The Innovation Journal: The Public Sector Innovation Journal, 5(2), 2000, article 1f10.


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: Chapter 9 Top: Table of Contents Next: Conclusion

Chapter 10:

Determinism: Innovation as Emergent


Eleanor Glor


Chapter 9 considered the innovation process in Saskatchewan in terms the dimension of voluntary change. Wilson (1992) suggests a second perspective for looking at change, that addresses innovation as determined-emergent and a process. This perspective is described in the Introduction.



A determinant theory focuses on antecedent factors and processes, and sees innovation as emergent and a process. While the factors that determine what happens can be identified and examined, it is much more difficult to claim they cause or can predict what will happen. Despite the discomfort this approach is likely to create for those living in the current government environment, dominated by voluntarism, (1) this approach opens a different window on the perception of reality, and acknowledges more uncertainty.

The Trait of Innovativeness

Traits can be both absolute and comparative: An organization either does or does not have a trait, but it can also have more or less of a trait than other organizations. In this chapter the trait of innovativeness is explored in three ways-absolutely, comparatively and in terms of historical determinants.

The Saskatchewan government of 1971-82 introduced at least 126 policy (Glor, 1997a) and 34 administrative innovations as indicated in chapter 9 as an innovator or initiator (first) or early adopter (second or third). Can it therefore be characterized as an administratively innovative-as having the trait of innovativeness? Was it more innovative than other governments? To try to answer these absolute and comparative questions, Saskatchewan is assessed in terms of what it did, what other governments did and what the Saskatchewan government could have been expected to do. A comparative approach moves away from the case-by-case analysis of the planned approach that asks only whether a government had adopted a particular innovation, to explore whether and where administrative innovation emerges. It therefore allows observers to address why innovation emerges where it does.

The trait of innovativeness is addressed by reviewing comparative research on administrative innovation in other governments, identifying the numbers of administrative innovations in Saskatchewan and in other governments, designing a method for assessing what Saskatchewan could have been expected to do and drawing a conclusion about whether Saskatchewan was innovative. It addresses the comparative issue in innovation.

What Kinds of Governments are Innovative?

Much of the American literature on innovation, particularly in the policyfield, where it has been studied most, concluded that governments with the trait of largeness were more likely to be innovative. Mohr (1969), a Canadian who studied in the US, examined public health innovations in the several American states and the Province of Ontario. He found that big organizations-in both the private and public sector-innovated most, because of the resources available to them. Using a broad definition of innovation (2), and limiting her study to three areas of policy, education, welfare and civil rights, Gray (1973) concluded that in the USA innovative states were richer and more competitive in the areas of education and civil rights. Walker, who also studied policies, found that "larger, industrialized, wealthier states adopted new programs somewhat more rapidly than smaller, less well-developed states" (Walker, 1969: 884). Thompson (1965-66, 1976) and Barzelay (1992) concluded that bureaucracy, the predominant organizational model for governments, stifles innovation and creativity generally. Based on their analyses, very little innovation would be expected in governments anywhere. Poel researched Canadian provincial policy innovations. His data revealed that a small Canadian province, Saskatchewan, was more innovative in policy areas than were the large provinces from the 1940s to the mid 1970s (Poel, 1976). Glor (1998a) also found that Saskatchewan was more innovative in policy than large provinces from 1971-82. Thus the policy innovation literature produced contradictory results on the subject of whether governments exhibiting the trait of largeness or smallness were greater policy innovators.

The size of public sectors adopting administrative innovations has been studied as well over the last 30 years. In the USA a Rand Corporation review of 140 published case studies of technological innovations in state and local services, for example, concentrated on the success of innovations. Using a cross-tabular and a multivariate analysis, it found that one of the factors supporting success was large and wealthy communities. All of the background factors together, however, including centralization, formalization, a rich innovative environment, an agency history of innovation, a large community and a wealthy community, only accounted for 14% of the variance (Yin et. al., 1977: 67-85).

Comparative study of administrative innovation has not been a common subject of research in Canada. Table 1 compares the findings of studies by Borins and Gow with the results of this study, outlined in chapter 9, Table 1. In Learning from Others James Iain Gow described fifteen administrative innovations introduced between 1960 and 1990 by Canadian federal and provincial governments. Noting the innovations were identified subjectively and the list was imperfect and inevitably incomplete, he developed innovation scores for the governments that implemented the fifteen innovations (Gow, 1994: 80-87). Although Gow identified some exceptions in his literature review, such as Poel's highlighting of Saskatchewan, and noted the unusual place of New Brunswick on his list, he concluded that the federal government was more administratively innovative than other governments: The federal government introduced six of the fifteen innovations Gow reviewed. (3) (Gow, 1994: 75). Gow concluded that size, complexity, communications and openness favoured innovation while centralization and formalism hindered it (Gow, 1994: 4). In his survey of Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC) members, Gow found that federal, provincial and municipal public servants typically looked to senior managers and central agencies to initiate administrative innovations, rather than initiating innovation themselves (Gow, 1994: xvi and chapter 2). Despite the seeming coexistence in the federal government, accordingly, of a factor that should favour innovation-large size, and one that should hinder it-centralization, Gow concluded that the federal government was the level of government and the specific government most likely to introduce administrative innovations in Canada (Gow, 1994: 75) and that size and wealth of governments were good predictors of administrative innovativeness (Gow, 1994: 125).

