Printer Friendly

Clients, citizens and federalism: a critical appraisal of integrated service delivery in Canada.

Citizen-centred federalism avoids the clash over ideas by starting at the other end of the spectrum. It focuses our attention on how a service is delivered (Ambrose, Lenihan, and Milloy 2006b: 11).

[S]ervice delivery in the public sector is always about much more than just service. Because the clients of government services are never "just" clients, as they might be in the private sector. They are not just consumers of government services: they are usually also taxpayers and citizens, that is, bearers of rights and duties in a framework of democratic community, with civic and public interests that go well beyond their service needs (Heintzman and Marson 2005: 570).

We have all experienced the frustration that comes with dealing with an organization, public or private, where the rules seem to serve its interests not ours. Sometimes this frustration is compounded by the complexity of the organization or the transaction. In the public sector, such complexity is endemic, especially when you have to deal with different parts of the same government or, more to the point, different orders of government--local, regional, provincial or federal. The multitude of efforts to address this problem has resulted in many labels, although in Canada references to "citizen-centred service" have become the norm, at least for the federal government. Moreover, given the reality that a wide range of services requires at least some degree of coordination between different orders of government, Donald Lenihan and his colleagues have sought to introduce the notion of "citizen-centred federalism," an approach to federalism wherein, as the quote above suggests, services to citizens are the central focus. This, in their view, leads to both better service and better federalism (Ambrose, Lenihan, and Milloy 2006a).

In an effort to assess the potential for, as well as the limits to, such a citizen-centred approach to federalism, this article offers a critical evaluation of citizen-centred federalism. To do this, we carefully evaluate the use of several of the key concepts that underlie this approach. What does it mean to speak of "citizen," "service" and, indeed, "federalism"? The quote from Ralph Heintzman and Brian Marson at the outset of this article suggests that these concepts are more complex than is often assumed by enthusiastic proponents of citizen-centred service and citizen-centred federalism.

Our core argument is one of caution. We argue that the many efforts by governments to collaborate on better and more effective service delivery and service integration are, in the main, based on an instrumental conception of both citizenship and federalism. To effectively deliver the full range of services (i.e., both private as well as public goods) to citizens, both orders of government need to also incorporate a more organic conception of what it means to be a citizen and what it means to live in a federation. In other words, our analysis suggests that, if the full potential of citizen-centred federalism is to be realized, governments have to move beyond the current preoccupation with the efficient delivery of (some) services to individuals. Rather, the focus needs to be broadened and steps taken to separately and simultaneously pursue the broader public interest as efficiently as possible and to deliver services in ways that strengthen the fabric of the federation or, if you will, the underlying culture of federalism in Canada (Fafard, Rocher, and Cote, forthcoming).

To develop this argument, we have organized this article into three substantive parts beyond this short introduction. In the next section, we focus on the key concepts that underlie the notion of citizen-centred federalism: citizen- or client-centred service and, more broadly, the shift to a "new public management" or, following Kenneth Kernaghan (2000), "post-bureaucratic organizations." We then present an extended critical account of both citizenship and federalism and contrast instrumental and organic conceptions of each. This is followed with a sketch of the different ways instrumental and organic conceptions of both federalism and citizenship intersect. The final section examines the implications for government efforts to integrate service delivery. We introduce four models of service delivery in a federation and, in so doing, offer different lenses through which to evaluate current and future service integration initiatives.

What do we know?

Citizen-centred service

Citizen-centred federalism is, in many ways, a concept or a trend that sits at the intersection of federalism, citizenship and service delivery. The roots of this trend can be found in the earlier and broader notion of citizen-centred service. As has been described many times before (Aucoin 1995; Barzelay 2001; Christensen and Laegreid 2002; Lane 2000), the last quarter of the 20th century was marked by a sustained, and ultimately successful, effort to rethink how governments delivered services. More specifically, the goal was to put the needs of citizens, or at least the clients of government services, at the centre of the design and implementation of service-delivery models. Rather than do what made the most sense for government (e.g., what was most cost efficient), the idea was to balance this with ensuring that services and service delivery be maximally responsive to those who needed them.

This focus on clients and client needs was part of the broader movement for change in public administration, which has been summarized as the "new public management" (NPM). Characterizing and evaluating this shift from administration to management and working out what was, in fact, new about NPM has occupied students of public administration for much of the last two decades. However, in general, it is fair to say that NPM represented a significant shift in the ways in which we understand the role of government vis-a-vis citizens. More specifically, NPM was (and is) among other things, an effort to see what government could learn from the private and not-for-profit sectors. Thus, NPM borrowed heavily from efforts by private-sector managers to better serve customers. Indeed, this customer or client focus is one of the hallmarks of the innovations captured by the term "new public management."

