Better know a Canadian institution: the Public Service Commission of Canada

For all the 19th century, the civil service of Canada was staffed entirely by people hired on the basis of whoever was the favourite applicant of the person doing the hiring, usually decided, by kinship, favours, bribes or political support, as opposed to competency or skill. This is known as patronage, derived from the Latin word for “father”.

In 1908, Sir Wilfrid Laurier passed the Civil Service Amendment Act through Parliament, which established the Civil Service Commission, a council of people accountable directly to Parliament to ensure a nonpartisan and merit-based hiring of civil servants in the “inner service”, which is to say the civil servants who work in Ottawa. Its purview expanded to the civil service nationwide, or “outer service”, by the Civil Service Act of 1918; one year earlier, the commission had been rejiggered to be headed by a President. Its name was changed to the Public Service Commission by the Public Service Employment Act of 1967, which gave it more power to oversee disciplinary appeal in the civil service.

The presidents of the Civil/Public Service Commission since 1917 have been:

Hon. William James Roche PC 1917-1935
Charles Bland 1935-1955
Stanley Nelson 1955-1957
Arnold Heeney 1957-1959
Hon. Mr. Justice Samuel Harvey Shirecliffe Hughes 1959-1963
Robertson MacNeil 1963-1965
John Carson 1965-1976
Edgar Gallant 1976-1985
Huguette Labelle 1985-1990
Robert J. Giroux 1990-1994
Ruth Hubbard 1994-1999
Scott Serson 1999-2003
Maria Barrados 2003-2012
Anne-Marie Robinson 2012-now


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