The Innovation Journal: The Public Sector Innovation Journal, 5(2), 2000, article 1f9.


Is Innovation a Question of Will or Circumstance?

An Exploration of the Innovation Process Through the Lens of the Blakeney

Government in Saskatchewan, 1971-82


Edited by Eleanor D. Glor

Previous: Section 3 Top: Table of Contents Next: Chapter 10

Chapter 9:

Voluntarism: Innovation in Saskatchewan as Planning and Implementation


Eleanor Glor


The dimension of voluntarism-determinism conceives of the innovation process at one end as something that can be controlled and at the other as something that is determined primarily by other forces, mostly outside the control of public servants. Voluntarism is reflected as planned change and implementation at the organizational level. Based on Wilson's (1992) approach to these concepts as outlined in the Introduction, chapter 9 examines the evidence for innovation as planning and implementation in the Blakeney government.


Voluntarism has many aspects, all of which emphasize the control that elected and appointed officials have and can exercise over what happens in government. Most of the literature taking a voluntaristic approach is based on case studies, the dominant approach to the study of innovation since the 1980s. Alan Blakeney and Sandford Borins' book on management (1) of the Blakeney government takes a voluntary approach (Blakeney and Borins, 1992 and 1998). So for the most part do Glor (1997a) and Borins (1998). This chapter appraises the role of stakeholders, bureaucratic attitudes, resources, coordination and results from a voluntaristic perspective. Chapters 1, 2 and 3 of this book identify the need for deliberate changes in the culture of the government-they take voluntary approaches. Likewise Chapter 6 on Saskatchewan Transportation and chapter 8 on labour describe innovation as strategically planned. Glor (1997a) identified the policy innovations of the Saskatchewan government primarily as systematically planned phenomena. In the same light, the processes that are discussed in Innovation: Will or Circumstance can be regarded as created administrative innovations and practices, brought into being through will.

Planning and Implementing Innovation in Saskatchewan

In 1971 the Government of Saskatchewan faced the management challenges of a new government taking a novel direction-administrative obstacles and a lack of public service capacities and competencies to deal with them.

Based on the Saskatchewan experience, Glor defined the stages of the innovation process as readiness, negotiating approval, effective implementation, a focus on results, and learning (Glor, 1998a: 330). This process requires particular capacities and competencies, and different ones at each stage.

Capacities and Competencies

To identify the planning and implementation process in the Blakeney government, each of the chapters in Sections I and II was examined in detail as a process. Consistent patterns were revealed, that identified the problems faced, solutions chosen, results achieved, processes followed and skills needed.

Problems. A government with a large change agenda faces formidable problems-Alan Blakeney's particularly, because Blakeney's government was bounded by a social justice ethic. As the Blakeney government came to power it faced, using Murray Wallace's unforgettable metaphor, a largely rusty and demoralized public service that was fundamentally resistant to change. The province's economic situation was poor and Saskatchewan's staples-based economy could be counted on to produce considerable variability in revenues from year to year. To deliver on the government's promises, new human and financial resources were needed. The budget was balanced, but the budget process was incapable of sound resource allocation, focussing on the issues in the wrong way and could not support the policy and program changes to be made. New systems for policy planning and financial management were needed. A government-wide management information system was required to manage such a comprehensive and complex agenda, but none existed. Effective horizontal and departmental coordination was needed, but must not destroy departmental initiative. The crown corporation sector needed major systemic changes, and new crowns were required to fulfill the government's platform promises. While a general mandate for the agenda had been secured through the election, how could one be maintained for specific initiatives and retained for the comprehensive agenda? How could the public be engaged on an ongoing basis? Could client and interest groups be kept on-side? How could the province develop some control over its boom-bust economy and revenues? Could the disadvantaged be brought into the government's economic agenda in an effective, developmental manner? How could federal government and national support and funding be secured?

Although these problems and challenges were not all unique to an innovative government, the Blakeney government needed to renew and modernize the government at the same time that it wished to introduce a major change agenda that required first rate public administration. This combination of problems created a more complex and difficult challenge than most new governments confront, and that an innovative government faces more than others.