Citizen-centred service quickly became a catch phrase for almost all governments in Canada (although, as we shall argue below, it is perhaps better to speak of client-centred service). Citizen-centred service is a particularly powerful metaphor for changes to the way in which the Government of Canada organizes and delivers services to Canadians (Flumian, Coe, and Kernaghan 2007; Roy 2006). However, as is well known, similar trends were apparent at the provincial and local level, with Service New Brunswick being an early and especially well-known example (Kernaghan 2008; Service New Brunswick 2005). The result is a plethora of innovations designed to make governments more responsive to those who need direct and easy access to government, be they small or medium-sized businesses, social assistance recipients, seniors, or the vast majority of Canadians who, at different points in their lives, need to register the birth of their children, get a Social Insurance Number, obtain a driver's licence, or apply for a government pension.

Again, as is well known, a critical enabler of citizen-centred service was and is innovation in information and communication technologies (ICTs). Just as the banks and other business sectors revolutionized the way in which their clients interact with them by investing heavily in technology (e.g., ATMs, on-line banking), governments were relatively quick to innovate and have invested heavily in technologies designed to make it easier for clients to interact with governments (Borins et al. 2007).

Citizen-centred service meets federalism

Service integration is at the core of many efforts to improve and enhance the delivery of public services to Canadians. Whether this integration takes the form of web portals or single physical locations from which several departments and agencies deliver services, the general idea remains the same--overcoming organizational divisions to offer clients more efficient and effective services. But what happens when the logic of this integration means linking if not integrating with services of other governments? For example, the Government of Canada might well wish to create a single web portal designed to bundle together services to seniors, but many of these services are, in fact, the responsibility of provincial and territorial governments. Similarly, a provincial government may wish to create a single repository of services with respect to higher education but at least some of these (e.g., the Canada Student Loans Program) are a federal government responsibility. This challenge becomes all the greater when governments begin to implement interactive web sites and Canadians are asked to provide personal information. As long as the information is to be used by one government, the regulatory environment is more or less clear if not without ongoing challenges. However, when this information is to be used by more than one government--say, when a client simultaneously applies for a birth certificate and a Social Insurance Number--a host of regulatory issues arise: whose privacy legislation prevails? Does the receiving government have the authority to transfer the information to other orders of government?

Moreover, the nature of service delivery in a federation must contend with the fact that there is extensive intersecting and overlapping jurisdiction between governments. Equally important, citizen-centred service means working with citizens "where they are," that is to say, working with their level of understanding of how government is structured in Canada.

Service integration between governments also has to contend with the apparently inexorable tendency of governments to compete with one another and/or jealously defend their jurisdiction. Some cooperation, if not integration, is possible and indeed quite common in tightly defined, functional areas of policy and programs (e.g., emergency preparedness, some aspects of social welfare). However, more common is inter-governmental conflict, or at least non-cooperation, particularly when the issues at hand have high symbolic or partisan overtones (Dupre 1987).

The most extended discussion of the marriage of federalism and notions of citizen-centred service can be found in a recent set of papers edited by Rona Ambrose, Donald Lenihan and John Milloy (2006a). Their edited collection, entitled Managing the Federation: A Citizen-Centred Approach, is remarkable in a number of respects. First, two of the editors are active politicians: Ambrose is in the Cabinet of the Harper government in Ottawa and Milloy is in the McGuinty government in Ontario. Second, the collection covers a vast range and includes case studies that deal with the experience of one province (Roberts and Steaben 2006); Revenue Canada, a more or less mature example of limited inter-governmental service integration (Slater and Arsenijevic 2006); and a case study of the Canadian health "info structure" (Marchildon 2006), which deals with the creation and delivery of health information as a set of public goods (rather than services to individual Canadians). Finally and most importantly, in his chapter on the implications of citizen-centred federalism, Lenihan offers a root and branch critique of the contemporary practice of inter-governmental relations in Canada and the continuing attempts to manage an increasingly obsolete formal, constitutional division of powers. Better, in his view, would be to accept that entanglement and interdependence are a fact of life, that executive federalism is no longer adequate for managing the federation, and that new technologies and a commitment to deliberation offer a path to a more bottom-up, citizen-centred federalism (Lenihan 2006). However, to anticipate the analysis presented below, Lenihan offers a rather instrumental conception of citizenship in a federal state.

Thinking about citizenship and federalism

Making the case for citizen-centred service or citizen-centred federalism requires an explicit or (as is more common) implicit set of assumptions and understandings about the nature of citizenship and the nature of federalism. The balance of this article argues that the proponents of both citizen-centred service and federalism operate with a particularly instrumental conception of both citizenship and federalism, wherein each can and should be contrasted with more organic conceptions of the other. The differences between these two conceptions of citizenship are outlined in Table 1. To summarize, an instrumental conception of both citizenship and federalism underlies the calls for a citizen-centred federalism and, as a result, ignores vast areas of what governments actually do and critical dimensions of what it means to live in a federation.

Citizenship--instrumental versus organic

The limited or instrumental conception of citizenship implicit in the notion of citizen-centred service (and, by extension, citizen-centred federalism) is one that emphasizes the role of citizens as consumers of government services. Only some dimensions of citizenship are emphasized--specifically, those that privilege a direct relationship between citizens and their governments. In effect, the definition of citizenship is defined and reduced such that citizens become consumers or clients. There are both benefits and costs associated with this absolute focus on the citizen as consumer.

