures to support public servants in their work. The second part of this book, entitled "Principles of Civil Service Organization," examines some of the positive measures that could be taken in respect of such enduring issues as selection, promotion, removal, retirement, women, and the role of the Civil Service Commission.

Hodgetts, J.E. The Canadian Public Service: A Physiology of Government, 1867-1970. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1973.

This book contains a comprehensive account of the evolution of Canada's federal public service and of the major issues facing it as of 1970. Since many of these issues continue to challenge the public service today, the book is required reading for those seeking to understand and resolve current problems in public administration. In the first part of the book, Hodgetts explains not only the political and legal systems within which the public service is set but also its geographic, economic, technological and cultural settings. Among valuable contributions in part two is an examination of non-departmental forms of public organization ("structural heretics"). Part three of the book covers the Treasury Board, the Public Service Commission, departmental management, and public service employees. The subject of merit is examined in a chapter on the role of the Public Service Commission, especially in regard to its evolving relationship with the Treasury Board and departments.

Hodgetts, J.E. Pioneer Public Service. An Administrative History of the United Canada's, 1841-1867. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1955.

This examination of the administrative history of the pre-Confederation period in Canada accomplishes three major objectives. First, it traces the development of administrative structures and processes that underpinned the post-Confederation public service and it rescues from oblivion the public servants who made substantial contributions to the building of the public service and, indeed, of the Canadian state. Second, the book demonstrates that many of the issues of public administration that we face today are perennial issues that also challenged our forbearers. Hodgetts sets his examination of these administrative issues within the broader context of the social environment of the time and of the policy decisions that responded to the demands of that environment. Finally, he explains that responsible government in Canada was not really won until the 1849 to 1862 period when provincial authorities got full control over their administrative services. While the book does not specifically address the concept and practice of merit, it nevertheless makes a substantial contribution to our understanding of merit, in part by reference to the implications of patronage and corruption for administrative efficiency.

Hodgetts, J.E., William McCloskey, Reginald Whitaker, and V. Seymour Wilson. The Biography of an Institution: The Civil Service Commission of Canada, 1908-1967. Montreal and London: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1972.

This co-authored volume is in many ways a sequel to Hodgetts' Pioneer Public Service. It examines very briefly the period from Confederation to 1908 and then reviews the evolution of merit within the context of a broad and detailed examination of the history of the then Civil Service Commission. Compared to its predecessor, this book makes more explicit and numerous references to the evolution of the concept of merit. Like its predecessor, the book provides valuable references to documentary sources on the evolution of Canada's federal public service. Part one provides a comprehensive and meticulous account of the individuals and institutions involved in the development of public personnel administration, with emphasis on events from the 1908 Civil Service Act to the 1967 Public Service Employment Act. Part two contains chapters on the internal administration of the Civil Service Commission, on its leadership, and on management development. The final chapter discusses special problems in the administration of the merit system, namely the veterans' preference, French-speaking civil servants, and women in the public service. The authors note in conclusion that, fifty years after the establishment of the merit system, "it is still the merit principle which serves as a basis for discussion of the rightness or wrongness of employment practices" (p. 493).

Ingraham, Patricia Wallace. The Foundation of Merit: Public Service in American Democracy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995.

This book reviews the values and political objectives that influenced the evolution of the American federal public service, including an examination of changes in personnel policies and of the measures by which political executives sought control over the public service. Ingraham argues that many of the problems faced by the public service have resulted from the close association of merit and politics. Two themes have been predominant in the period since the Second World War - the increasingly intertwined relationships between politicians and senior career public servants, and the failure of the old classification system to respond to such new challenges as more complex job roles and societal demands for fairness and equality in human resource management. Ingraham sets her examination of merit and personnel issues within the broader context of public service reform more generally. The several "harsh realities" that she outlines in her final chapter on transforming merit offer useful learning points for the examination of merit in other countries.

Ingraham, Patricia Wallace. "Building Bridges over Troubled Waters: Merit as a Guide," Public Administration Review, vol. 66 (July-August 2006), pp. 486-495.