Solutions, Results, Processes and Skills. The government faced many and complex challenges. The government dealt with its public service problems by motivating and supporting existing staff, and hiring new staff. It created a culture of excellence by appealing to professionalism, modernization and a tradition of good government, and supported its staff by offering paid educational leave and, most importantly, respecting public servants and taking their ideas seriously.

While the budget was balanced and the province had little debt when the NDP came into power, the government's financial resources were minimal-it had the lowest expenditures and revenues per capita in the country. Introduction of new programs required strategies for creating extra revenues, involving both economic expansion and increased taxes. The government addressed the poor economy through equity investments in the Saskatchewan economy. Resources were developed quickly, new crown corporations were created to invest in, own, manage, produce and sell resources. Crowns were actively managed and new institutions were created.

Taxes on resources were held back for further investment. Government became a more substantial actor in the economy of the province, and thereby gained some control over the economic development of the province. Resource prices increased and economic activity expanded rapidly. Although taxes grew during the government's term, so did incomes, and increased economic activity and government participation in the economy also produced large increases in revenues. New budgeting processes were introduced-long-term fiscal accounting and a program budgeting information system. An active program and policy analysis function was created. Line managers were allowed to manage while remaining accountable to cabinet. New central cabinet-based planning processes and structures created a shared agenda and maintained control and accountability. The budget remained balanced and all debt was self-liquidating. At the same time government finances were made more transparent.

While management and processes were modernized, changes were generally introduced through incremental steps. Although the NDP had identified nationalization of potash as a goal in its platform, the takeover of 40% of the potash industry by the province was a strategic rather than an ideological decision. The government's objective was to increase its economic rents in an industry where Saskatchewan had 40% of world reserves and 40% of world trade (Laux and Molot, 1978), but received very little revenue from them, because of concessions made by previous CCF and Liberal governments. (2) Due to a resistant industry and federal government, purchase, through nationalization if necessary, became the only option the government perceived to be open to it to achieve its goal. The 72-step process pursued (chapter 4) demonstrates the government's tenacious efforts to find incremental solutions. In the north as well (chapter 5), local organizations had identified transformational goals of power- and revenue-sharing. Despite initial support from cabinet for this approach, the decision to create a single agency to serve the north finessed the political objectives. The shortage of front-line staff with consultative and developmental skills and the lack of inclusive, strategic processes assured incremental change. The Department of Highways, a ministry with a straight-forward operational mandate, also performed incrementally but in a responsive and creative manner. It succeeded, as a result, in responding to long-standing complaints from suppliers, ecologists, those concerned about heritage and vehicle drivers. A cool, logical, strategy and an incremental approach marked the processes of the Blakeney government.

Across the government, departments consulted and introduced new policies and programs. Horizontal and vertical coordination was carried out. Additional sources of funding were sought, especially from the federal government. At the same time, ongoing support was needed from the public as a whole, client groups and interest groups. Many consultative processes were used, especially at the beginning of the government when the pace of change was fastest. As interest rates skyrocketed in the early 1980s, life became harder for many of these groups, and the government's support faded. While results were usually good, eventually they were not good enough.

The skills that were required to bring about this change were similar across functions and departments leadership and human development skills; interpersonal, listening and communication capability; values such as a commitment to equity, openness to change, flexibility and tenacity; clear objectives and a sense of balance; policy, research, program planning, implementation and evaluation ability; financial planning, control and disclosure capacity; technical skills such as legal, economic and resource-specific ones; management and coordination expertise; a long-term perspective; political skills; creativity, problem-solving, integrative capability, adeptness at lateral thinking; and teamwork and cooperation; negotiating, tactical, conflict resolution, and in-fighting ability.

Together these public administration problems faced, solutions adopted, processes chosen, skills developed, and results achieved paint a picture of the processes of an innovative government. Most of the processes were not unique to an innovative government, but the Saskatchewan government was perhaps better organized, more flexible and more possibly creative than most. It also had more will. And, it was smaller than many. While most of these processes were successful, nevertheless some of the required will and skills were not developed as quickly or effectively as was needed, especially the consultation and communication skills.

