The Rise of Populist Conservatism and Public Service Management

Nicole Saulnier


The rise of conservative populism in the United States is evident with the election of Donald Trump whose campaign focused on a fear of otherness, a resentment of elites (including bureaucrats), and an emphasis on self-interest. This paper will focus on populist policies and actions introduced during Stephen Harper’s tenure in government. Many of these policies were directed specifically towards the public service including the reduction of public servants, unilateral changes to labour laws, and the politicization of the public service through a proposed niqab ban. While the influence of populist conservative policies has caused noticeable resentments between public servants and the Conservative Party, public servants should reconsider their position within democracy as not focused on their compatibility with the government of the day, but rather with their adherence to the values of inclusion, fairness, and neutrality. While the public service must constantly adapt to the will of the political branch of government including more populist governments, these core values should be celebrated through active implementation and leadership to aid in the development of a positive relationship with both the political arm of government and the public more broadly. These values provide a means for individual public servants to invest their motivation into values that they can treat as fundamental to their role in democracy.


Populism; Conservatism; Public Service; Values-based Management; Leadership; Management

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