Implosion: An Analysis of the Growth of the Federal Public Service in Canada (1945-1985)


160 pages
Contains Illustrations, Index
ISBN 0-88645-037-3




Reviewed by W.M. Dobell

W.M. Dobell was Professor of Political Science at the University of Western Ontario, London.


Nicole Morgan is principally known for a previous monograph issued in 1981 by the same publisher: Nowhere to Got?, a study of public service management. She was a specialist in prospective analysis and planning at Futuribles in Paris before she immigrated to Canada. A Canadian citizen since 1976, Morgan was a federal public servant from 1981 to 1985, and resigned to write this study as well as to advise on human resources planning in light of the possible disappearance of mandatory retirement.

Morgan opens with five assumptions, which she calls hypotheses, that underlie her study. First, there were separate waves of public service recruitment during the 1940s and later after 1965. Second, the post-1965 wave revolutionized structure and roles more than the conformist first wave. Third, structural imbalances were created in middle management in terms of the treatment of women, the proportion of staff personnel as opposed to line, age groupings, personnel mobility, and human satisfaction. Fourth, voluntary resignation, superannuation and job engineering will continue for years to come. Fifth, the public sector will become less monopolistic and in some ways more like the private sector.

Since insufficient data is available to confirm or refute her assertions, a problem she readily acknowledges, the testing of hypotheses is not really the purpose of the study. Her actual method of writing is historical narrative, incorporating comparative data (some of it previously unpublished) and social comment. The Public Service Commission supplied the new data, and open-ended interviews with 50 public servants furnished the basis for the social comment.

Nicole Morgan’s contribution to the literature on the public service must chiefly be judged on the incremental value of these interviews and the use to which they are put. She has an ear for a colourful comment that can be woven into her narrative, and her writing is vigorous and lively. Whether her quotations are representative of her sample is not always clear, nor is it certain that her sample is representative of the federal public service as a whole or of any particular segment of it. Some readers may dispute her findings, though not this reviewer. Her indictment of the present state of the public service, for indictment it is, is a confirmation of the findings of several earlier authors to whom she is quite openly and frankly indebted.


Morgan, Nicole, “Implosion: An Analysis of the Growth of the Federal Public Service in Canada (1945-1985),” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 25, 2024,