Why New Public Management (NPM) reforms were not very successful in Canada.

WhyNew Public Management (NPM) reforms were not very successful inCanada.


Administrationsand management teams in the government have been trying to usetechniques and practices especially in the private for profit sectorsto enhance institutional character of the public servants as well asfoster administrations that prioritize honesty, fairness andefficiency. The New Public Management (NPM) is a combination ofmanagement approaches and techniques which include ideologiesborrowed from the private sector into the public sector.

Theemergence of NPM was as a result of the public administration beinglimited such that making adjustments to the global phenomenonincluding demands of the competitive economies was challenging(Ormond, p.4). Public management reform was also necessitated allbecause of the concerns raised that economic performance of mostgovernments were not meeting most of the dynamic needs of thecitizens which also caused erosion of confidence in many governments.

Componentsof NPM

Componentsof NPM can be basically categorized as managerial and structuralthey include but not limited to the following

  1. Replacement of traditional tall hierarchies this is the introduction of reformed structures that are formed for specific processes for instance instead of finance and personnel NPM has introduced issuance of licenses.

  2. Decentralization of management in the public agencies and devolving financial control this is where the management is spread such that responsibility is shared between the public servants. The managers are in a position to consider alternatives in their management role.

  3. NPM is out-put oriented in such a way that the managers are required to target performance which is linked to resource allocation and rewards.

Inthis regard, NPM is a management practice that uses the logic ofeconomics retaining core public values which are actually evolvingand transforming especially with the present economic challenges.

NPMreforms in Canada

Thoughcountries have had different forms of government and politicalparties, this ideology which emphasizes on market competition indelivery of service has been in use in major western countriesincluding but not limited to UK, US, Australia, New Zealand as wellas Canada. It has also spread to the developing countries in Asia,Africa and some parts of Eastern Europe (Pollitt, Christopher, andGeert p. 206-215)

InCanada, public administration reform has been a continuous process,some of these major reforms included electoral reform, parliamentaryreform and public administration reform. A Canadian model of publicsector reform reflects the role of democracy and a government thatserves the modern society. In essence as per now the Canadian publicsector represents a competently and calmly carried out reform thathas helped in maintenance and preservation of quality life of theCanadians.

TheNPM reforms especially to governance have been of much help ingovernment efficiency as well as enhance scrutinization of the publicmanagement by the legislators. Advocates of the NPM have suggestedthat these reforms will help in better administration. The Canadiangovernance approach is based on the belief that a well performingsociety must be as a result of a government and governmentinstitutions performance. The model also emphasizes on for a publicsector to perform well then strong policy and a modern deliveryfunctions are essential requirements.

Thoughthe reforms have been utilized in Canada, they did not succeed 100%in making significant changes as seen in other countries such as USand Australia. In any jurisdictions, most of the tools that are usedto measure service accountability in the public service includeservice standards, citizen charters, audit evaluations as well asperformance indicators.

Inassessment of why the NPM reforms were not as successful in Canadathe major impact areas include the following:

  1. Lack of transformation of human resources strategy and implementation

  2. Lack of Organization of the public service to deliver political priorities

  3. Lack of Assessment of the capability of government departments to deliver on mandates

  4. Lack of delivery of integrated services to citizens

Lackof transformation of human resources strategy and implementation

HumanResource has a major impact on policy capacity, service delivery andgovernance this profession occupies a tertiary space in thelandscape of service delivery. Canada’s governance did not put anyemphasis on this development given that demographic challenges andthe importance of HR recruitment is on the rise. In businesstransformation many leaders have failed to recognize the role of HRwhich results in unevenly funded and distributed resources. In thisregard recruitment of top talent in the public sector management teamwould help in realization of the NPM objectives which are centered onservice delivery to the citizens.

Inaddition, NPM encourages a culture that engages employees incontinuous learning and managing performance. In this case if thetransformational leadership is to be attained then corporate entitymust be a priority. Additionally, given Canada’s constitutionalmake up, it would be very advantageous for the government to modernbusiness driven approaches to HR delivery. For the NPM reforms to bea success then maintaining HR transformation as one of the publicsector agenda would be beneficial.