The benefits of this focus for the citizen lie mainly in the fact that governments open themselves to learning from the experience of the private and not-for-profit sectors, which have (or at least should have) a deep and abiding commitment to their customers or clients. Just as some private-sector firms have carefully honed their ability to be responsive to client demands, some governments have sought to learn from this experience and become more adept at knowing what citizens want, at least in so far as citizens are consumers or clients of government. The result has been an explosion in the efforts by governments to find out how Canadians prefer to gain access to government services or, to use the service-delivery jargon, which "channels" they prefer--in person, telephone, on-line (Institute for Citizen-Centred Service 2008; Kernaghan 2009). Furthermore, governments have invested heavily in increasing their use of ICTs, notably the Internet, as a way of delivering information to citizens and, with the advent of an interactive Web, delivering some government services. In this regard, governments have been able to benefit from the experience of the private sector with on-line delivery and customer service software (Brewer 2007; Richter and Cornford 2007). Innovative use of some of the best practices of the private sector means that governments can provide some government services quickly, efficiently, and, using Web technologies, transcend the limits of time (e.g., filing a tax return long after the tax office has closed for the day) and space (e.g., registering the birth of a child without having to darken the door of a government office).

However, there are numerous drawbacks to this instrumental or "thin" (Faulks 2000: 11) approach to citizenship. First, what matters for instrumental citizenship are the individual rights of citizens and their individual needs and aspirations for government action or inaction. A well-performing state is one that delivers the largest basket of private goods to citizens at the lowest tax price. The state becomes a provider of private goods to individual citizens. Lost is the notion that citizenship is about a mix of rights and responsibilities and mutual support for collective action. As Ezra Suleiman puts it, "The attempt to view the citizen as a mere consumer is the antithesis of the kind of citizenship required to sustain a democratic polity" (2003: 54). Second, in this approach, citizens are conceived of as more or less undifferentiated individuals, that they vary only in terms of what they need or want from the state. In fact, citizens vary enormously along socioeconomic, class, ethnocultural and gender lines. To take but one example, all Canadians are equal in their need for a passport to travel abroad. However, this similarity masks major differences when it comes to getting that passport (e.g., the additional screening required for Canadians born outside of Canada). In a related vein, citizens of federal states are also different from one another in so far as federalism is about celebrating, protecting and promoting minorities and local preferences. All Canadians may want to receive government services but some will have distinct and perhaps quite strong preferences as to which order of government is best positioned to deliver services. Finally, an instrumental approach to citizenship allows governments to exercise much greater control on the definition of what it is that citizens want from the state. Public opinion surveys, like Citizens First 5 (Institute for Citizen-Centred Service 2008), can be used by governments to further define citizenship in terms of the delivery of services to individuals. In so doing, government can effectively sidestep or at least minimize the challenges associated with more collective and group-oriented definitions of what it means to be a citizen and what governments must do to meet the needs of citizens as members of communities.

However the major drawback of an instrumental conception of citizenship is that it fails to capture the complexity of citizenship in a federation. For our purposes, the work of Alan Cairns is particularly useful, especially his suggestion that citizenship implies a relationship that is simultaneously vertical and horizontal. The vertical axis is one that links individuals to the state by reinforcing their sense that it is "their" state, one that accords them full and ongoing membership for themselves and their children. The corollary of this, as Cairns puts it, is that, for citizens, their "relation to the state is, accordingly, not narrowly instrumental, but supported by a reservoir of loyalty and patriotism that gives legitimacy to the state" (Cairns 1999: 4). This suggests that it is critical to distinguish citizens from clients or customers. Sometimes, we enter into the relationship as simple clients of the state or customers seeking goods and services from the state (Aberbach and Christensen 2005). However, this somewhat narrow conception is insufficient for analysing citizenship in a federation.

First, as Cairns suggests, as citizens we share a sense of loyalty to what we understand to be "our" state. Second, in a federal state, that loyalty may be shared, at least for some citizens, who see themselves as being simultaneously members of more than one political and social community. Third, Cairns' conception of citizenship includes a horizontal axis that refers to "the positive identification of citizens with each other as valued members of the same civic community." In Cairns' view, citizenship reinforces empathy and promotes cohesion by means of formal declarations about who is "one of us." Citizenship is therefore "a linking mechanism, which in its most perfect expression binds the citizenry to the state and to each other" (Cairns 1999: 4).

This horizontal dimension of citizenship speaks to the reality that we are linked to the state both as individuals and as members of communities, of groups, and of nations. As citizens, we ask the state to respond to our collective interests (e.g., clean water, safe infrastructure, general social welfare). In other words, while we may have more or less intensive individual (some might say client-like) relationships with the state, this coexists with a more collective relationship. Finally, in a federation, competing and overlapping conceptions of belonging to a community make the horizontal dimension of citizenship all the more complex. Federalism, in as much as it means the union of two or more distinct communities, makes it that much more difficult to define the ties of solidarity and who is "us." Thus, when it comes time to make tradeoffs between individual and collective goods, between my personal interest and the interest of my community, how we define that community will not be a trivial matter.