Creating the Innovations Needed: Cases of Saskatchewan Administrative Innovation

To develop the effective processes and skills that were key to the Blakeney government's success in implementing a major change agenda, the government developed or discovered new methods for responding to its challenges. From 1971-82, the Saskatchewan government developed or was an early adopter of 34 new processes in seven areas. The cases of administrative innovation in the Blakeney government, as identified by the authors of this book are summarized in Table 1. Many of the innovations were important to the success of the change agenda. The Blakeney government was unique during the 1970s with the magnitude of change implied by its political platform and the comprehensiveness of its program. It faced a major planning and implementation challenge.

Table 1: Saskatchewan Government Process Innovations, 1971-82

Innovation 1st 2nd 3rd
Planning Innovations
1.Comprehensive innovation program Sask

New Deal 1971


Red Book 1993


Common Sense Rev. 1995

2.Almost all line departments given planning capacity Sask 1975 Canada 1994
Enhanced Government Financial Management, Control and Disclosure
3.First Heritage Fund, the Energy and Resource Fund 1973, Heritage Fund 1978 Sask 1973 Alberta 1976 Sask 1978
4. Long Term Fiscal Accounting Sask
5. Program-based management information system, with results component (PMIS) (USA Dpt of Defense 1963, Government of USA 1968) Ont 1968 Canada 1969-70*** Sask 1973
6. Balance budget during 1970s Alta Sask
7.Forecast revenues by building personal income tax model Ont Sask (better)
8. Forecast economic activity by building macroeconomic model Sask Inadequate Canada

Only good model

9.First currency swap (derivative) transactions by anyone in Canada, government or private sector, and among the first by anyone in any market. Sask
10. Comprehensive disclosure of financial dealings of government Canada? Sask
Pension Management Innovations
11.Tackle public sector unfunded liabilities (superannuation, WCB) Sask 1977 none
12.Create a fully funded public service superannuation plan (public service, teachers, SaskPower, SaskTel) Sask 1977 Canada 2003
13.Change public pensions from defined-benefit to money-purchase plans Sask
14.Invest pensions in money markets. Sask Canada 2000
15.Shift WCB from compensation for injury to compensation for lost income Sask
Service Delivery Mechanisms
16.Leverage other programs/create partnerships (e.g. Land Bank and Community Colleges)* Sask
17.Health and safety regulation carried out through the workplace BC Sask
18.Control costs of drugs through bulk purchasing for the whole province Canada Sask
19.Offer welfare recipients the opportunity to work in short-term, developmental projects Sask Canada/ New Brunswick
20. **Community colleges without capital facilities or permanent staff Sask
21.Offer citizens opportunity to invest in the province: Saskatchewan Development Fund Sask June 1974
Alternate Service Delivery (Crown Corporation Innovations)
22.**Create holding company to hold the equity of (almost) all crown corporations Sask
23. Standardize fiscal periods in the crown corporation sector Sask
24. Publish consolidated financial statement for full crown corporation sector Sask
25.Advertising campaign for crown corporation sector Sask
Innovative Processes
26.Produce transcripts in plain language Sask
Service Coordination
27.Comprehensive approach to children Sask Canada 1990s
28.Comprehensive approach to Indian and Metis Sask
29.**One-stop entry into all provincial government (esp. regulatory) requirements for development projects (interdepartmental committee) Sask
*30.**Organize a single agency to deliver almost all programs in the north Canada Man Sask
Human Resource Innovations
31.**Non-government employment equity program (for Indian and native people) (Cluff Lake) Sask
32.Appoint female deputy minister Ont Sask
33.Establish an Executive Development Program Canada Sask
34.Monitor and develop strategy for collective bargaining throughout the public sector Sask

* Described in Policy Innovation in the Saskatchewan Public Sector, 1971-82.

** Also considered policy innovations.

Note: It is difficult to be certain which governments introduce innovations in what order. If readers have any information to add, please contact the author through the publisher.

