Governing Canada
216 pages, 5 x 8
Release Date:25 Oct 2021
Release Date:25 Oct 2021
Release Date:25 Oct 2021

Governing Canada

A Guide to the Tradecraft of Politics

UBC Press, On Point Press

How does Canadian government work in practice? In this first ever handbook of its kind, Michael Wernick, a career public servant with decades of experience "in the room" with Canada’s top politicians, shares candid advice and information that is usually only provided behind closed doors. You’ll learn about what goes into picking a Cabinet, how to get the most out of the team, and the ways in which a government works to stay on track. You’ll also discover how ministers build up their influence and political power, and how easily that career can be derailed.

But this handbook isn’t just of use to the neophyte Canadian politician. It’s also essential reading for anyone who has ever wondered what happens behind the scenes in government. You’ll learn why using a government aircraft is a no-no even if a politician’s constituency is five time zones away, how the end of a political career probably won’t be a politician’s decision, and other hard truths only a long-time observer of government from the inside would know. Wernick’s extensive experience as clerk of the privy council (the top public servant in Canada) and as a deputy minister informs a lively, entertaining handbook studded with behind-the-scenes information.

A primer on how to be a successful Canadian politician by a former top civil servant, Governing Canada explains, in practical terms, the essentials of everyday governance for anyone who works or would like to work in government, or who is generally interested in politics and government.

Wernick…does not tell war stories, nor betray confidences, nor attempt to settle old scores. Instead, he offers all of us a front row seat to politics and policy making and he performs an important public service in drafting what is essentially an owner’s manual to official Ottawa. It’s a good, digestible read, which I highly recommend to Ottawa insiders and armchair observers alike. Paul Deegan, Policy Magazine
This is as inside government as you can get…the writing is clear, concise, and doesn’t rely on confusing jargon Peter Mazereeuw, The Hill Times, The Hot Room Podcast
Succinct, evocative, blunt and never dull. Ian Bailey, The Globe and Mail
The lore [Michael has] accumulated…is a valuable contribution to Canadians’ understanding of how they’re governed…[Governing Canada] is nearly devoid of juicy insider gossip—never Wernick’s style—but full of pithy advice to political leaders in general.

Paul Wells, MacLean's Magazine

In Washington, D.C., and other capital cities, former staffers race to publish books after their administrations leave office, frequently to settle scores or enhance their own reputations…Governing Canada takes the high road. It unlocks Wernick’s expertise and serves as a resource for an intended audience of aspiring politicians, policy and decision makers, business and non-profit leaders, diplomats, academics, students and the media, providing a detailed picture of how government works and the secrets to being successful. Dan Rubenstein, Carleton Newsroom
Governing Canada offers a blueprint on Cabinet-making. Nick Taylor-Vaisey, POLITICO Canada
This is a must-read book for anyone who wants to understand how government works. David Herle, The Herle Burly Podcast
…invaluable for anyone studying public administration or seeking to move up the ranks of government.

Christopher Adams, Winnipeg Free Press

Governing Canada is…an account of the real world of government. Wernick believes, insider par excellence that he was, that all governments blend policy and politics. Their leaders must be bifocal, or they will fail…this is a book that accepts the political dimensions of government as indispensable. Jeffrey Simpson, Literary Review of Canada
Insider accounts about Canadian government are so rare that what goes on in the halls of power can be opaque and confusing. Governing Canada is filled with interesting anecdotes and insights about how government operates. Alex Marland, author of Whipped: Party Discipline in Canada
This is an accessible, insightful, and nonpartisan account of how Canadian government works in practice and will be a valuable resource for anyone studying Canadian politics or wanting to know how ministers, political staff, and public servants work together to fulfil the elected government’s agenda. Paul Wilson, former director of policy for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and associate professor in the Riddell Graduate Program in Political Management at Carleton University

Michael Wernick was Canada’s twenty-third Clerk of the Privy Council – the top public servant in the federal government. His appointment capped a distinguished public service career in which he worked closely with three prime ministers and their Cabinets, as well as with four ministers as their deputy. Wernick has worked as a deputy minister in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, as well as in the Privy Council Office. He lives in Ottawa.

1 A View from the Desk in the Corner

2 Power in the Capital

3 Advice to a Prime Minister

4 Advice to a Minister

5 Advice to a Deputy Minister

6 Looking to the Future

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