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


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


Chapter 5



Many thanks. It was good to relive some of the past we share. I think that you have done a faithful and unflinching analysis of DNS times and the north. It left me both feeling good about what we tried and almost succeeded in accomplishing with northern people and then again I am feeling the rush of disappointment that we never had the opportunity to implement Options 80. I can't help but feel that northern people were the real losers in the Blakeny defeat. I often wonder how different would be the circumstances up there now if we had had the chance to see the 1982 Budget and its focus on the north implemented.

You certainly are correct that civil servants (line management) are normally very constrained to emphasize control and the comfortable status quo. If they are not so inclined, central agencies are quick to do so for them with the blunt instruments of budget and staff controls. I have three years of fights with Treasury Board staff to prove it. In defence of the public service however, I would also have to say that there are not a lot of politicians in my experience that in the interests of authentic public participation, are prepared to suffer embarrassing and uncontrolled events either. You were one of the few who understood that there would have to be many bumps in the road to end colonialism in the north. Glad to see that you associated this particular bureaucrat with potentially positive change too.

Thanks for telling the story so honestly and well.

About the Author:

Ray Purdie, former Deputy Minister Department of Northern Saskatchewan


Updated November 07, 2000

Last updated: December 5 2013