In this article, Ingraham analyzes the current state of merit in the US federal public service. She regrets that the merit ideal, that is, qualifications, competence and the absence of political favouritism - has become unduly entangled with the bureaucratic structures often described as the merit system. She describes the many ways in which departures have been made over time from the merit ideal. While she laments the extent to which fragmentation of federal systems detracts from a coherent modern definition of merit, she acknowledges that modern merit cannot be defined as one size fits all, and that merit, as a public service value, will be applied differently in different agencies. She concludes by arguing that "structural changes to the bureaucratic systems surrounding civil service should not proceed without the pursuit of merit as their most fundamental objective." (p. 494)

Kernaghan, Kenneth. A Special Calling: Values, Ethics and Professional Public Service. Ottawa: Office of Public Service Values and Ethics, Public Service Human Resources Agency of Canada, 2007.

This monograph sets the evolution of the professional public service in Canada's federal government within a framework of public service values and ethics. Merit is a recurring theme in this story because of its close and enduring relationship to such core public service values as political neutrality, efficiency and representativeness. The story begins by examining values and ethics issues in Canada's pre-Confederation period (1763-1866). The second section takes the story from Confederation to the 1918 Civil Service Act, and the third section ends with Prime Minister Pearson's 1964 conflict of interest letter. This is followed in the fourth section by a review of developments, including the 1979 Committee on Personnel Management and the Merit Principle, that led to the 1984 report of the federal Task Force on Conflict of Interest. The fifth section culminates in an examination of the report of the 1996 Task Force on Public Service Values and Ethics. Section six focuses primarily on the links between that report and the adoption in 2003 of the Public Service Values and Ethics Code. Section seven assesses ongoing developments affecting the government's values and ethics regime and the final section looks to the future of the professional public service.

Kernaghan, Kenneth. "Career Public Service 2000: Road to Renewal or Impractical Vision?" Canadian Public Administration, vol. 34, no. 4 (Winter 1991), pp. 551-572.

This paper examines the meaning and the state of career public service in relation to the federal government's 1990 white paper on Public Service 2000. The concept and practice of career public service is assessed on the basis of an ideal-type model containing four principles. One of these principles focuses on merit as a central component of the notion of career public service. It provides that "[a]ppointments to, and within, the public service are based on merit, in the sense that the person appointed is the one who is best qualified. Two other principles are closely related to merit. One provides that appointments to the public service are made with a view to preserving political neutrality. The other provides that as far as possible appointments are made from within the public service. The paper then assesses the extent to which actual practice departs from the principles of the model. Among the means by which the federal government can enhance the prospects for a career public service are a renewal of commitment to career service, including the allocation of more resources to career planning and development, and greater sensitivity to the threat of undue politicization of the public service.

Kernaghan, Kenneth, "Politics, Policy and Public Servants: Political Neutrality Revisited." Canadian Public Administration, vol. 19, no. 3 (Fall 1976), pp. 432-456.

In this paper, the traditional model of political neutrality is described in terms of six major components examined under the headings of politics and administration, political patronage, political activity, public comment, anonymity and ministerial responsibility, and permanency in office. Important merit considerations arise in relation to several of the components of this ideal-type model, especially those of political patronage and political activity. The current status of the doctrine of political neutrality is assessed by examining the extent to which present practices adhere to or depart from the traditional model. The conclusion is drawn that present practices depart substantially from the traditional model.

Lindquist, Evert, ed. Government Restructuring and Career Public Services. Toronto: Institute of Public Administration of Canada, 2000.

This large edited volume of nineteen essays reviews the evolution of the concept and practice of career public service in Canada's federal, provincial and territorial governments. A separate essay on each of the provinces and territories is complemented by essays focusing on the meaning of career public service; comparative public service reform; employer-employee relations; the search for a new cosmology of career public service; the search for a new covenant of governance, public service and society; and alternative futures for the public service. Most of the essays make direct or indirect reference to merit. Among the notable contributions in this book are Lindquist's discussion of the cluster of elements (including merit-based appointments) that are closely associated with career public service, the Lindquist-Paquet discussion of contending visions of federal public service careers, the Paquet-Pigeon call for moving toward a new philosophy of leadership, and Lindquist's summary in the final chapter of the main learning points drawn from the essays and, especially, of alternative career paths.

Minns, Bob. A History in Three Acts: Evolution of the Public Service Act 1999. Australian Public Service Commission, Commonwealth of Australia, 2004, http://www.apsc.gov.au/publications/index.html.

