The Politics of Senior Bureaucratic Turnover in the Westminster Administrative Tradition: Trust, Control and the Choice between Internal and External Appointments.

Christopher Cooper, Patrik Marier, Ali Halawi* (2022).
Public Policy and Administration, 37(2): 179-202.


The extent to which new governments appoint and dismiss senior public servants is widely claimed to be influenced by their country’s underlying administrative tradition. This is particularly the case within the Westminster tradition where such turnover is limited in nature, with most appointees coming from within the ranks of the public service. This article challenges the assertion that turnover in the Westminster tradition is homogeneously internal. Theorizing that new governments appoint senior public servants to increase their control over the bureaucracy, and that the desire for control is negatively correlated to trust, this article develops hypotheses between the trust new governments harbour towards the bureaucracy and whether they appoint and dismiss bureaucrats from within or outside the public service. The hypotheses are tested with longitudinal data measuring internal and external appointments and departures to the senior public service in Canada’s provincial governments over a period of 18 years. The results from various multinomial regression models suggest that political appointments to the public service are not as homogenous as frequently suggested. Although a transition in the governing party and a newly elected premier from the same party of the previous government both lead to an increase in bureaucratic turnover, a newly elected first minister has a greater incidence of internal turnover than a change in party, meanwhile the level of external turnover does not meaningfully differ between these two political events.