Table 1: Canadian Studies of Administrative Innovation and Early Adoption

Author Borins 1994-95 (IPAC Innovation Award) Gow 1994 Glor (current study)
Type of Innovation management administration administration
Period 1989-95 1960s-1990s 1971-82
Number of Cases 45* 15 34
How Innovators Identified Participant observers plus peer review Identified by author with expert advice Identified by author with expert advice from participant observers from Sask. & other governments
Region Covered Canada Canada Canada

Note: Gow treated PEMS, PPBS and Zero-Based Budgeting as three innovations. I treat them as one, and include Saskatchewan's version of a program-based budgeting system, with an evaluation component, the Program Management Information System (PMIS) as part of that grouping of innovations, rather than as an innovation.

* An analysis has not been made of how many real innovations were involved. It was assumed that each award was for an innovation or early adoption.

Source: Glor, 1998a

The trait of administrative innovativeness has also been studied in Canada, through the main comparative data base the IPAC Innovation Award. Although the IPAC award winners were self-nominated, and the criteria for innovativeness were not necessarily consistent, there was wide participation in the award program from Canadian governments at all levels, and the members of the award committees were well-informed senior public servants from a wide range of governments. Sandford Borins studied administrative innovation through innovation awards in Canada and the USA, but he did not consider the issue of traits, focussing instead on the initiators, obstacles, and types of innovation-in other words, voluntary issues. (Borins, 1994, 1998). Glor (1998a) studied the IPAC Award data base comparatively.

An updated review of the 947 IPAC Innovation Award nominations from 1990 to 1999 reveals the only picture available of government innovation in Canada during the 1990s, bearing in mind that the theme was different each year. When winning a medal is used as a marker of the trait of innovativeness, Ontario was the most innovative government, winning 23% of the awards, followed by Alberta and Canada (tied), then British Columbia. The other large government, Quebec, also won a substantial number of awards. Overall the large governments, including the large municipalities, won 100% of the first places and 87% of the 30 medals awarded. The only other provinces to win medals were Saskatchewan and New Brunswick. The Government of Canada realized a total of 5 of 30-17%-of medals and submitted 31% of the nominations. (Table 2) If a less demanding definition of innovativeness is used, and both medalists and finalists-i.e. recognized innovators-are included in the measurement of innovativeness, then among senior governments PEI is added to the list, along with the NWT, the medium-sized municipality of Calgary and the small municipalities of Nanaimo, Frontenac County Board of Education, and the Township of Pittsburgh, both in Ontario. The most frequent winners, including finalists, were Canada, Ontario and B.C. (Table 2). This analysis of medalists and finalists supports the contentions of the American literature and Gow that large governments were more innovative than small ones but does not highlight the federal government the way Gow's study did. The federal government has been acknowledged much more frequently in recent IPAC awards, so a change may be under way. The unexpected appearance of Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island on the list suggests they may have been somewhat innovative as well, and reflects their reputations for being so.

Table 2: IPAC Innovation Award Winners by Level of Government, 1990-99

Govt 1st 2nd 3rd Finalist Total Recogd # Entries
BC 1995 1993 1991 1992 1999, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1994, 1993, 1992, 1991, 1990 13 66
Alta 1999 1998 1993 1990 1994 1999, 1997 7 48
Sask 1995 1990 2 25
Man 0 35
Ont 1994 1992 1997 1992 1998 1996


1999, 1994, 1992, 1992, 1991, 1990, 1990 14 198
Que 1996 1994 1991 1997 4 42
NB 1995 1 17
NS 0 29
PEI 1998 1 6
Nfld 0 14
Total Provs 42 480
Yukon 0 2
NWT 1998 (Nunavut) 1 4
Canada 1999 1998 1996 1997 1993 1999, 1998,1995, 1995, 1994, 1993, 1992, 1991, 1991, 1990 15 292
Montreal 1990 1997 2
Vancouver 1997 1995 2
Toronto 1991 1
Other Municipal 1991 1999


1994, 1997 4
Total Municipal 2 1 1 5 9 162
Total 10 10 10 37 67 940

Sources: Yearly summaries of IPAC Innovation Award nominees, IPAC. 1990-99, Public Sector Management.Toronto: Institute of Public Administration of Canada

Glor, 1998a

Considering only how much each government has been acknowledged does not take account of how innovative each government should have been expected to be. One way of standardizing results across governments is to assume that innovation is a function at least in part of resources, as suggested by the literature. (4) The governments have been standardized for their budgets in Table 3. B.C., Alberta and Ontario were more innovative than would have been expected, B.C. distinctly so. Canada won fewer medals than expected.

Table 3: Standardization of IPAC Acknowledgement of Governments by Budget, 1990-99

Government Grand Total Medals & Finalists (No.) Proportion of Total Govt Expends Total Predicted No. Acknowledgements Innovative?
BC 13 0 3.2 Yes
Alta 7 .040 2.7 Probably
Sask 2 .018 1.2 Probably not
Man 0 .017 1.1 Probably not
Ont 14 .140 9.4 Probably
Que 4 .108 7.2 Probably not
NB 1 .011 .7 Probably not
NS 0 .012 .8 Probably not
PEI 1 .002 .1 Probably
Nfld 0 .009 .6 Probably not
Yukon 0 .001 .1 Probably not
NWT 1 .003 .2 Probably not
Total Provs 39 .410 27.5 Probably
Canada 15 .415 27.8 Probably not
Total Municipal 9 .175 11.7 Probably not
Total 67 1 67

Clearly, one government has not been able to claim the mantle of administrative innovativeness over time, since Gow found the federal government to be the most innovative while the IPAC Innovation Award highlighted British Columbia and primarily acknowledged three large provinces. It is important to emphasize that the time periods covered were different in the Gow and IPAC studies, and included somewhat different topics. As well, large governments have more communication capacity, and therefore may more easily and actively participate in awards.

