Searching for Leadership: Secretaries to Cabinet in Canada.


252 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 978-0-8020-9592-3
DDC 352.24'322930971




Edited by Patrice Dutil
Reviewed by Frits Pannekoek

Frits Pannekoek is an associate professor of heritage studies, director
of information resources at the University of Calgary, and the author of
A Snug Little Flock: The Social Origins of the Riel Resistance of


Nine authors with impeccable intellectual credentials, under the leadership of Patrice Dutil, an associate political science professor at Ryerson, have crafted a book that is a must-read for anyone wanting to know precisely how Canadian and provincial governments work. The essays argue that Cabinet secretaries are key to the functioning of government and have shaped political realities particularly in the last few decades with increasingly complex and interventionist government.


The book is divided into three sections: “Leadership in Question,” which deals largely with leadership theory and its applicability to the most senior public service position; “Leadership in Transformation,” which deals with some of the early transformation particularly of the federal, Ontario, and Saskatchewan civil services; and “Leaders in Action,” which deals with particular individuals in Alberta and Quebec.


Dutil has tied all of the essays together by asking key questions of the nature of leadership required of Cabinet secretaries and, as important, practised by them. The modernization of the office of the federal clerk by Arnold Heeney, the perhaps destructive role of Michael Pitfield, and the critical transformative role of Jocelyne Bourgon, Chrétien’s appointee, are well documented and analyzed. As important are the essays on Ontario’s Robert Carman, Saskatchewan’s Tim Lee, and Alberta’s Harry Hobbs. While it is true that the Cabinet secretaries are unknown, it is clear that they were reflective of, and shaped by, the prime ministers and premiers under whom they served. But as important, they also shaped the agendas for which they were responsible. To these individuals, most of whom were responsible for the civil service, we owe the modernization of Canada.


This book is a must-read for anyone attempting to understand why Canada’s government works as effectively as it does. For those who are friends of Yes Minister, the BBC series, they will find Canada’s versions of the influential Sir Humphrey. There is truth in humour.


“Searching for Leadership: Secretaries to Cabinet in Canada.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 24, 2024,