An organic conception of citizenship, one that is "thick" rather than "thin," takes a different kind of approach and conceives of the relationship between individuals and the state in quite different ways. First, an organic conception of citizenship defines citizens and their needs and aspirations in a way that acknowledges and indeed celebrates the differences among them. In this account of citizenship, it is understood that Canadians vary in terms of the social class, age, gender, religious affiliation and ethnic origin. Each of these dimensions informs their relationship to the state. Second, an organic approach to citizenship is more likely to focus on public goods as well as private ones, on the responsibility of governments to concern themselves with the collective interests of citizens as well as their individual needs and aspirations. On this account of citizenship, meeting the needs of individual citizens requires that governments attend to their collective interests whether this is defined as clean air, safe streets, or a well-regulated private or volunteer sector. Third, an organic conception of citizenship allows, and indeed expects, that what citizens want cannot be ascertained solely or even mainly by public opinion surveys or focus groups. Rather, what is required is the ability to capture how citizens themselves spontaneously define their needs from government and, equally important, the ability to capture the community and group conceptions of what citizens require. Moreover, an organic conception of citizenship concedes from the start that what citizens want will vary and sometimes conflict. This latter approach to defining citizen needs and aspirations is more likely to focus on a balance of private and public goods, as compared to the instrumental conception of citizenship described above, and is one that will generate a concern about such things as environmental protection and inter-regional and inter-personal redistribution of wealth, as well as meeting the individual needs of citizens for the largest basket of services at the lowest tax price.

There are, however, some downsides to an organic conception of citizenship. For example, undue emphasis on what distinguishes citizens from one another risks losing sight of the fact that citizens themselves do care about that which unites them. An organic conception of citizenship risks downplaying the inherent appeal of formal equality as demonstrated by the Charter revolution in Canada over the last quarter-century. The ongoing debate about the merits of regionally specific unemployment insurance benefits is an example of this tension. How to balance the regionally specific needs of the unemployed by means of differentiated benefits with the basic conviction that all unemployed Canadians should be treated in the same manner is not easily resolved. Similarly, for at least some government services (e.g., a permit to drive a car or to access publicly funded health services), citizens have a great deal in common and project limited differentiation by community (however defined). In other words, an organic conception of citizenship risks masking the fact that at least some government services are directly analogous to the consumer goods provided by the private sector.

Federalism--instrumental versus organic

Just as the concept of citizenship lends itself to instrumental and organic approaches, much the same is true of federalism. And, as with citizenship, there are advantages and disadvantages associated with instrumental versus organic conceptions of federalism.

For our purposes, it is also useful to re-visit the distinction between federalism and federation. Michael Burgess defines federalism as "the recommendation and (sometimes) the active promotion of support of federation" (2006: 2), where federation is a term reserved for the formal institutional arrangements of a federation. Moreover, the relationship between federalism and federation is complex. In countries that are not federations, such as the United Kingdom, Italy and the Philippines, there is considerable support for federalism (or at least debate about it). Conversely, as federations evolve into more or less unitary states or break up into a series of smaller independent states, it is quite likely that federalism weakens to the point where it no longer informs political debate and deliberation.

As outlined in Table 2, an instrumental approach to federalism is one that emphasizes the institutional arrangements of federation and their impact on broader issues of public policy and democratic governance. Federation is a means to an end. The division and judicial interpretation of powers and the efficiency and effectiveness of inter-governmental relations are all evaluated on the extent to which they do or do not contribute to a broader set of normative objectives. On this account, what matters about federation is, inter alia, the extent to which it affects critical policy goals--for example, the establishment and evolution of the welfare state (Banting 2006); economic development both within a federation (Brown 2003) or as a result of trade and investment agreements (Robinson 2003), and protecting the environment (Fafard and Harrison 2000).

An instrumental approach that focuses on federation can, taken to its extreme, lead to suggestions that federal structures are obsolescent, should be done away with, or, at minimum, extensively reformed, with power and authority flowing to the central government. Calls for such radical change have been made regularly: to allow the full development of the welfare state; to respond to the economic crisis of the 1930s; and, more recently, to allow the expression o the real drivers of political life such as economic forces, social class, and gender.

An organic conception of federalism, on the other hand, focuses less on the institutions of federation (although these remain important) and somewhat more on the normative underpinnings of federalism. Federalism is both institutional arrangement and, perhaps more importantly, a set of values. In fact, no less than the Supreme Court of Canada, in the Secession Reference, suggested that federalism is among the core values shared by Canadians, along with democracy, constitutionalism and the rule of law, and respect for minorities (Reference re Secession of Quebec, [1998] 2 S.C.R. 217).