*** According to Gow, announced in 1969 for implementation in 1970.

Planning Innovations

Like the Saskatchewan CCF and NDP governments of the 1940s to the 1960s, and the 1970s, the federal and Ontario governments had well-developed central agency planning structures by the 1970s. Because the previous Liberal government had down-played planning capacity, the Blakeney government had to recreate its planning capacity. Few other governments created strong line department planning capacity. Although the Blakeney government's central agencies planned several of the government's major new initiatives in their early stages, every innovation was eventually turned over to a line department to complete planning and undertake implementation. These departments therefore had to create planning, development and implementation capability. Most departments, including Health, Social Services and Urban Affairs created separate planning and research units. The Department of Social Services later experimented with decentralizing planning functions to operational units, but without great success: The positions were absorbed into the urgency of day-to-day program delivery.

Enhanced Financial Management, Control and Disclosure

Unlike most other Canadian governments of the 1970s, the Saskatchewan government insisted on balancing its budget, and was prepared to raise taxes if necessary to do so. Better financial disclosure, control and management were necessary and were supported by eight innovations, more than in any other area. The Saskatchewan government had a balanced budget during the 1970s, when only Alberta, with vastly more oil and gas revenues, was doing the same. Introduction of the first Heritage Fund allowed the government to smooth out revenues over boom and bust years (Chapter 2). Long-term fiscal accounting (Chapter 1) centred government accounts on more than a yearly basis. Long-term fiscal accounting (Chapter 1) centred government accounts on more than a yearly basis. The Heritage Fund and long-term accounting addressed several governmental accounting and budgeting weaknesses. They produced a more balanced presentation of the natural deficit and surplus cycle that government budgets not in chronic deficit follow, in tandem with the economic cycle. A government with balanced budgets (over the economic cycle) could thus be permitted to run annual deficits and surpluses which were mildly counter-cyclical rather than reinforcing the economic cycle. by keeping to the exigencies of a yearly balanced budget. The current discussions about accrual accounting for government are meant to deal with some of the same problems.

More and better information was produced through introduction of an initially voluntary and later government-wide program-based results-focussed management information system with an evaluation component, PMIS. A Massachusetts innovation, it concentrated on strengthening management and control by line managers rather than enhancing central command and control (Chapter 1).

For the first time a Canadian government forecast its economic activity by building computer-based models. The Planning Bureau in Executive Council built the model of the Saskatchewan economy. While first, the macroeconomic model of the province did not work very well, due to data limitations. Tax and Fiscal Policy in the Department of Finance built a model of the personal income tax system. While Ontario had a personal tax model before Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan's model was better.

Like other governments, beginning in the late 1960s, and coming into its own during the Blakeney government, debt for the crown corporations and lending to cover the costs of the early months of the fiscal year for the government were actively managed. While international borrowing was not unusual, Saskatchewan arranged two Swiss franc bond issues in 1982 that were swapped to US dollars. These were the first currency swap (derivative) transactions by anyone in Canada, government or private sector and among the first by anyone in any market (chapter 2).

Comprehensive disclosure of the financial dealings of the government was an objective of the government (chapter 2). Disclosure had earlier been enhanced by the Canadian government with introduction of Part III of the Estimates, departmental-level reports on activities and plans. The Saskatchwan efforts focussed on better global reporting of government and Crown corporation activities and use of resources. Loans, tax expenditures and crown corporation activities were reported. To this day, governments rarely report tax expenditures. An annual report on the crown corporations and another on the Heritage Fund were produced. Net budgetting was replaced with gross budgetting, thus revealing the true costs of subsidized programs, in particular those cost-shared with the federal government. A more complete forecast of revenues and a profile of the economy was included with each budget. Together they painted a much more complete picture of the government's dealings. Although not required by legislation, the provincial auditor was asked to review crown corporations, CIC and the Heritage Fund as well as the Consolidated Fund.