While the innovativeness of Saskatchewan during the 1970s cannot be assessed on the basis of a data base from the 1990s, the standardized data base can be used to suggest how many administrative innovations could have been expected from an innovative government of Saskatchewan's size. On a comparative basis, should Saskatchewan during the 1970s be considered administratively innovative with 34 innovations?

Was Saskatchewan Innovative?

According to the American literature, Gow and the IPAC awards, the Saskatchewan government would not have been expected to be innovative in either the policy or administrative domains, because large, urban governments were found to be the most innovative. Despite these findings, the small Saskatchewan government had a reputation beginning in the 1940s for policy and administrative innovation and it was again a policy innovator during the 1970s and early 1980s (Poel, 1976; Glor, 1997). During both periods it had social democratic governments.

Saskatchewan introduced a substantial number of administrative innovations from 1971-82: 25 initiations (first) and nine early adoptions (second or third) (Chapter 9, Table 1). While Saskatchewan was the initiator for 89% of the 126 policy innovations, in the administrative domain Saskatchewan introduced 74% of the practices first. It was an active innovator and early adopter in both the policy and administrative domains. Because the Saskatchewan government introduced or was an early adopter for 34 administrative innovations from 1971-82, a substantial number, it can be regarded as an administratively innovative government.

But was Saskatchewan more or less innovative than other governments? On an absolute level, how many administrative innovations does an innovative government introduce? Comparing how many innovations the most innovative Canadian governments reported in the literature introduced reveals that Gow's most innovative government, Canada, introduced six of the 15 innovations identified from the 1960s to the early 1990s while IPAC's most recognized innovative governments-Canada, Ontario and B.C.-were recognized (medalist or finalist) for 15, 14 and 13 innovations respectively out of a total of 67. (5) The same recognized IPAC governments were also the most nominated-Canada 292 times, Ontario 198 times, BC 66 times. They perceived of themselves as innovative. No Saskatchewan innovations were acknowledged in the Gow study, two were recognized by IPAC, out of 25 nominations, and 34 innovations were acknowledged (6) in Is Innovation a Question of Will or Circumstance?

These comparisons are somewhat problematic, however. They lack comparability (7), due to differences in government size, time frames and study design. The Gow and Glor studies both identified the initiator, during overlapping but not identical periods (Table 4). The criteria for the IPAC Award did not require a submission to be the first time an innovation was introduced, while the Gow and Glor studies did. The IPAC Award covered a different time period-1990-99-and did not allow all innovations to be nominated each year-it set broad themes for its competitions. However, innovations could be renominated. Since the award was adjudicated, and the criteria usually referred in some way to newness, it can reasonably be assumed that the recognized projects were relatively new. All three data bases were reviewed by third parties. Although the size of the universe of innovations is not known, on the basis that the studies outlined here have set some boundaries on the absolute numbers of administrative innovations and early adoptions introduced by administratively innovative governments in Canada, the Saskatchewan government of the 1970s could be considered administratively innovative.

Table 4: Comparison of Gow 1960-94 and Glor 1971-82 Administrative Innovations


Number of Innovations (1st)

Amongst 1st three (1st, 2nd, 3rd)

Gow Gow Rank Glor Glor Rank Gow Gow Rank Glor Glor Rank
Canada 6 1 4 2 9 1 12 2
Ont 4 2 3 3 8 2 3 3
Que 0 0 5 3 1 4
Alta 2 4 1 4 4 4 2 4
BC 3 3 1 4 6 5 0
NB 1 5 0 4 6 1
Sask 0 25 1 3 7 34 1
NS 1 5 0 1 8 0
Man 0 0 1 9 1 4
Nfld 0 0 2 0
PEI 0 0 0 0
Total 17 34 41 52

Source: Current study and Gow, 1994, Table 3.4, p.82.

These studies are not strictly comparable as they cover different years and neither author sought out all Canadian innovations. Still, the studies overlap by eleven years and it is interesting to compare who each author identified as innovators.

The innovations identified in the Gow study were introduced from 1960 to 1994, 34 years. Those identified in the Glor study covered 1971-82, 11 years.

Drawing a conclusion about whether the Saskatchewan government of the 1970s was more or less innovative than a specific government of the same period would be impossible, among other reasons because the Saskatchewan government was so much smaller than the ones acknowledged by Gow and IPAC. Standardized results might help (Table 3). While the innovativeness of Saskatchewan during the 1970s cannot be assessed on the basis of a data base from the 1990s, the standardized data base can be used to suggest how many administrative innovations could have been expected from an innovative government of Saskatchewan's size during the 1970s. Saskatchewan during the 1990s would have been expected to be acknowledged once, and was recognized twice. While Saskatchewan during the 1990s would probably not be considered administratively innovative on the basis of the IPAC award, as a consequence, during the 1970s it probably was. It can be deduced that the Saskatchewan government of 1971-82, by introducing at least 25 innovations and nine early adoptions was more administratively innovative than expected. The results cannot be compared systematically to those of other provinces during the same time period, since there is no comprehensive administrative innovations data base.

