Book Reviews


How Ottawa Spends, 2011-2012: Trimming Fat or Slicing Pork?

Review by Winter Fedyk, Budget Analyst with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Finance


The Pubic Policy Book Club meets four to six times per year to discuss and debate books about issues and trends in public policy. Based in Regina, it is comprised of senior and mid-level public servants from the federal, provincial, and municipal governments and related organizations, employees of Crown corporations, as well as academics from the University of Regina’s Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy.

Each meeting is led by a “guest host” with extensive experience in the topic at hand. In April, the Honourable Ralph Goodale, Canada’s former Finance Minister and current Member of Parliament for the Regina-area constituency of Wascana and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, was the “guest host” for the book, How Ottawa Spends, 2011-2012: Trimming Fat or Slicing Pork? edited by Christopher Stoney, G. Bruce Doern. The book, a collection of articles by leading scholars from across Canada about “life under the knife” in the context of the Harper agenda after five years in power, poses questions about the degree to which the budget agenda involves the political arts of “trimming fat” versus “slicing the pork” of partisan spending. Several closely linked political, policy, and spending realms are examined, including economic stimulus, environmental assessment, energy and climate change, health care, science and technology, immigration, and Canada’s northern strategy.

Mr. Goodale’s thoughtful commentary from a political perspective about fiscal restructuring in the 2011-12 federal budget provided unique insight that differed from, yet complimented, the Book Club’s predominantly non-partisain point of view. The observations of Mr. Goodale were a reminder that, as public servants, it is our responsibility to ensure value for money for taxpayers in the course of carrying out the vision of our elected representatives. In an era of fiscal restraint, the public service credo of “fearless advice and loyal implementation” rings truer than ever.

The Public Policy Book Club is a fun and unique way for informal mentoring and knowledge transfer to take place, and an emphasis on ensuring representation from a wide variety of public organizations strengthens Saskatchewan’s network of talented and committed public servants.

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