Lackof organization of the public service to deliver political priorities

Canadaalso fell short in political priorities it did not focus itspolitical and public service energies with transparency which happensto be a degree that drives outcomes based approaches to delivery ofpublic services. The sectors that could have benefited most inimproving the political priorities would be the health and theeducation center. Canada was unsuccessful in their NPM reformsimplementation due to their hesitancy in creating a permanentdelivery unit which has been used by other countries and has provedto be a success. For instance, getting the right people in the rightpositions, building routines which drive performance, transparencyand high level of political support would very much help inspearheading the NPM reforms.

TheNPM reforms advocate for better services that go hand in hand withthe changing citizen demands, in this spirit Canada would be in abetter position if it was to take responsibility in monitoring thepublic servants in their delivery commitments, maybe even take a stepand initiate delivery programs to be attended by public servants.

Lackof assessment of the capability of government departments to deliveron mandates

InCanada’s bid to try and implement the NPM reforms, its departmentsfailed to deliver on their mandates. This we could was as a result ofthe departments not being subjected to constant reviews especiallyfocused on delivery, strategy and above all management reviews. Inthis regard due to lack of assessment, the departments were notvigorous in playing their assigned roles. This ultimately contributedto the not so successful NPM reforms.

Inregard to reviews, other countries such as UK utilized this approachin bid to make each individual department successful. Some of thepertinent issues found in the departments included capacity andcapability, delivery and performance and management and leadership(Aucoin p 13). This approach is very much recommended as iteliminates loopholes that could be hindering the success of thedepartments.

Lackof delivery of integrated services to citizens

ThoughCanadian government is familiar with grouping service delivery, itdid not satisfy the NPM par that would have made it a full success inthe country. Moving towards a business driven strategy as well asconsolidating back office services are some of the majortransformation work plans that would have worked well inimplementation of the NPM. This is due to the constitutionalarrangements that would have been a perfect benchmark for thecontext. Canada had been known as the pacesetter in integratedservice delivery in the recent years and through the citizen surveysconducted, the public priorities are tested for service delivery.

Despitethe impediments that NPM faced in Canada, there are innovations thatare associated with it which include development of a solid map inwhich Canada is now able to provide service delivery using goodmanagement in the public sectors and offices. To be a world leader ingovernance, Canada ought to spot the difference in constitutionalarrangements in the area of public sector. For instance, Canadaprovides its services at the provincial level which gives thegovernment a better chance to focus on the management and theleadership that is in place.

On anational scale Canada is lagging behind in the implementation of NPMreforms some of the considerations that Canada may need includetransforming the human resource strategy which directly affectdelivery of service as well as acts as the driver of public servicereforms through recruitment of able management teams. Activeleadership of heads of public services should be encouraged for thetransformation to materialize.


Publicadministration must always be based on the conditions of politics,culture and history of the country. Current leaders are facing manychallenges in their bid to improve service delivery as well as bettertheir management approaches. In the government’s recognition thatpublic servants have a major role to play in delivery of services tothe citizens then it has a mandate to motivate and pool a talentedand dedicated team to guarantee quality and progress in the publicsector. Experimentation and diversification of decision makers willmake it even easier now that there is a management portfolio inCanada then we should expect high standards of responsibility to bedemonstrated by the public servants.

Examinationof the government functions involves all persons including the publicservants, politicians, citizens as well as members of the privatesector this enhances transparency in the public administration. Inthis regard, from the expressed sentiments, Canada still has room forimprovement given that its bid to make changes in the structure andmanagerial processes in the federal government started quite sometime back through reforms such as privatization of public entities.


DerryOrmond, &quotImproving Government Performance,&quot OECDObserver,No.&nbsp184, October/November 1993, p.&nbsp4.

Pollitt,Christopher, and Geert Bouckaert. PublicManagement Reform: A Comparative Analysis.Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. Internet resource.

Aucoin,Peter. TheNew Public Management: Canada in Comparative Perspective.Montreal, Québec: Institute for Research on Public Policy, 1996.Internet resource. P. 13