Pension Management Innovations

The Saskatchewan government confronted its unfunded pension commitments-under the Workers' Compensation Fund and under the public service, teachers' and utilities' pension funds. The province changed compensation under the Workers' Compensation Fund from specific payments for specific injuries, as insurance companies provided, to payment for lost income, and limited the commitment to widows and widowers without dependents who remarried to two years instead of lifetime compensation. This latter change, which represented a significant loss to spouses, especially widows, was adopted by all provinces within a few years. A court action in 1999 in Saskatchewan sought to reverse this action. The changes to the pension plan had two unique characteristics. First, both employee and employer contributions were deposited in a fund which was invested in the money markets, with all interest going to the fund. Saskatchewan adopted this innovation in 1977, the Government of Canada for the Canada Pension Plan in 1998, effective 2000. Second, all the public sector pension funds were converted from traditional defined-benefit to money-purchase plans. The advantage to the government was that the fund was pay-as-you-go and so, although the government's contribution had to be paid out front, its commitment was known, fulfilled, and limited. This shifted the future liability from the government to employees. It was a huge step that has had a significant impact on Saskatchewan's long-term balance sheet and fiscal health. No other provincial government has done this or even tried to do it since.

Service Delivery Mechanisms

A number of new service delivery models were developed. The notion of leveraging other government programs and creating partnerships to support government programs was introduced.

Workplace health and safety was augmented through introduction of a new model, joint employer-employee workplace health and safety committees. Health and safety issues were identified and dealt with in the workplace, with the department acting as a negotiating and scientific resource to the committees. The provincial government provided laboratory services and loaned specialized scientific equipment to the committees. Combined with the right to refuse unsafe work, this model empowered both employer and employee, but especially employees. (Sass, 1997: 150-166)

Another new service delivery model was the province's strategy for controlling the cost of drugs through bulk buying for the entire province. The Government of Canada had initiated bulk buying for the limited federal and provincial drug programs, that funded drugs for Status Indians and those on welfare, during the 1960s, but the federal government had dropped its program by the early 1970s. The Saskatchewan program was much more global.

A fourth new delivery mode was the introduction of a developmental work program for those on welfare. Unlike the Poor Houses of Victorian England or the work for welfare program of the Government of Ontario, this voluntary program offered participants a large range of support to help them participate in the workforce. (Stewart and Flynn, 1997)

A fifth example of a new service model was the way Saskatchewan developed its community colleges. They were community organizations, developed with the assistance of provincially-employed program development staff. No capital funds were provided; rather, they rented facilities in the local community, and programming was established and largely contracted for by community boards (Walker, 1997), who employed community experts to deliver the programming. The model was somewhat like the Literacy New Brunswick model, but funding was provided for rental space in Saskatchewan.

A new financial services delivery model was created. The Saskatchewan Development Fund was a mutual fund in which Saskatchewanians could invest. This fund increased the funds available for purchase of Saskatchewan government bonds and Treasury bills and also provided some funding for Saskatchewan-based corporations.

The government served the interested public in a new way when it held the Bayda Inquiry in the late 1970s. The inquiry facilitated participation by northerners by holding hearings in the North, as the federal government's Northern Pipeline Inquiry had done. It added the feature of the production of summaries of the proceedings in order to assist the public, including northerners, to follow the debates.

Alternate Service Delivery (Crown Corporation) Innovations

According to the federal Treasury Board, crown corporations are one form of alternate service delivery (Treasury Board, 1995: 3). Alternate service delivery is:

... the most appropriate means of providing programs, activities, services and functions to achieve government objectives. This concept includes a wide range of instruments and arrangements used directly by government or in cooperation with others sectors. (Treasury Board, 1995: 13)

The Saskatchewan government used the crown corporation mode of alternate service delivery substantially.

The most important crown corporation innovation was the creation of a holding company to retain the equity of (almost) all crown corporations. Other provinces adopted looser controls (Alberta and Ontario) or greater controls that were not successfully implemented (Manitoba). Only Saskatchewan created a workable Lateral Relations Model that successfully balanced control and autonomy (Waller, 1997; Stevens, 1993).

While some governments with a sizable crown sector have established central groups for managing or at least monitoring their crown sectors, none has yet addressed how they will oversee their alternate service delivery agencies. A challenge awaits them, to balance freedom and innovation with accountability.

