The Donner Prize - The Award for the Best Book on Canadian Public Policy

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Sherry Naylor, Prize Manager
The Donner Prize
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Donald J. Savoie’s What Is Government Good At?: A Canadian Answer wins $50,000 top prize

TORONTO April 27, 2016 – The winner of 2015 Donner Prize was announced tonight by Allan Gotlieb, Chairman of the Donner Canadian Foundation in Toronto. The awards gala at The Carlu was hosted by Jeffrey Simpson, national affairs columnist with The Globe and Mail and winner of the 2012 Donner Prize.

Donald J. Savoie was awarded the $50,000 Donner Prize for What Is Government Good At?: A Canadian Answer, published by McGill-Queen’s University Press. Professor Savoie has been shortlisted for the Donner Prize on three previous occasions.

Recent decades have shown the public’s support for government plummet alongside political leaders’ credibility. This downward spiral calls for an exploration of what has gone wrong with government in Western democracies. Written from both a diagnostic and prescriptive perspective, and undertaken in the interest of improving public administration, this compelling and hard-hitting volume is Donald J. Savoie’s thorough examination of where government succeeds and where, all too often, it fails.

“Savoie draws clear distinctions between what government is good at, largely those things it is uniquely placed to deliver – and a much longer list of things at which government is not good. Savoie makes a strong case that government must focus on its strengths or potentially risk losing those responsibilities to other actors. In the name of increased transparency and accountability, Savoie believes we have disempowered the public service and have created a risk-averse and demoralized group of public servants. Donald J. Savoie’s book is one that Canadians, both inside and outside of government, should read with a sense of urgency.” —Donner Prize Jury

Donald J. Savoie is the Canada Research Chair in Public Administration and Governance, a professor of public administration at the University of Moncton, and has also held senior positions with the Government of Canada, including Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Board and Deputy Principal of the Canadian Centre for Management Development. Savoie has served as an advisor to several foreign, federal, provincial and territorial government departments and agencies, private-sector entities, independent associations, the OECD, the World Bank, and the United Nations. He has published over forty books, three of which were previously nominated for the Donner Prize in 2006, 2001, and 1999. In 2015 he was awarded the Killam Prize for his contribution to the field of Social Sciences. He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1993, a member of the Order of New Brunswick in 2011 and elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1992.

The other nominated titles, each of which received $7,500, were:

  • Back to the Well: Rethinking the Future of Water by Marq de Villiers (Goose Lane Editions)
  • Les Grandes Universités de Recherche: Institutions autonomes dans un environnement concurrentiel (Les Presses de l’Université de Montréal) / Leading Research Universities in a Competitive World by Robert Lacroix and Louis Maheu, translated by Paul Klassen (McGill-Queen’s University Press)
  • Middle Power, Middle Kingdom: What Canadians Need to Know about China in the 21st Century by David Mulroney (Allen Lane/Penguin Canada)
  • From Treaty Peoples to Treaty Nation: A Road Map for All Canadians by Greg Poelzer and Ken S. Coates (UBC Press)

The winner of the Donner Prize was chosen from an impressive list of 86 submissions by a five-member jury: A. Anne McLellan (Jury Chair), Jean-Marie Dufour, Peter George, V. Peter Harder, and Jennifer Jeffs.

Jury Chair Anne McLellan commented on this year’s shortlist: “All five finalists took on issues that have major implications for our future as a country and society: the need for imaginative thinking about the future of water; a strategic reevaluation of Canada’s relationship with the People’s Republic of China; the fundamental value of government and the public service; the role of research universities and their impact on our competitiveness; and the importance of meaningful and overdue reconciliation with indigenous peoples. Altogether, these authors represent decades of knowledge in their particular areas of expertise. In choosing our shortlist, we consider the importance of the subject, the rigor and originality of the analysis, the presentation of evidence, the support for the conclusions reached and the accessibility of the text.”

The Donner Prize, established in 1998, annually rewards excellence and innovation in Canadian public policy thinking, writing and research. In bestowing this award, the Donner Canadian Foundation seeks to broaden policy debates, increase general awareness of the importance of policy decision making and make an original and meaningful contribution to policy discourse.

For further information, please contact:
Sherry Naylor, Prize Manager
Phone: 416 368 8253