Pursuant to an organic approach to federalism, federalism and federation are, at least to some extent, ends not means. The specific arrangements of the federation--the details of the division of powers, of inter-governmental fiscal arrangements, of the ability of sub-national governments to exercise influence over the national government--are all valued independently of the extent to which they do or do not contribute to policy goals. Thus, as Ron Watts contends, federalism refers to "the advocacy of multi-tiered government combining elements of shared rule and regional self-rule. It is based on the presumed value and validity of combining unity and diversity and of accommodating, preserving, and promoting distinct identities within a larger political union" (1996: 7). In this regard, federalism cannot be analysed only in terms of organization of power but requires some consideration of the role of ideas, values and ideals. That is what Daniel Weinstock has called the normative justification of federalism. Quite different from an instrumental justification, it involves making the case for federation by emphasizing the values that can be, or at least should be, privileged in a federation (Weinstock 2001). Or, as Burgess states, "Federalism deals simultaneously with fundamental moral questions as well as with amoral matter-of-fact issues" (2006: 2).

Using an organic focus on federalism, our attention shifts. What is sought is less a common identity than a shared identity. To achieve this, the emphasis must be placed less on social and political cohesion and much more on the need to establish a relationship of mutual trust between the various entities in the political federal space. Weinstock states that "trust simply assumes that members of various groups do not perceive citizens, members of different groups, as representing a threat to the interests that distinguish them as members of particular groups" (2001: 84). Even if the minimal level of trust, as it is the case here, can develop to the point of generating a common political identity that acts as a counterweight to community identities (ethnic or national), a common identity is not a prerequisite nor an objective set by the federation, or at least is not an objective shared by all who live in the federation. Thus, it is important to emphasize this dissociation between mutual trust and common political identity. For many, confidence in the regime will be strongest when the federal government allows the federated entities to exercise their constitutionally based autonomy. Confidence in the legitimacy of the federation will rise, at least in some quarters, when the central government sets for itself the goal of respecting the interests of the minority or minorities that are meant to be protected by the federation. This may mean that governments operate somewhat less efficiently. However, for some, this is a small price to pay for respect for the autonomy of the federated entities.

This gives rise to a tension within a federation. On the one hand, an instrumental approach to federalism will, for example, emphasize efficiency arguments and argue for a degree of centralization of power and authority in Ottawa. An organic approach, on the other hand, will be equally concerned with the underlying legitimacy of the federal regime, which, in the very same policy field, might call for a degree of decentralization or at least asymmetry, invoking arguments based on the notion of subsidiarity (Burelle 1995).

Federalism meets citizenship: the implications for service delivery

What does any of this have to do with service delivery and the integration of service delivery in Canada? The argument being presented here is that we can better understand the efforts of (some) Canadian governments to integrate service delivery--first intra-governmentally and, second, intergovernmentally--by focusing attention on the distinct, and not always compatible, understandings of citizenship and federalism. In other words, Canadians and their governments do not always agree on the preferred way of conceiving of citizenship or of federalism. Indeed, different actors within the same government often have different conceptions of these key concepts. Inevitably, the result is conflict or at least tension with respect to how "service" is defined, as well as with the underlying arguments for and against service integration and the extent to which there are tradeoffs between service delivery and service integration values and federalism values.

In order to analyse and explicate these different conceptions of federalism, citizenship and service delivery, we extend the analysis of federalism and citizenship and consider how they are manifest in decisions about how to define service and how to integrate service delivery. To pursue this analysis, we have generated four ideal types that arise from different combinations of instrumental and organic conceptions of federalism and citizenship (Figure 1).

Efficient service to individuals

We have tried to capture the first ideal type with the phrase "efficient service to individuals." Most of what is done in the name of service integration and improved service delivery refers to activities that focus on efficient service to individual Canadians. As a result, this is the approach that should be most familiar to scholars of public administration and public management and to public servants and political leaders concerned with service delivery and the merits of inter-governmental integration of service delivery.

This approach assumes that citizens are first and foremost clients who are seeking service from government. Citizens become directly analogous to customers in the private sector. This approach further assumes that federalism--or more precisely, federation--is a means to an end and it is the responsibility of governments to organize and, as required, re-organize the federation and the institutions thereof to ensure the most efficient delivery of government services. Furthermore, this approach is almost exclusively concerned with the delivery of "private goods," which we define as those services that provide direct and tangible private benefit to individuals--a permit to drive a car; a pension benefit, etc.

Efficient service that strengthens the federation

We have tried to articulate the second ideal type by means of the phrase "service that strengthens the federation." Like the first ideal type, this approach assumes that citizens are first and foremost clients who are seeking service from government. This approach also assumes that governments wish to deliver services to citizens in the most efficient way possible. However, efficiency is no longer the only or indeed the primary criterion for evaluation. Rather, any proposal to modify who does what with respect to service delivery has to meet another quite different test: does the proposal allow for the full expression of local preferences and otherwise strengthen the federation qua federation? In other words, this approach assumes that citizens and their governments value the efficient delivery of some types of government service but not at the expense of citizenship, and federalism may be willing to sacrifice some measure of efficiency (e.g., having to travel farther to receive a service) if it means that the services are delivered in ways that reflect if not strengthen local autonomy and identity (e.g., maintaining service jobs in the local community).