This book is similar to The Biography of an Institution on Canada in that it provides a detailed account of the history of Australia's federal Public Service Commission, now the Public Service and Merit Protection Commission. The framework used to organize a large amount of information is the evolution from the 1902 Public Service Act to the 1922 Act and on to the 1999 Act. There are many more explicit references to the concept and practice of merit than there are in the book's Canadian counterpart. Especially valuable for assessment of the current Act is a concluding chapter that gives the author's perspective on the 1999 reforms brought about the Act and outlines some continuing issues.

Pfiffner, Jame and Brook, Douglas H., eds. The Future of Merit. (Washington, D.C: Woodrow Wilson Center Press and Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000.

This book contains papers presented at a conference to mark the 20th anniversary of the passing of the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act in the United States. It considers the Act's successes and failures and explores critical issues to be faced in the near future. The four essays in the first part of the book examine the background to the Act, compare it with the National Performance Review, and assesses the state of the Senior Executive Service. The three essays in the second part all cover the post-Act period and evaluate its impact in terms of performance, incentives and accountability. And the first two essays in Part 3 present different views (one pessimistic and one more positive) concerning the future of merit. The final essay, by Hugh Heclo, provides a succinct summary of the main points of the earlier contributions and discusses the differences between instrumental merit (means-oriented, seeking right skills for doing something) and substantive merit (ends-oriented, seeking right character for being something). He concludes that "[i]n the long run of things, the people will get exactly the form of government and form of merit that they deserve" (p. 237).

Roberts, Alasdair. So-Called Experts: How American Consultants Remade the Canadian Civil Service, 1918-21. Toronto: Institute of Public Administration of Canada, 1996.

This monograph focuses primarily on the complex and controversial classification system adopted for Canada's public service in 1918-1919 on the recommendation of Arthur Young and Company, an American management consulting firm. Roberts questions some oft-repeated assertions about the nature and implications of public service reforms during this period. He argues that these reforms must be considered not simply in a domestic context but in a larger context of the many battles over public service reforms that were fought in state and municipal governments across the United States. Among the learning points that he draws from his analysis of this early period is that Canada needs to be prudent in its efforts to model its public service after other countries and that the advice of expert consultants, especially if their experience is drawn from another country, must be treated with caution.

Simpson, Jeffrey. Spoils of Power: The Politics of Patronage. Toronto: Collins, 1988.

This is a comprehensive examination (to 1988) of the evolution and impact of political patronage in both the federal and provincial spheres of Canadian government. Patronage is broadly defined as appointments, contracts and other measurable forms of preferment. Simpson notes that patronage is manifested much more often in partisan favouritism than in criminal acts such as bribery and that it usually raises questions about ethics in government rather than violations of the law. He concludes that by the late 1930s the great majority of full-time public service appointments were based on merit rather than on patronage. This is reflected in the latter chapters of the book, which deal with appointments of judges, lieutenant-governors and Senators, with appointments to non-departmental agencies, and with government contracts. Simpson argues that the practice of patronage has gradually become much less acceptable to Canadians, but that it has considerable staying power. This book focuses more on the implications of patronage for Canada's political culture than on the matter of merit in the public service.

Stewart, Gordon. The Origins of Canadian Politics: A Comparative Approach. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1986.

The central argument in this book is that the political system of the colonial period in Canada, from 1790 to 1867, had a substantial and enduring impact on the subsequent political culture of the country. Stewart examines this argument from a comparative perspective, using experience in the United States and Britain to illuminate Canadian developments. Patronage is the most pervasive theme in the book. Stewart concludes that, compared to the other two countries, patronage in mid-nineteenth century Canada was "more openly entrenched as a legitimate activity" (p. 95). Merit is not a focus of analysis in this book. It is, however, an implicit theme in that patronage appointments - the major theme of the book - are made on the basis of political affiliations or contributions rather than merit in the sense of fitness for the job.


