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Institutionalized Partisan Advisors in Canada: Movers and Shapers, Buffers and Bridges

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Thesis type
(Dissertation) Ph.D.
Date created
The study of professional policy workers abounds with examinations of non-partisan public service policy actors, but offers much less systematic empirical study of appointed political staffs. This dissertation provides a comparative analysis of a subset of appointed political staff, termed herein as partisan advisors, whose primary functions are policy related. It documents the historical rise and contemporary policy activity of partisan advisors working in ministers’ and first ministers’ offices in three Canadian cases at the federal and sub-national levels (British Columbia and New Brunswick). Partisan advisors are important subjects of study given their privileged position in close proximity to ministers and at the very nexus of political-administrative relations but also due to their unique potential contributions as partisan-political policy workers. The dissertation offers a new theoretical framework to model and explicate partisan advisors as one of many sources of policy advice that circulate within ‘advisory systems’ and as privileged policy actors able to participate in policy formulation. Two models flowing from the framework facilitate the examination of the substantive and procedural aspects of partisan advisors’ policy formulation and advisory activity respectively. Interviews conducted with ministers, deputy ministers, and partisan advisors in all three cases reveal that, to varying degrees, partisan advisors have emerged as policy professionals who engage in important but often overlooked policy activity. Partisan advisors were found to be consequential to the provision and distribution of policy advice within their advisory systems as well as the specification and refinement of policy during development. Important variance was reported both within and among the cases that provides new insights related to how partisan-political actors within government engage in policy formulation, the configuration and operation of advisory systems, and the impact partisan advisors can have on the traditionally bilateral political-administrative relationship.
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Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Howlett, Michael
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