Efficient pursuit of the public interest

As described above, there are different ways of conceiving of citizenship and, by extension, of what citizens want most from their governments. A more organic conception of citizenship is one that emphasizes the role of governments as the providers of public goods. When married with a more or less instrumental conception of federalism the result is a preoccupation, less with the delivery of discrete services to individuals, and much more with the provision of public goods to all citizens. Pursuant to this approach the definition of service is much broader and extends to issues of redistribution, public safety and security, and environmental protection. The goal is to deliver these public goods as efficiently as possible, and, if this means a shift in "who does what" as between the different orders of government, then so be it. The ongoing debate about the need for a national securities regulator is an example of the types of issues that are raised pursuant to this approach to thinking about integrated service delivery in a federation.

Serving the public interest to strengthen the federation

The final ideal type that arises from our analysis is one that emphasizes serving the public interest and the provision of public goods but in ways that strengthen the federation and reflect local preference. Pursuant to this approach, citizens are once again conceived of in a more or less organic fashion. In this approach, citizens remain interested in the provision of private goods but are equally if not more concerned about the ways in which governments deliver public goods. Thus, the definition of services is again very broad and the focus is on the responsibility of governments to pursue policy and program objectives that maximize public welfare (even if it might mean a smaller investment in the provision of private goods). However, this approach also assumes a more organic conception of federalism and federation. As a result, the key criterion for evaluating any given proposal to provide public goods is much less one of efficiency and much more (or at least equally) one of federalism and strengthening the institutions and practices of federation.

To return to the example of securities regulation, the provincial "passport model" is an expression of this approach. Under this model, provincial governments are looking to achieve enhanced regulation of the stock market and ease of filing for firms but at the same time to do so in ways that retain provincial regulatory authority over securities both because this is consistent with a federation of autonomous and robust provincial governments and in order to allow for policies and regulations that reflect local concerns and local preferences (e.g., mining in British Columbia, small regional manufacturers in Quebec) (Coleman 2002).


Citizens have a complex, multifaceted relationship with the state. At a minimum, we are simultaneously 1) individual recipients of what amounts to private goods, 2) collective recipients of public goods, and 3) holders of an intricate basket of rights, responsibilities and expectations as to what the state should and should not do. In this article, we have captured this complexity by referring to the contrast between instrumental and organic conceptions of citizenship.

However, in a federation, the citizenship story is even more complex because different citizens of the same federal country are likely to differentially define their community. Some will emphasize their local area, others their region or province, others their internal nation, and still others the federation as a whole. Moreover, in a federation, it is likely that citizens will have divergent views on the importance of federalism as a value. In this article, we have summarized this diversity by extending the categorization applied to citizenship and speaking of instrumental and organic conceptions of federalism. These distinctions, between instrumental and organic conceptions of both citizenship and federalism, have major significance for service delivery and inter-governmental service integration in a federation such as Canada.

First, much of what has been done to date by way of service integration between the federal and provincial governments deals only with a limited subset of all the services that governments provide. To use the conceptual distinctions introduced here, much of what is generally thought of as inter-governmental service integration are those services found at the intersection of an instrumental approach to both citizenship and federalism. Second, we suggest that at least some Canadians, and the governments that represent them, value the efficient delivery of some types of government service but not if this means undermining their conception of citizenship and of federalism. As a result, proponents of integrated service delivery need to be mindful of the possibility that some Canadians may be willing to sacrifice efficiency in order to preserve or strengthen local autonomy and identity. Third, Canadians look to their governments for both private as well as public goods (e.g., a license to operate a motor boat and environmental regulations to ensure the water is clean). As a result, those Canadian who hold an instrumental conception of federalism may well be willing to entertain quite dramatic changes to who does what if this means more effective delivery of public goods. Finally, some Canadians focus on the responsibility of governments to pursue policy and program objectives that maximize public welfare while at the same time subscribing to a more organic conception of federalism and federation. For these citizens, the key criterion for evaluating any given proposal to provide public goods is much less one of efficiency and much more (or at least equally) one of federalism and strengthening the institutions and practices of federation.

The argument presented here, while shedding light on the prospect for inter-governmental service integration in Canada also raises additional questions that require further research. First, what evidence is there that, in fact, Canadians have the instrumental conceptions of federalism and service that are outlined here? We have done some research in this area and a preliminary analysis of our results suggests that proponents of service integration should proceed with a note of caution and a more nuanced conception of service, citizens and federalism (Fafard, Rocher, and Cote, forthcoming). For example, in our polling, we discovered that many Canadians express strong support for even more efficiency in service delivery and that they are therefore willing to support quite dramatic changes in the distribution of powers between the federal and provincial governments. On the other hand, Canadians who identify themselves first, if not exclusively, as Canadians are much more likely to want to retain federal jurisdiction even at the expense of efficiency. Conversely, those Canadian residents who identify first and foremost as residents of their province are much more likely to want to retain provincial jurisdiction even if there are unrealized efficiency gains.