The trait of administrative innovativeness was attributed to Saskatchewan but the comparative issue was not settled in this analysis.

Historical Determinants

The trait of innovativeness can also be considered to have been determined historically.

As demonstrated in Glor (1997a) and the previous section, respectively, the Saskatchewan government of 1971-82 was a policy and administrative innovator. Policy Innovation in the Saskatchewan Public Sector (1997a) spoke of the history of Saskatchewan as a determinant of the government's capacity to be innovative but emphasized will and planning. Gruending (1990) emphasized the Premier's role, while Harding (1995), focussed on the role of state capitalism and a technocratic civil service in defining the nature of the Blakeney government, discussed social, economic, environmental and political determinants. He analysed the relationship between the policies set by the NDP and those set by the government. Although it covered an earlier period, the most substantial discussion of Saskatchewan determinants was Seymour Martin Lipset's Agrarian Socialism. He argued that a particular set of circumstances led to formation of an socialist ethic among Saskatchewan 's grain farmers and that this led to formation of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation. When large portions of the grain farmers began to vote Conservative under Prime Minister Diefenbaker, the CCF/NDP lost its political base, according to Lipset (1968). Some consideration has clearly been given to the impact of history, individuals and the social, economic and political environment on the Blakeney government. This section looks briefly at a few of these factors.

Social and Economic Context in Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan is a relatively small, poor province, with a population that has remained stable since the Great Depression of the 1930s at about one million. Its people have suffered hardship and isolation, particularly during the economic depression of the 1930s. Out of this has grown a need and a desire to deal with problems. An openness to new ideas developed out of this environment, they were nurtured in social, political and religious movements, and facilitated by exposure to others' thinking brought on by extensive in- and out-migration. Many Saskatchewanians have developed a sense of providing leadership, of playing on a stage larger than the boundaries of the Province of Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan leaders have been especially prominent in showing the way for social programs and the positive use of public ownership in Canada. They have become national leaders in aboriginal organizations, in cooperatives, and in the political domain, especially in the CCF and NDP.

A Sense of Being Leaders

In 1971 Saskatchewan already boasted the first jurisdiction in North America to introduce a bill of rights, hospital insurance, medicare, a universal prescription drug program, an air ambulance service, commercial Crown corporations, provincial automobile insurance, a rural electrification program, a province-wide (bus) transportation system, and one of, perhaps the first, merit-based provincial civil services in Canada. Under CCF and NDP leadership the province employed public ownership and Crown corporations to support the provincial economy, create jobs, generate provincial revenue, and generally assert control over resource and commercial industries and the economy.

Non-CCF/NDP Saskatchewan governments, too, perceived themselves as leaders within Canada. The Liberals under Ross Thatcher, 1964-71, portrayed themselves in two elections, 1964 and 1967, as the bastion against socialism in Canada. The Progressive Conservative government of Grant Devine established the first pension plan in Canada for homemakers, small business people, part-time employees and self-employed workers (Baron and Jackson, 1991, p. 151).

While populist leaders, including Progressive Conservative Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, emerged on the political right, it was the left that demonstrated a particular appeal in the province. M. J. Coldwell and Tommy Douglas, both politically active in Saskatchewan, became leaders of the federal CCF and NDP. Saskatchewan elected a disproportionate number of CCF and NDP Members of Parliament compared to other provinces. Provincially the CCF and NDP have been either the government or the official opposition in Saskatchewan since 1934 (McLeod and McLeod, 1987, p. 55).

Specific constituencies within the province have also shown initiative and national influence. Recent events have highlighted the salience of aboriginal peoples' concerns in Canada. Saskatchewanians John Tootoosis, Noel Starblanket, David Ahenikew, Sol Sanderson, Roy Bird, Wayne McKenzie, Clem Chartier and Jim Sinclair played important national roles in Indian and Metis politics and national organizations.

Another illustration of Saskatchewan people providing national leadership in seeking venturesome replies to oppressive conditions arose among the farming community. A consumer and farmer cooperative movement developed in Saskatchewan during the 1910s and 1920s, and played an important role in both the economy and in politics. The farmer cooperative movement was a strong element in the United Farmer and Progressive parties during the 1920s; many members transferred their allegiance to the CCF during the 1930s, thereby forming one of the cornerstones of the CCF rise to power.

By the 1970s the Saskatchewan cooperatives had matured. They were still the strongest cooperative movement in the country, although coops were also strong elsewhere, especially in Quebec, the Atlantic provinces and the North. (8) By 1989 Canadian cooperatives including insurance companies had cumulative assets of $105.9 billion, total employment of 70,000 (Quarter, 1992, p. x), and were a notable economic force.

In Saskatchewan consumer cooperatives were developed to assure people living in areas with small or monopolistic private sectors the opportunity to have access to competitively marketed goods and a wider range of goods, with any profits retained by the consumers. Cooperatives also represented a consumers' movement to many, especially the CCF members.

Saskatchewan's marketing cooperatives, on the other hand, were created to gain some control over domestic and international staples markets, and the low and variable prices of the staple goods produced on the prairies. The Canadian Wheat Board, a compulsory national marketing agency for both domestically consumed and exported Canadian wheat, was created during the 1940s due to pressure from the Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba Wheat Pools. By the 1970s the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, a voluntary marketing cooperative for grain, was the largest business in the Province. In the financial cooperatives, too, Saskatchewanians played important roles. Bill Knight, former assistant to Alan Blakeney, for example, became head of Credit Union Central of Canada (Canadian Cooperative Association). Overall Saskatchewan played an active role in cooperative movements in Canada.

