The Trudeau government and GIC appointments in Canada

Kathy BrockRobert P. Shepherd

International Journal of Public Sector Management

Article publication date: 7 January 2022



According to the traditional view of public administration, a critical component of good policy formulation is the provision of frank and fearless advice to elected decision-makers. This advice can be provided by permanent public officials or by the people selected by the elected governments to fill key and continuing posts. However, there are major questions as to whether new Governor-in-Council (GIC) appointment processes rooted in new public governance (NPG) are yielding the expected results promised, such as less partisanism, as a consideration for appointment.


The paper uses a mixed methods approach to examine the GIC process as it is used in Canada. In using these methods, the authors employed interviews with senior officials, governmental documents review and expert validation interviews to triangulate its main findings.


The paper uses the case of the revised appointment process for GIC appointments in Canada and suggests that the new arrangements do not deliver on merit-based criteria that ensures independence is protected between political executive and senior bureaucratic officials. Although new processes may be more open and transparent than past processes, the paper suggests that such processes are more susceptible to partisan influence under the guise of being merit-based.

Research limitations/implications

The research was limited to one country context, Canada. As such, it will be necessary to expand this to other Westminster countries. Testing whether manifestations of new public governance in appointment processes elsewhere will be important to validate whether Canada is unique or not.

Practical implications

The authors are left to wonder if this innovation of merit-based appointments in the new administrative state is obscuring the lines of accountability and whether it forms the basis for good policy advice despite promises to the contrary.

Social implications

Trust in the government is affected by decisions behind closed doors. They appear partisan, even when they may not be. Process matters if only to highlight increased value placed on meritorious appointments.


Previous studies on GIC appointments have generally been to explore representation as a value. That is, studies have questioned whether diversity is maintained, for example. However, few studies have explored appointment processes using institutional approaches to examine whether reforms to such processes have respected key principles, such as merit and accountability.
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