Second, more research is needed to know whether and to what extent public servants charged with thinking about service delivery and, as required, intergovernmental service integration, are mindful of the distinctions suggested here. Again, we have convened roundtables with public servants in Ottawa and in several provinces, and our results suggest that public servants outside of Quebec who are responsible for both the inter-governmental relations and the service-delivery functions hold remarkably consistent views on the inherent desirability of an ongoing agenda of integrated service delivery. In marked contrast, in Quebec, there was a great deal more scepticism about the overall project of federal-provincial service integration. The public servants with whom we met there demonstrated an awareness of, and support for, a much more organic conception if not of citizenship than most certainly of federalism (Fafard, Rocher, and Cote, forthcoming; Fafard and Rocher, forthcoming).

While the "high politics" of federalism often garners the most attention, it masks the extensive, pervasive and continuous pattern of inter-governmental interaction, where program officials try to deliver on their mandates and, in so doing, experiment with various forms of integration and collaboration. From a service-delivery perspective, this is arguably a good thing. However, good government and responding to the full range of what it is that citizens expect from their governments requires more. In a federation, this means acknowledging and respecting the division of powers and the comparative advantage of different orders of government. It also means acknowledging and respecting the fact that citizens of a federation and their governments, or at least some of them, value federalism per se. Inter-governmental service integration that simultaneously strengthens both efficiency and an overarching culture of federalism is perhaps the next challenge.


Aberbach, Joel D., and Tom Christensen. 2005. "Citizens and consumers: A NPM dilemma." Public Management Review 7 (2) June: 225-46.

Ambrose, Rona, Donald G. Lenihan, and John Milloy. 2006a. Managing the Federation: A Citizen-Centred Approach. Ottawa: Crossing Boundaries National Council.

--. 2006b. "What is citizen-centred federalism and why does it matter." In Managing the Federation: A Citizen-Centred Approach, edited by Rona Ambrose, Donald G. Lenihan, and John Milloy. Ottawa: Crossing Boundaries National Council.

Aucoin, Peter. 1995. The New Public Management: Canada in Comparative Perspective. Montreal: Institute for Research on Public Policy.

Banting, Keith. 2006. "Social citizenship and federalism: Is a federal welfare state a contradiction in terms." In Territory, Democracy, and Justice: Regionalism and Federalism in Western Democracies, edited by Scott L. Green New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Barzelay, Michael. 2001. The New Public Management: Improving Research and Policy Dialogue. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Borins, Sandford, Kenneth Kernaghan, David Brown, Nick Bontis, Perri 6, and Fred Thompson. 2007. Digital State at the Leading Edge. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Brewer, Brian. 2007. "Citizen or customer? Complaints handling in the public sector." International Review of Administrative Sciences 73 (4) December: 549-56.

Brown, Douglas. 2003. Market Rules: Economic Union Reform and Intergovernmental Policy-making in Australia and Canada. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press.

Burelle, Andre. 1995. Le real canadien: Essai de diagnostic et esquisse d'une therapie. Montreal: Fides. Burgess, Michael. 2006. Comparative Federalism: Theory and Practice. London: Routledge.

Cairns, Alan C. 1999. "Introduction." In Citizenship, Diversity, and Pluralism. Canadian and Comparative Perspectives, edited by Alan C. Cairns, John C. Courtney, Peter MacKinnon, Hans J. Michelmann, and David E. Smith. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queens University Press.

Christensen, T., and P. Laegreid (eds.). 2002. New Public Management: The Transformation of Ideas and Practice. Hampshire: Ashgate.

Coleman, William D. 2002. "Federalism and financial services." In Canadian Federalism--Performance, Effectiveness, and Legitimacy, edited by Herman Bakvis and Grace Skogstad. Don Mills, Ont.: Oxford University Press Canada.

Dupre, J. Stephan. 1987. "The workability of executive federalism in Canada" In Federalism and the Role of the State, edited by Herman Bakvis and William Chandler. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Fafard, Patrick, and Kathryn Harrison. 2000. Managing the Environmental Union: Intergovernmental Relations and Environment Policy in Canada. Kingston: Institute of Intergovernmental Relations, Queen's University.

Fafard, Patrick and Francois Rocher. Forthcoming. "Clients, citizens and federalism: The view of governments." In The State in Transition: Challenges for Canadian Federalism, edited by Michael Behiels and Francois Rocher. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press.

Fafard, Patrick, Francois Rocher, and Catherine Cote. Forthcoming. "The presence (or the lack thereof) of a federal culture in Canada: The views of Canadians." Regional and Federal Studies. Faulks, Keith. 2000. Citizenship. New York: Routledge.

Flumian, M.F., Amanda Coe, and Kenneth Kernaghan. 2007. "Transforming service to Canadians: The Service Canada model." International Review of Administrative Sciences 73 (4) December: 557-68.

Heintzman, Ralph, and Brian Marson. 2005. "People, service and trust: Is there a public sector service value chain?" International Review of Administrative Sciences 71 (4) December: 549-75.

Institute for Citizen-Centred Service. 2008. Citizens First 5. Toronto: Institute for Citizen-Centred Service.

Kernaghan, Kenneth. 2008. Integrating Service Delivery. Toronto: Institute for Citizen-Centred Service.

--. 2000. "The post-bureaucratic organization and public service values." International Review of Administrative Sciences 66 (1) March: 91-104.