In an economy where farm income represented over 30% of commodity income, agricultural cooperatives had a major impact. Net farm income had varied between $371 million and $480 million between 1962 and 1967, then fell to $168 million in 1969. The years leading up to the election of the NDP government of Allan E. Blakeney were ones of bad harvests and poor crop prices, typical of the boom/bust Saskatchewan economy.

The Political Context

It was against this background of scarcity, a poorly performing economy, and a tradition of national leadership that the Saskatchewan NDP of the late 1960s and early 1970s developed its policies. The NDP held a special place in history. Robert L. Heilbroner in The Making of Economic Society identified a reformist force that "brought an impetus for social change and a widened agenda for discussion" in Europe and Canada. He suggested the "driving force for change" that enlarged the "conception of what a society might achieve" was a democratic socialist party (Heilbroner, 1975: 286). The Saskatchewan social democratic party, the CCF/NDP, played a key role in creating and promoting an innovative, major change agenda.

The NDP agenda was hammered out at local and provincial party meetings and conventions over many years and outlined in discussion papers and party policies passed at them. Lipset, in his introduction to the 1968 edition of Agrarian Socialism, said of the 1960s Saskatchewan CCF/NDP, " conferences did function as realistic means of communication between sentiment at the rural grass roots and the party summits ... at the same time ... the factors in the Saskatchewan social structure that made for a high level of rural political activity were declining with the improvement in communications and transportation facilities ... grass roots involvement in the formation of party policy (had) been weakened (Lipset, 1968: xx). The NDP government elected in 1971 found its support more in the cities than had the CCF, but it still had a strong agricultural orientation.

The government's policies were encapsulated in the party's 1971 and 1975 election platforms, New Deal for People and New Deal '75. These documents played a key role in setting the government's agenda. The major document, New Deal for People, had been developed by a committee of the party from party policy and a grass roots process among party members that included a dozen local party meetings. Identifying the degradation of agriculture and the related decline of small communities as the most critical issues in the province, it promised to control technology, destructive efforts to achieve economic efficiency, development of large, corporately managed farms; and depopulation of rural Saskatchewan. This was to be accomplished by stabilizing farming, promoting the maximum number of viable family farms, and developing small communities. An NDP government would restrict corporate ownership to family farms and cooperatives, keep farm ownership in Canadian hands, establish a Land Bank Commission, provide capital credit to farmers, enact a farmer's bill of rights, establish a hog marketing board, keep small hospitals open, develop small town housing projects, urge the federal government to take action on matters within its jurisdiction, and so on, for a total of 37 commitments in the area of rural and farm development. In the field of resource and economic development the NDP would assist Saskatchewan people to develop their own resources, maximize benefits for people, assure orderly growth and a healthy environment. It would create a Department of Economic Development; establish a Saskatchewan Development Corporation to mobilize capital for public investment in economic development; prevent further sellout of resources by giving first priority to public ownership through Crown corporations, but also support cooperative ownership and partnerships between government and cooperatives/private developers; scrutinize and if necessary renegotiate royalty and other arrangements; renew renewable resources and conserve non-renewable resources; require business and industry to adhere strictly to environmental policies; support small business; and so on. Additional specific commitments were made in 14 other policy areas, including labour, small business, taxation, education, health, social security and welfare, pollution, and Indian and Metis programs.

The political environment just before the Blakeney government was elected was one where a right-wing, non-interventionist Liberal government had been in power provincially for seven years from 1964 to 1971, while the Diefenbaker Tories (1958-63) and the Pearson (1963-68) and Trudeau (1968-79) Liberals had been in office nationally. During the 1960s the CCF had engaged in an internal struggle over whether to join and change its name to the NDP, resisting this change until 1968, and with its own left-wing, the Waffle. Nationally the NDP was weak during the 1960s, but strengthened leading up to the 1972 election of a minority Liberal minority government. The CCF/NDP made a decent showing in the 1966 provincial election. By 1971, the polarized political environment in Saskatchewan produced another swing to the left. The election of the NDP signalled the people of Saskatchewan's readiness to embark once again on active efforts to address their common needs. Although the electoral base of the NDP in 1971 included a few constituencies from the southern and western large-farm grain belt, by 1975 that support returned largely to the Conservatives. The NDP government of the 1970s was largely a party representing small farmers from the eastern and northern parts of the prairies, urban people, and aboriginal people from the north. Although it had been completely, it was no longer an agrarian socialist party. In a Saskatchewan of substantial differences among the populations of constituencies, with a bias toward the rural, this was not a natural majority, and the NDP was typically only elected when it ran against two opposition parties that split the vote.

Use of the Historical and Personal Perspective

Because this book is written by those who were involved in creating the innovations, it brings both the historical and the personal perspective to bear. Sparks of the personal came through in Will or Circumstance? as old competitions were remembered. On the other hand, too much of a sense of commitment and the rightness of an approach can interfere with the perception of others' realities both in historical and management analysis.

Burton, Kramer and Gentles, Hammersmith and Hauk have each placed themselves in the process they examine. Burton, a former federal Member of Parliament, played a key role in the Potash Secretariat and communication of the potash take-over. Kramer as Minister and Gentles as Deputy Minister managed Saskatchewan Transportation for most of the period covered. Hammersmith was an officer in the Policy and Planning group in DNS, then later its Minister. Snyder was Minister of Labour for most of the period. Each perceived the action that occurred as being under the control of someone but also acknowledged the importance of the broader historical, social, economic and political context. Each saw power and powerful groups as playing a key role. Each also saw Premier Blakeney playing the most important individual role.