For the first time in Canada, perhaps elsewhere as well, the Saskatchewan government enhanced its accountability to the public for the crown corporation sector by disclosing its finances in the crown corporation sector in a manner parallel to what it did in the Consolidated Fund sector. Saskatchewan was the first government to introduce standardized fiscal periods in the entire crown sector, allowing for preparation of one set of books and the publication of consolidated financial statements for the full crown corporation sector. Saskatchewan's unique crown sector financial disclosures and consolidated reporting were especially appreciated by the financial houses when Saskatchewan sought funding for expansion of its resource crowns. These approaches were, however, subsequently challenged by the Opposition and the methods were subsequently changed by the next government, following a review by the Wolff Commission published in 1982. (Waller, 1997)

Service Coordination Innovation

The government solved some serious coordination problems, many of which are shared by other governments.

Saskatchewan developed a methodology for helping companies proposing economic development projects to navigate the intricacies of approvals required from many different government departments. Developers faced the need for a variety of permits and authorizations from a number of government departments, including urban or rural affairs (land use), environment, agriculture, labour, industry, economic development, executive council and others. Manoeuvring this maze and avoiding surprises was difficult for both proponents and public servants. For the first time in Canada, the government created an instrument to permit developers one-stop entry and no-wrong-point entry into the government approval process. The proponent could approach any agency whose approval was required for the project, and that agency would take the project to an interdepartmental committee with representation from all of the departments involved. The committee would review the project and identify all of the authorizations required, then inform the proponent of the permits required and the agencies with which it must deal. While this service was available, it did not make much real difference for proponents.

The provincial government introduced comprehensive strategies, sometimes coordinated by special secretariats (Blakeney and Borins, 1998). The government's preventive health initiative looked at health issues comprehensively: Demonstration projects were established addressing the cross-section of risks faced by population groups. Children's health was served through a school health program, a child and youth safety program (Glor, 1989), a pre-natal nutrition program, and a pre- and post-natal counselling program for urban Indian and native women. The latter program was run by a native women's community-based association (Glor, 1987). Seniors were served by a community-based comprehensive seniors' health and social program (Glor, l99l). Health Canada has begun to adopt comprehensive strategies through its population health approach, and has introduced a prenatal nutrition program (established 1994) and a children's health program, Brighter Futures, for the population-at-large (Brighter Futures, 1992) and for aboriginal children (1994).

Based on stakeholder consultations and a provincial conference, a comprehensive approach was taken to urban Indian and native issues in the form of the Social Planning Initiative, managed by the Social Planning Secretariat (Glor, 1997a). The programs growing out of this initiative focussed in particular on education, as recommended by aboriginal people, and included a community schools initiative, a native career development program, and special training programs for native teachers, social workers and lawyers. The Metis Gabriel Dumont Institute and Status Indian post-secondary educational institutions at the community college and university levels were established. In the justice area a fine option program allowed people to work off fines rather than be imprisoned for non-payment of fines: Those being imprisoned for fines were primarily Indian and Metis people. Native court workers were created to mediate for aboriginal people with the courts. Community development was enhanced through core funding and program grants to aboriginal organizations. Health was promoted through all of these programs and through a pre- and post-natal health program for aboriginal women. Outside the Initiative, other programs provided funding for economic development and housing for aboriginal people.

In a different form of coordination, Saskatchewan found a means to serve the geographically vast, resource rich but small, mainly aboriginal populations of the north. As Canada and Manitoba had done before it, the Saskatchewan government coordinated northern development by creating one department responsible for almost all government functions in the north. These functions included transportation and highways, public works, education, health and social services. A few services remained provincial, such as justice, policing (RCMP), and continuing education. Unlike other governments that established northern jurisdictions, Saskatchewan accompanied creation of the department with a major infusion of resources. The Department of Northern Saskatchewan (DNS) was created as a temporary agency, on the understanding that once this major infusion of attention and resources had been completed, the improved infrastructure had been put in place, the north had become better developed and incremental resources had become part of the funding base, special attention would no longer be required. At this point the functions would be turned over to local governments or would return to regular line departments. The creation of DNS was thus seen as a transitory measure, to accomplish a goal. It was in fact abolished soon after the Conservatives came to power, although the goals had not yet been fully achieved.