1 J.E. Hodgetts, William McCloskey, Reginald Whitaker and V.Seymour Wilson, The Biography of an Institution: The Civil Service Commission of Canada, 1908-1967 (Montreal and London: McGill-Queen's University Press), 1972. (return)

2 Ibid, pp. 287-288. Drawn from Royal Commission on Government Organization, Report (Ottawa: Queen's Printer, 1962), vol. 1, pp. 261-2. (return)

3 Ibid, p. 461. Drawn from R.H. Dowdell, "Personnel Administration in the Federal Public Service," in A.M. Willms and W.D.K.Kernaghan, eds., Public Administration in Canada: Selected Readings (Toronto: Methuen, 1968), p. 367. (return)

4 Dowdell, p. 367. (return)

5 Hodgetts et al, p. 461. (return)

6 Ibid. (return)

7 Public Service Commission, Assessing Merit, December 2005, http://www.psc-cfp.gc.ca/plcy-pltq/guides/merit-merite/index-eng.htm. (return)

8Hodgetts et al, p. 461. (return)

9Assessing Merit. (return)

10A leading American scholar on public service values has noted that "[t]he art of values management for practitioners has already become the leading skill necessary for managers and leaders of public sector organizations." Montgomery Van Wart, Changing Public Sector Values (New York: Garland, 1998), p. 319. (return)

11See Kenneth Kernaghan. "Changing Concepts of Power and Responsibility in the Canadian Public Service," Canadian Public Administration, vol. 21, no. 3 (Fall 1978), pp. 389-406, and A Special Calling: Values, Ethics and Professional Public Service (Ottawa: Public Service Human Resources Management Agency, 2007). (return)

12Assessing Merit, p. 1. Emphasis added. (return)

13Royal Commission Appointed to Inquire Into Certain Matters Relating to the Civil Service of Canada (The Haque Commission), Sessional Papers, 1892, no. 16c, p. xxvii. (return)

14O.P Dwivedi and James Iain Gow, From Bureaucracy to Public Management (Peterborough: Broadview Press, 1999), p. 83. (return)

15Canadian Public Administration, vol. 19, no. 3 (Fall 1976), pp. 432-456. (return)

16An ideal type is a theoretical instrument that simplifies reality in order to provide conceptual clarity. (return)

17Canadian Public Administration, vol. 35, no. 4 (Winter 1991), pp. 551-572. (return)

18"Government Restructuring and Career Public Service: Do We Need a New Cosmology?" in Christopher Dunn, ed., Handbook of Canadian Public Administration (Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 122 (emphasis in the original). This essay draws heavily on the introductory and concluding chapters of Evert Lindquist, ed., Government Restructuring and Career Public Services (Toronto: Institute of Public Administration of Canada, 2000). (return)

19Ibid., p. 123. (return)

20Prepared for a conference on Canadian Public Administration in Transition: From Administration to Management to Governance - A Conference in Honour of Professor J.E. Hodgetts, University of Guelph, September 2007. (return)

21Ibid, p. 2. (return)

22Ibid, p. 35. (return)

23"Building Bridges over Troubled Waters: Merit as a Guide," Public Administration Review, vol. 66 (July-August 2006), p. 487. (return)

24Pioneer Public Service: An Administrative History of the United Canadas (1841-1967) (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1955). (return)

25Gordon T. Stewart, The Origins of Canadian Politics: A Comparative Approach (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1986), p. 31. (return)

26Spoils of Power: The Politics of Patronage (Toronto: Collins, 1988), p. 63. (return)

27Hodgetts, p. 53. (return)

28R. MacGregor Dawson, The Civil Service of Canada (London: Oxford University Press, 1929), p. 25. (return)

29Canada, Statutes, 8-9 George V, as amended by George V (1919). (return)

30The Civil Service Amendment Act integrated the classification schedule developed by Arthur Young and Company. (return)

31Civil Service Commission, Annual Report, 1917-1918, p. 16. (return)

32Alasdair Roberts, So-Called Experts: How American Consultants Remade the Canadian Civil Service, 1918-21 (Toronto: Institute of Public Administration of Canada, 1996), pp. 5-6. (return)

33Biography of an Institution, p.52. (return)

34Ibid, p. 2. Emphasis added. (return)

35Cited in ibid, p.3. (return)

36Ibid, p. 115. (return)

37Canadian Government and Politics (Toronto: Longmans Green, 1944), p. 190. (return)

38Civil Service Commission, Personnel Administration in the Public Service: A Review of Civil Service Legislation, December 1958. (return)

39Ibid, p. 8. (return)

40Ibid. (return)

41Ibid, p. 9. (return)

42Ibid, (emphasis added). (return)

43Report, volume 1, p. 19. (return)

44Ibid, pp. 261-262. (return)

45(Kingston: Industrial Relations Centre,1975), p. 3. (return)

46Public Service Commission, Public Service and Public Interest (Ottawa: Supply and Services, 1978), p. 12. (return)

47Report (Ottawa: Supply and Services, 1979), p. 78. (return)