Innovation as Process

A focus on process is also an emergent perspective on innovation.

Innovation in Saskatchewan According to the Process Model

Government as an open system is influenced by its environment and influences that environment. The process model as defined by Wilson is outlined in the Introduction. It explores factors interior and exterior to the government as influences on it. A process model does not see implementation of change as the only problem, but takes a broader approach.

An Example of an Open System: Potash. Chapter 4 on potash outlines the process by which the NDP negotiated settlement with the industry over a protracted period of time, finally leading to a decision to nationalize potash. Burton demonstrated the give-and-take, bargaining positions and dynamic interactions within the government, with the industry and with the federal government. The analysis explores what happened as an open system, with factors outside the government playing the major role in determining what happened.

While planning played a role in the process, including communications planning, overall the government did not consider that it used a planned implementation but rather that it was constantly adjusting to changing tactics, and principled and unprincipled action and reaction by other actors. This process eventually led the government to use the threat of nationalization through legislation to force the industry to the table. Only when this legislation was approved did the companies agree to purchase. The mines were purchased, not nationalized, in the end. The Opposition, which supported the industry, accused the government of following a planned process-of intending to nationalize potash from day one, as outlined in its election platform. The government did not see itself as doing so. Perceptions of the process were clearly different among different actors-for political as well as substantive reasons.

An Example of a Process: The Department of Northern Saskatchewan. Chapter 5 about DNS focusses on an implementation process in the Blakeney government. It describes how Cabinet took decisions but the Department failed to implement the intent of the government in empowering the people of the north and creating local government structure. Instead, the department created a traditional structure that integrated-and then only somewhat successfully-most services of government in the North. An interesting story of success and failure in its own right, the chapter emphasizes the government's oft-repeated and clearly stated intent to involve northerners, that was undermined by politics within the department and processes that failed to engage northerners. Through this analysis Hammersmith and Hauk bring out the internal and external determinants of implementation.

Table 5 explores exterior and interior influences on the Blakeney government, emphasizing its functioning as a system in which many factors and actors were at play, bringing specific groups, issues and values to the forefront of the government's and the Premier's attention, engaging the public service, determining their interactions with each other, and influencing the processes, products and impacts of the government.

Table 5: Process (Systems) Analysis: The Political System in the Blakeney Government

Exterior Influences:

Interior Influences:

Interior Relationships:

Processes & Functions

Govt Products

Overall Performance

History of Sask

Type & quality of information

Political, social, bureaucratic networks

Legal context


Optimal or

Culture of Sask

Ministers' opinions

Political opinion of bureaucracy

Implementation processes



Prov & nat. NDP


Bureaucratic opinion of government

Accountability processes

New Crowns

Political Opposition


Relationships among members of Cabinet

Decision-making processes


Stakeholders, interest, client Groups


between Cabinet & MLAs

Budgetary processes

Political culture


among specialists, planners & decision-makers

Social Movements

Political awareness

Intern., nat. & prov. unions


Govt Impacts:

International orgns


Restructuring of economy


Economic dvmt


Increased economic activity


Sustainable dvmt


Social changes



Supposed consequences

Cultural changes


Physical environment

DMs & central agencies

Environmental changes


Technical changes

"Appropriate" political options

Political changes


"Appropriate" options


Structural changes




Federal & prov govts

Ideals & ideology

Sask. elites

Public opinion





Ideals, values

Community envs

Social env

A word about the overall performance of the government. The effort to capture a whole government on one page is of course impossible and could be perceived as both simplistic and full of hubris. On the other hand, it does allow the observer to ask fundamental questions about the impact of the government. The idea that the government's overall performance could ever be optimal is unrealistic to this observer. On further consideration, however, the Blakeney government could perhaps be seen as having achieved optimal performance in two areas that it emphasized: restructuring of the economy, and other structural changes. The government accomplished what it set out to do, and took some initial steps, for example, toward creating Saskatchewan-based industry, developing its hard rock industry, and conserving gas for future use. These were for the most part quickly and easily dismantled by the next government. The Conservatives sold off many of the new crown corporations, and others as well, and subsidized oil and gas development. Although the economy grew very quickly during the Blakeney government, it cannot be demonstrated that it would not have grown faster with purely private sector development instead of joint ventures. The support to northerners, creation of employment with good protection for workers, and collection of economic rents that allowed other social development would likely not have been as good. While it is hard to argue social progress in these areas was optimal, it was certainly better than it would have been under a capitalist regime. Protection of the environment was limited during the Blakeney government, but perhaps better than it would have been under a capitalist regime. The government did not come to grips with the most fundamental Saskatchewan environmental problem, however, the mining of the soil. There was improvement in social programs, especially for aboriginal people, but with the high interest rates and decline of the economy that came with the early 1980s, the social safety net could not keep people's well-being from declining. The main cultural changes parallelled the political ones-a shift from small to large farms, urbanization. Prosperity led to less concern for others, more focus on self-aggrandizement, and a move away from collective values.

