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Public Service 617: Values and Ethics and the Public Service

Instructor: Prof. Gerard Boychuk
Winter 2011
Hagey Hall 334
Monday 1:00-2:20 Wednesday, 11:30-12:50

Office Hours
Monday 2:30-3:30
Wednesday 8:30-9:30


Course Orientation

Public service in Canada, as elsewhere, has a number of important value-laden and ethical dimensions. What may appear, upon first inspection, as a set of relatively clear value and ethical guidelines (e.g. accountability, transparency, honesty) implicates a host of complex and contested debates. This course examines these debates in the Canadian context -- outlining (but not focussing on) their philosophical dimensions but, rather, the way these debates have played out in the Canadian system of governance as well as where the system currently stands in terms of predominante values and ethics.

Drawing a distinct between values and ethics, the first section of the course focuses on values and the interplay among a number of core values of the Canadian public service -- democratic values, professional values, and "people" values.

The second section of the course focuses on ethics and uses a number of issues (e.g. conflict of interest, whistle-blowing, debates regarding an ethics regime) to outline ethical challenges faced by individuals in the public service.

The final section of the course utlizes a seminar-style format to discuss seven case studies which highlight the tensions within and between public service values and ethics.

Course Components and Delivery

The course is comprised of five interrelated elements: a series of lectures and class discussions, a set of student led class presentations (debates in the first section and class presentations in the final section), assigned readings, and written assignments (including both reading reaction briefs and a research and analysis paper.)

In order to prepare students for the level of reading required as a professional public servant, the assigned readings are intended to be appropriate for a graduate-level course in public service and include articles, books and book chapters intended for a professional public administration/management audience. Students who feel that they require additional background preparation in order to fully understand the articles are responsible for doing so and are encouraged to get suggestions from the instructor in doing so.