48Ibid, p 44. (return)

49Public Service 2000, The Renewal of the Public Service of Canada (Ottawa: Privy Council Office, 1990). (return)

50Ibid, p. 13. (return)

51Quoted in Treasury Board of Canada, The Managers' Deskbook, 4th ed. (Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services, 1995), p. 3.1-1. (return)

52For a succinct summary of these initiatives, see Kenneth Kernaghan and David Siegel, Public Administration in Canada: A Text (Toronto: Nelson, 4th ed., 1999), pp. 580-590. (return)

53Canada, Deputy Ministers' Task Force on Public Service Values and Ethics, A Strong Foundation: Report of the Task Force on Public Service Values and Ethics (Ottawa: Canadian Centre for Management Development, 1996, reprinted in 2000), p. 26. (return)

54Ibid, p. 27. (return)

55Public Service Commission, Annual Report, 1999-2000 (Ottawa: Public Service Commission, 2000), p. 4. (return)

56Ibid, p. 20. (return)

57Merit in the Public Service, prepared by the PSCAC Working Group on Merit, August 2001, http://www.pscac-cccfp.gc.ca/publications/rpt_merit/index_e.php. (return)

58Ibid. (return)

59Ibid. (return)

60Australian Public Service Commission, Occasional Paper Three (Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia, 2004), http://www.apsc.gov.au/publications/index.html. (return)

61R. McLeod, Report of the Public Service Act Review Group, AGPS, Canberra, 1994. Cited in Changes in the Australian Public Service 1975-2000. http://www.aph.gov.au/library/Pubs/chron/2000-01/01chr01.htm. (return)

62http://www.apsc.gov.au/about/pscommissionerrole.htm (return)

63http://www.apsc.gov.au/publications/directionsConsolidated.htm (return)

64http://apsc.gov.au/about/mpcommissionerrole.htm (return)

65Australian Public Service Commission, State of the Service Report, 2006-07, p. 131, http://www.apsc.gov.au/stateoftheservice/0607/index.html. (return)

66Minns, A History in Three Acts, p. 174. (return)

67Ibid, p. 171. (return)

68Civil Service in Great Britain, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1880, cited in Ingraham, p. 487. (return)

69The Governance of Britain, London: HMSO, 2007, p. 22, http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/cm71/7170/7170.pdf (return)

70"Merit and the Civil Service Reform Act," in James P. Pfiffner and Douglas A. Brook, eds., The Future of Merit (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000), p. 2. (return)

71History of the United States Civil Service (Evanston, Ill: Row Peterson, 1958, p. 100. See also Ari Hoogenboom, "The Pendleton Act and the Civil Service," American Historical Review, vol. 64, 1958-59, pp. 301-318. (return)

72http://www.opm.gov/BiographyofAnIdeal/SubMain1883-1938.asp. (return)

73United States Code, Title 5, section 2301. (return)

74Ibid, section 2302. (return)

75Office of Personnel Management, Working for America: OPM's Guiding Principles for Civil Service Transformation, 2004, http://www.opm.gov/Strategic_Management_of_Human_Capital/documents/merit/ideal. (return)

76Good sources of information on the evolution of merit in the New Zealand public service include State Services Commission, History of the Office of State Services Commissioner, 2002, http://www.ssc.govt.nz/display/document.asp?docid=2087&pagetype=content&pageno=4&NavID=190; Alan Henderson, The Quest for Efficiency: The Origins of the State Services Commission, Wellington: State Services Commission, 1990; and R.C. Mascarenhas, The New Zealand Civil Service, Paper prepared for Civil Service Systems in Comparative Perspective  Conference, Bloomington, Indiana, April 1997. (return)

77OECD, Government and Public Administration: New Zealand - Country Paper, 1999. http://www.oecd.org/puma/country/newzland.htm#Reports. (return)

78State Services Commission, EEO Policy to 2010: Future Directions of EEO in the New Zealand Public Service, updated 2002, http://www.ssc.govt.nz/eeo/policy-to-2010. (return)

79State Services Commissioner, Standards of Integrity and Conduct, 2007, http://www.ssc.govt.nz/display/document.asp?DocID=6292. (return)

80State Services Commissioner, Understanding the Code of Conduct - Guidance for State Servants, 2007, http://www.ssc.govt.nz/display/document.asp?docid=6699. (return)