Human Resource Management Innovations

In the human resource management domain, the emphasis was on developing staff and producing good information rather than on control of staff or management. The government introduced a non-government affirmative action and employment equity program, that required the crown corporations and the Cluff Lake and Key Lake uranium mines to employ aboriginal and northern people. Saskatchewan appointed the second female deputy minister in Canada, after Ontario in the 1960s, following with three others, more than any other government during this period. Late in its mandate the government established an executive development program, modelled in part on the Canadian government program. To provide it with better information and advice, the government established the first collective bargaining unit in Canada, responsible for monitoring the whole public sector and providing advice to the Cabinet Committee on Collective Bargaining. This was needed because the provincial public sector was so large.

Internal Correlates of Innovation

The hypothesis that putting in place a specific set of internal structures and management solutions is the best approach in creating innovation can be tested for the Saskatchewan process by considering the relevance of the internal correlates of innovation identified by other authors for the Saskatchewan environment of the 1970s. Twenty-eight correlates and processes of innovativeness identified in eight publications were identified in the Introduction, Table 1. A number of the variables are mentioned by several authors, such as the communication channels, the availability of resources, personal and organizational objectives being closely aligned, the institutionalization of innovative policies, incremental innovation, and the central role of management in fostering innovation.

These characteristics of innovativeness were assessed for their relevance to the Saskatchewan government. Each correlate was found to be both applicable to Saskatchewan in the 1970s and was judged by the author to be a valuable way of looking at innovation in the Saskatchewan case and to have been implemented by Saskatchewan in some form. For example, what the innovation was, the communication channels used, whether there were time pressures, who the members of the government were and what they were like, and whether resources were available all seemed appropriate questions to ask and to track-albeit each would require a large amount of work to understand. From the perspective of the eight authors who studied innovation, the conclusion could be drawn that the Blakeney government had created the internal correlates of innovation.

Besides the factors identified by other authors, two variables can be added from the Saskatchewan experience-comprehensive planning and transformational innovation. Comprehensive planning was needed to organize to address issues on a government-wide basis. None of the other cases identified examples of transformational innovation, but the Saskatchewan government did, for example taking control of the potash industry and empowering aboriginal people and people on welfare. Nonetheless, as with other governments, Saskatchewan's primary strategy was incrementalism.

What is most striking in examining the variables other authors have identified is the limited overlap across authors and the resulting length of the list. If these were the factors that made successful innovation possible, then addressing these issues or having these characteristics should presumably make a government innovative. Such a long list of management factors, all of which can be identified in Saskatchewan, does not shed much light on how a government was able to be innovative. The variation from one author to another suggests that good public administration rather than specific administrative correlates may be a necessary but not a sufficient condition for innovation. The limits of an internal correlates of innovation approach is thus revealed: While it was asserted that specific approaches were needed, which, if any, elements were key to successful innovation was not discovered.

Was Saskatchewan Planning and Implementation Innovative? The substantial number of administrative innovations introduced identify Saskatchewan as a process innovator as well as a policy innovator. The nature of the process innovations introduced by the Saskatchewan government is an indication of the kind of problems an innovative government as opposed to a government introducing a limited number of innovations faces. The government created many opportunities to address its social justice and economic development objectives through its policy innovations. Its processes focussed on developing the structures, resources and ethics it needed to innovate. The processes emphasized creating thorough and horizontal pictures of the government's problems, programs and progress. This information was used both internally to the government and for reporting to the public. The processes stabilized the financial environment, created the economic institutions needed, developed people, and coordinated efforts.

With the distance of time, it is not always easy to understand the meaning, character, magnitude and impact of changes-and in particular, the choices that have been made in the past. To add to a sense of perspective on the impact of Blakeney government process innovations, Table 2 compares four delivery mechanism innovations introduced by the Blakeney government to alternate possibilities identified then or since. The health and safety and work for welfare programs were more empowering than the current employer-control focus of many workplace quality and work for welfare programs. Of course, this is partly due to current values and politics: a redefinition of quality programs has occurred in much of North America, to make them more congruent with voluntaristic thinking. Rather than emphasizing participation and empowerment of employees, they are being used as techniques for solving downsizing problems and reinforcing control by employers. Employers identify that there will be reductions in staff, for example, and employees figure out how best to cope with the results. The benefits of increasing employee control and involvement is clear to Japanese companies in terms of quality of product; there are also important benefits to be realized in terms of employee health (Epp, 1986; Marmot and Feeney, 1996).