Innovation in Saskatchewan According to a Population Ecology Model

In Saskatchewan several populations are of interest to government. These include the government's political party, in competition with other political parties; the set of federal, provincial and territorial governments; and other populations described in chapter 8. The processes of creation/birth, disappearance and transformation apply both to organizations such as HRDA and to innovations such as Land Bank and the Saskatchewan Science Council (Glor, ed., 1997a: 242-245). The Government of Saskatchewan occupied an innovative niche by identifying and being the first to implement many innovations. Other provinces adopted the changes selectively and more or less quickly, and the federal government aided dissemination once progressive provinces had initiated them. (Glor, 1998a) Innovations also occupied niches, such as that of empowering workers as opposed to companies and managers. Compared to the Tommy Douglas government, the Blakeney government entered the new niche of development, processing and marketing of primary resources by government more actively, although the Douglas government had done this first with its sodium sulphate mine. As predicted by niche analysis, the Crown Investments Corporation, with its advertising campaign for the Family of Crown Corporations adopted the same strategies as those of others occupying the niche-other big businesses. The Blakeney government expanded the government niche width to include issues such as Aboriginal education, training and private sector and crown corporation employment programs.

Governments in general need to occupy a broad environmental niche, appealing to a wide sector of the population throughout the province, in order to be elected and continue to be elected: Hence the need to satisfy citizens, interest groups and client groups. This makes the NDP's defeat in 1982 somewhat more understandable as the Conservatives managed to occupy a niche of people who were having a tough economic time by promising new assistance programs and tax cuts for the middle class and farmers. The NDP failed to evolve or transform itself to meet the needs of a large enough population in a deepening recession. In some ways the government had become a specialized organization, occupying a narrow niche with its economic policies, no longer satisfying sufficiently those who cared about social issues, and failing to help sufficiently the personal economic needs of the population.

Saskatchewan's pursuit of innovative strategies can also be seen in the adoption of governmental investment in energy resources during the mid 1970s, in an environment of perceived scarcity of oil and gas and therefore energy generally. This became a sector recipe, and was adopted by all kinds of governments eventually: The Quebec Parti Quebecois, the Ontario Progressive Conservatives and the federal Liberals. The Saskatchewan Progressive Conservative political campaign of 1982, on the other hand, and the federal Progressive Conservative campaign of 1984 followed the Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan recipes of reduced government with great success.

Table 5 presents a systems analysis of the political system of the Blakeney government. Major exterior and interior influences, interior relationships, processes and functions, government products, impacts and overall performance are assessed. The complexity of such an analysis is evident, but its capacity to include many relevant factors is also clear.

The process model differs from the implementation model in the inclusion of and focus on external influences, stakeholders and the effects of the political system on the system.

Innovation in Saskatchewan According to a Life Cycle Model

Another type of open system investigation is a life cycle analysis. It is focussed on the deterministic potency of organizational age and development over time.

The Blakeney government's life cycle can be seen to be:

Entrepreneurial stage: The government's first task was to get elected. The key issue was survival. In 1970 the Saskatchewan NDP fashioned a new, dynamic, inclusive political platform. It was elected in 1971, and made implementation of several of its key strategies a priority, including the creation of DNS.

Collective stage: The organization began to take shape. This stage is emphasized in chapters 1, 2 and 3 of this book. Planners and professional managers were recruited, departments and functions began to be defined. The organization began to establish its position, internal tasks were allocated and who had responsibility and autonomy to carry them out became important. Greater division of labour was established in Finance, Executive Council and line departments as the implementation and much of the planning function was transferred to line departments. By the second election in 1975, the Department of Finance had completed and the Department of Social Services was considering at major reorganizations.

Formalization stage. Coordination was a major concern by 1979, the date of the third election. An inter-departmental committee had been created to provide one-window and any-window coordination of applications for development projects. The Department of Intergovernmental Affairs was created. Evaluation and reducing costs had become preeminent concerns.

Elaboration stage (strategic change): This stage involved developing a management training process to teach new skills and create change within the bureaucracy. Several senior bureaucrats such as Gary Beatty and Wes Bolstad left the government. Central agency bureaucrats were put into line positions, for example, Murray Wallace was transferred from deputy minister of executive council to president of Saskatchewan Government Insurance. The government lacked a source of new ideas.

The life cycle of the government is described in these terms in Table 6.

Table 6: Blakeney Government's Life Cycle

Entrepreneurial Collective Formalization Elaboration
1971 Election 1972-74 1975 Election 1976-78 1979 Election 1980-81 1982 Election
Party slate: highly dynamic problem-solver John Richards leaves Government. Platform still dynamic, but very similar to previous one. Major new program- home care. Peter Prebble leads oppositions to uranium dvmt All-out effort to win election. NDP expected to win. Platform financially conservative. Platform minimalist, Conservatives offered better new programs for middle class e.g. homemakers' pensions, mortgage subsidy, home repair program, tax cut.
Platform develop-ed by Party HRDA closed. DNS Research group let go. Prebble ran for NDP, won. NDP modified program part-way through election, to include less costly version of some of Conservatives' program. Tried to transform itself in mid-campaign.
Many new ideas-144 in platform Farm buying program de-emphasized
HRDA, DNS ResearchSc Coun elim'd. Irritants reduced but in long-run dimin'd vitality, reduced no. ideas available to govt.

