Craft and Prince’s Two Models of Policy Advising

… an Atlas resource page in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100


Jonathan Craft (reference below, p. 14-15) draws on Michael Prince (reference below) to produce the following depiction of two idealized models of the role of Canadian public servants in advising government on policy matters:

Speaking truth to power of ministers
Sharing truths with multiple actors of influence
Focus of policymaking Departmental hierarchy and vertical portfolios Interdepartmental and horizontal management of issues with external networks and policy communities
Background of senior career officials Knowledgeable executives with policy-sector expertise and history Generalist managers with expertise in decision processes and systems
Locus of policy processes Relatively self-contained within government, supplemented with advisory councils and royal commissions Open to outside groups, research institutes, think tanks, consultants, pollsters, and virtual centres
Minister/ deputy minister relations Strong partnership in preparing proposals with ministers, trusting and taking policy advice largely from officials Shared partnership with ministers drawing ideas from officials, aides, consultants, lobbyists, think tanks, media
Nature of policy advice Candid and confident advice to ministers given in a neutral and detached manner

Neutral competence

Relatively more guarded advice given to ministers by officials in a more compliant or preordained fashion

Responsive competence

Public profile of officials Generally anonymous More visible to groups, parliamentarians, and media
Roles of officials in policy processes Confidential advisers inside government and neutral observers outside government

Offering guidance to government decision-makers

Active participants in policy discussions inside and outside government

Managing policy networks and perhaps building capacity of client groups

Craft writes (p. 13-14):

“[Michael Prince’s] retrospective analysis contends that in Canada, it is not only the supply and demand dynamics that have evolved but also the basic practices of policy advice. Both have undergone dramatic changes in concert with broader societal developments and evolving governance arrangements, the key argument being that Canada has shifted from a policy advisory mode characterized as “speaking truth to power” (Wildavsky 1979) to one consisting of “sharing truths with many actors of influence” (Prince 2007). … The contemporary “sharing truths with multiple actors of influence” model operates within a different context and on different terms. It recognizes that where and how governments govern has little resemblance to the traditional model of public administration within which the “speaking truth to power” mode prevailed.”

Atlas topic, subject, and course

Institutional Dynamics within Government (core topic) in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100 Governance and Institutions.


Jonathan Craft (2016), Backrooms and Beyond – Partisan Advisers and the Politics of Policy Work in Canada, Toronto, University of Toronto Press.

Michael Prince (2007), Soft Craft, Hard Choices, Altered Context – Reflections on Twenty Five Years of Policy Advice in Canada, in Policy Analysis in Canada – the State of the Art, eds. L. Dobuzinskis, M. Howlett, and D. Laycock, 163-85, Toronto, Toronto University Press.

Aaron Wildavsky (1979), Speaking Truth to Power – The Art and Craft of Policy Analysis, Boston, Little Brown.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 2 February 2017.