Table 2: Innovative Delivery Mechanisms

Innovation Sask Innovation Option #1 Option #2
Health and safety regulation in the workplace Plant floor, joint worker-employer delivered health and safety program (potential for prevention). Organic-grew out of the workplace. Traditional: employer-delivered, full employer responsibility & control Self-regulated, employer- delivered, enforcement through professional/industry association; linked to quality control (prevention).
Deal with unfunded pension liabilities Fully funded plans for Workers' Compensation, public service superannuation, teachers' & crown corporation employees' pensions. Money management (invest employees' or employees' and employers' contributions in markets). Reduce benefits, later age of retirement, increase fees, scooping of surpluses by employer.
Control costs of drugs Province-wide purchase for all residents Federal: country-wide buying for all provincial public health and welfare programs. Federal: Prescription drug price monitoring agency
Work and welfare Developmental program to encourage long-term welfare recipients to develop work skills and work experience. Ontario- work for welfare: compulsory community or private sector service in order to qualify for welfare.
Community colleges Funded as community organizations without capital budget or permanent staff Deprofessionalize:

- Fund community agencies to deliver training through non-professionals

-Use teachers' aides (school boards)/teaching assistants (universities) extensively

Electronic distance learning: videos of teachers reused without compensation.

Concern with social justice in the Blakeney government was reflected in innovations such as the efforts to control drug costs and the approach to work and welfare. Locking pensions in earlier and investing them in the marketplace may have meant larger pensions for public servants than the original system would have provided but it may also limit pensions if economic performance is poor. Other innovations did not have as clear a focus on social justice. The reduction in support for widows (primarily) under the workers' compensation plan, for example, reduced income compensation for widows and widowers who remarried. The conflicting concerns for social justice and financial frugality had their positive and negative consequences for people and their well-being. De-professionalizing much of the teaching in community colleges reduced the job market for teachers. (3) The government's objective was to improve service while saving money-an objective many governments share today. It achieved some success in doing so-thus the Saskatchewan government found innovative ways to introduce social justice concerns into government programming in a fiscally conservative environment.

While the Blakeney government introduced many administrative innovations in keeping with its philosophy, there were areas where it could have been more innovative and was not: The development of DNS and its lack of enthusiasm for participation in development of the Northlands Agreement, for example. This attitude was most dominant in the economically focussed departments. The federal government had a stronger sense of the need for consultation in this form than the Blakeney government did at the time.


Chapter 9 considered some of the ways in which the voluntary approach to innovation can be understood as planning and implementation in the case of the Saskatchewan government of the 1970s. Voluntary analyses were conducted.

The government could be seen as deliberately planning and implementing its program and developing the skills it needed. Saskatchewan adopted a substantial number of administrative innovations, and can be considered administratively innovative for having done so. Its implementation strategies, likewise, created the correlates of innovation. The voluntaristic approach to innovation was found lacking, however, in that it did not make clear what was key to the success of innovation in Saskatchewan.

Just as this chapter dealt with the voluntary aspects of innovation in Saskatchewan, chapter 10 describes innovation in Saskatchewan from a deterministic viewpoint.


1. The popularity of the word management grows out of voluntarism.

2. Although Laux and Molot ascribe the lack of revenues from potash to the CCF as well as the Liberals, John Burton, who was directly involved, indicated that: "Laux and Molot are wrong .... The CCF government did guarantee royalty rates to 1981 for the two companies that overcame the water problem in the mines. Later, they extended it to all other new mines to 1974. Thatcher's Liberal government was so anxious to get development that they extended these low royalties to 1981 to all companies that commenced development and threatened to deny this guarantee if they didn't commence by an unspecified date "soon". The consequence was that an oversupply developed when all of these mines came on stream which led to the crisis in 1969." Email to the author dated September 23, 1998

3. De-professionalizing dental care in the Children's Dental Program did not have the same effect, at least in the short term, because there was a shortage of dentists in the province.

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Last updated: December 6 2013