Many other life cycle analyses could be done. Each would give a somewhat different impression of the Blakeney government in its context, in relation to its environment. One approach to the Blakeney government as a life cycle is through the political sphere: Table 7 outlines the electoral life cycle of CCF/NDP governments in Saskatchewan since 1944, when the first CCF government was elected. In terms of life cycle and the appropriateness of strategies, the NDP in Saskatchewan can be seen to have succeeded in 1971 by adopting radical solutions in face of difficult economic challenges during a shift between historical periods, and subsequently to have faltered in 1982 by failing to adopt sufficiently revolutionary change strategies in face of instability and radical policy proposals from the Conservative Opposition. The way social democratic parties in Europe and Canada have adapted themselves to the conservative political environment of the 1980s and 1990s and its notion of a reduced role for government could also be seen as adaptive in the life cycle analysis context.

Table 7: Life Cycle Model: The Political Cycle of the NDP in Saskatchewan




CCF/NDP Government

Agrarian base
Participative, grass roots party

Liberal Government

NDP Government

Agrarian, shift to urban base
Conservatives more populist

Conservative Government

NDP Government

Primarily urban base


Were the Saskatchewan Processes Innovative?

In the discussion of this issue in chapter 9, it was possible to ask whether the Saskatchewan processes themselves were innovative. A discussion of determined processes must address the question from within the determined process. As would have been expected, an open processes allowed for more flexible and responsive and therefore potentially innovative approaches. A population ecology model recognized both incremental and transformational changes-not just incremental changes as the authors who identified correlates of innovation did. Both types of innovation were seen in the Blakeney government. If transformational change is seen as a change in power relationships, this occurred in potash and in the other resource-based projects where Saskatchewan retained 50% ownership. The potential for a change in power was created in general for aboriginal people and in particular in the north, and in the workplace programs that were initiated and were being developed. ESP, the health and safety committees, and community colleges were empowering. In the administrative domain, the positive response to the ideas of public servants was the most empowering action the government could possibly have taken. The other valuable things they did-such as a program management system oriented to the needs of managers-were of a second tier of importance, but reinforced the theme of empowerment. Incremental change was introduced in many other innovations. A life cycle analysis also allowed for innovation, especially in the early stages of the cycle-which is exactly what happened. The numbers and magnitude of innovations introduced dwindled as the years went on. This was due to a combination of a lack of a source of ideas, concern about managing and funding the innovations that had been introduced, a declining rate of growth in the economy, and a preoccupation with economic development and the constitution.

The Saskatchewan government can therefore be seen to have been innovative, but the innovation followed patterns.


Innovativeness as an emergent government trait and process has been studied in Chapter 10. Saskatchewan was found to have been an administrative innovator, based on having created and adopted early 34 innovations, and to have exhibited the trait of innovativeness, more than would have been expected of a government of its size, and more than have been identified for any other governments of any size at the time.

The study of open processes, population ecology and life cycles revealed determinants outside the control of the public service and the politicians affecting their futures and the outcomes of their strategies.

As with the voluntaristic analyses, and most determinants studies, it was not possible, based on the data available in this study, to draw a conclusion about whether Saskatchewan was more administratively innovative than other governments.

Some of the strengths and weaknesses of the two voluntaristic and determinants approaches have been revealed: How the innovations were implemented can be identified, but what the key was to success has not been ascertained; the determinants and process can be identified and appropriate analytic categories can be identified, but each process remains unique.

The Conclusion discusses the two approaches identified in chapters 9 and 10-voluntary and determined-and whether one seems a more appropriate and useful strategy for understanding innovation.



1. The certainty that is consistently presented to administrators seems to constantly change as an ever-willing gaggle of management gurus claims it has the answer to complex and difficult challenges.

2. Gray defined innovations as "an idea perceived as new by an individual; the perception takes place after invention of the idea and prior to the decision to adopt or reject the new idea. In Gray's study, as in Walker's, an innovation was more specifically defined as a law which is new to the state adopting it, i.e., it is equivalent to a single adoption." (Gray, 1973, p. 1174)

3. Although the list of innovations was developed by a highly knowledgeable panel, Gow's developing innovation scores and identifying a most innovative government may be questionable, since his sample is so small.

4. The literature concludes larger governments are more innovative: Presumably large governments have more opportunity to be innovative as they spend their larger resources. Other factors are also potentially at work: Large governments have more communication capacity and more people on award committees. In addition, a professional organization like IPAC must maintain the perception of balance in distribution of the intangible largesse of awards.

5. It should be remembered that IPAC used a different theme each year-not all innovations were covered. The pattern of acknowledgement changed over the decade of the 1990s, with B.C. more acknowledged initially and Canada, Ontario and Alberta more acknowledged later.

6. The research and the peer review process for this book are being treated as the equivalent of acknowledgement. Reviewers did challenge some of the innovations suggested, and they were deleted e.g. the active management of funds in the bond market, borrowing in the New York markets.

7. The results of the Gow and Glor studies are not strictly comparable, because they cover different periods and the focus of Gow's study was national while Glor's is Saskatchewan. Given their differences, the rankings in the two studies are surprisingly similar. Except for the prominence of governments about which each author had particular knowledge, Quebec in the case of Gow, Saskatchewan in the case of Glor, the rankings of governments are very close. This could be because their periods overlap (Gow 1960-90, Glor 1971-82) and because both looked at a national range of innovations: Gow's focus was national while Glor gave consideration to national innovations whenever Saskatchewan was an innovator or early adopter. Perhaps it indicates governments were facing a common set of problems and discussing at least some common administrative solutions at that time, much as they are today.

8. In some provinces, such as Quebec, cooperatives had developed from different roots than they had in Saskatchewan, having been supported by the clergy as a means to discourage the development in the province of more radical movements.

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Last updated: December 4 2009