--. 2009. "Putting citizens first: Service delivery as integrated public governance." In The Evolving Physiology of Government: Canadian Public Administration in Transition, edited by O.P. Dwivedi, Tim A. Mau, and Byron Sheldrick. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press.

Lane, Jan-Erik. 2000. New Public Management. New York: Routledge.

Lenihan, Donald G. 2006. "Citizen-centred federalism: The implications for executive federalism." In Managing the Federation: A Citizen-Centred Approach, edited by Rona Ambrose, Donald G. Lenihan, and John Milloy. Ottawa: Crossing Boundaries National Council.

Marchildon, Gregory P. 2006. "Making information a public resource: A case study of public health care in Canada." In Managing the Federation: A Citizen-Centred Approach, edited by Rona Ambrose, Donald G. Lenihan, and John Milloy. Ottawa: Crossing Boundaries National Council.

Pierre, John. 1995. "The marketization of the state: Citizens, consumers, and the emergence of the public market." In Governance in a Changing Environment, edited by B. Guy Peters and Donald G. Savoie. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press.

Richter, Paul, and James Cornford. 2007. "Customer relationship management and citizenship: Technologies and identities in public services." Social Policy and Society 7 (2) April: 211-20.

Roberts, David, and Brent Steaben. 2006. "Citizen-centred service in New Brunswick: Taking the vision forward." In Managing the Federation: A Citizen-Centred Approach, edited by Rona Ambrose, Donald G. Lenihan, and John Milloy. Ottawa: Crossing Boundaries National Council.

Robinson, Ian. 2003. "Neo-liberal trade policy and Canadian federalism." In New Trends in Canadian Federalism, edited by Francois Rocher and Miriam Smith. Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview Press.

Roy, J. 2006. "E-Service delivery and new governance capacities: 'Service Canada' as a case study." International Journal of Services Technology and Management 7 (3): 257-71.

Service New Brunswick. 2005. News Release: SNB and Service Canada Sign Agreement to Improve Service to Canadian Boat Owners, 7 November. Fredericton: Service New Brunswick.

Slater, Barbara, and George Arsenijevic. 2006. "Serving the federation: A study of the Canada Revenue Agency." In Managing the Federation: A Citizen-Centred Approach, edited by Rona Ambrose, Donald G. Lenihan, and John Milloy. Ottawa: Crossing Boundaries National Council.

Suleiman, Ezra N. 2003. Dismantling Democratic States. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Watts, Ronald L. 1996. Comparing Federal Systems in the 1990s. Kingston: Institute of Intergovernmental Relations, Queen's University.

Weinstock, Daniel M. 2001. "Vers une theorie normative du federalisme." Revue internationale des sciences sociales 167 March: 79-87.

Patrick Fafard is professor, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa. Francois Rocher and Catherine Cote are professors, School of Political Studies, University of Ottawa. They would like to acknowledge the helpful comments made by Richard Simeon and Ralph Heintzman, although the usual caveats apply, and are grateful to the SSHRC for funding this project. The authors would also like to thank Mireille Paquet, Isabelle Leblanc and Catherine Ellyson for their invaluable research assistance and all those public servants who collaborated with them in the research that is reported here. Finally, the helpful comments made by the Journal's anonymous reviewers are also acknowledged.
Table 1. Different conceptions of citizenship

Dimensions              Instrumental            Organic

Source of individual    Purchasing power        Legal rights

Types of entitlements   Selective               Universal

Policy objective        Individual              Social welfare

Public management       Customer                Legal security,
objectives              satisfaction, market-   efficiency
                        like resource

Who defines citizen     Top-down, by the        Bottom-up, via
needs?                  state                   communities

What defines success?   Speed, efficiency and   Redistribution,
                        accessibility of        community engagement

What matters?           Private goods           Public goods

How are citizens        Undifferentiated        Highly differentiated
defined?                individuals or          individuals as
                        clients or consumers    members of

Adapted from Pierre 1995: 65

Table 2. Different conceptions of federalism and federation

                    Instrumental                Organic

How is federalism   Means to an end             Means to an end and an
defined?                                        end in of itself

What is the         The institutions of the     Federalism as an
core focus?         federation                  ideology

What defines        Efficiency, transparency,   Subsidiarity, local
success?            accountability, etc.        autonomy, overall
                                                legitimacy of the
                                                federal regime

What matters?       Policy, matter-of-fact      Moral questions, feder-
                    issues                      alism as a shared value
COPYRIGHT 2009 Institute of Public Administration of Canada
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Fafard, Patrick; Rocher, Francois; Cote, Catherine
Publication:Canadian Public Administration
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Dec 1, 2009
Previous Article:The adoption of the accounting officer system in Canada: changing relationships?
Next Article:The Canada Revenue Agency as separate employer: anomaly or model for the future?

Related Articles
Canadian federalism and the challenge of North American integration.
A cancer control strategy and deliberative federalism: modernizing health care and democratizing intergovernmental relations.
Bilateral federalism and workforce development policy in Canada.
The evolution of federalism studies in Canada: from centre to periphery.
Contemporary Canadian federalism; foundations, traditions, institutions.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2022 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |