This page provides abstracts of several of Nicholas d'Ombrain's articles; reprints may be purchased from the Institute of Public Administration of Canada.

"Cabinet Secrecy"

Cabinet secrecy is a cornerstone of the constitution of the Westminster system of government and is safeguarded by convention, common law and statute law in leading Westminster regimes. Secrecy of cabinet proceedings is very much part of the efficient constitution, but the protections afforded by convention and law are neither well understood nor particularly popular. This article examines the convention and how it differs from the common law and statute law treatments of cabinet secrecy. It considers the essential requirements for cabinet secrecy: collective decision-making; the protection of the views and opinions of ministers; and several related problems of the constitution, including the role of the cabinet as the informal executive, the use of the cabinet as an administrative coordinating mechanism, and — unique to Canada — the use of statute law to remove the courts from their traditional role of determining the balance between individual rights and those of the state. Cabinet secrecy is essential to a system of government where responsible ministers collectively decide the government’s policy, but in order to play a proper role in our affairs, the convention on secrecy needs to be constitutionally validated by the articulation of its purpose and scope.

"Public Inquiries in Canada"

Public inquiries have been used extensively throughout Canada’s modern political history, but they are in decline as a vehicle for policy development and under attack as a means of investigating problems affecting the integrity of public institutions. The article traces the evolution of the public inquiry, and the different approaches to its use taken by successive administrations. Current concerns about costs and delays are assessed from the perceptive of earlier inquiries. The establishment and management of public inquires is looked at, together with the problems associated with the adversarial process used by many investigative inquiries. The article concludes with proposals to deal with current problems so that the public inquiry will continue to be available to provide Canadians with independent advice about national development and the integrity of federal institutions.


"Ministerial Responsibility and the Machinery of Government"

This article examines the relationship between ministerial responsibility and the machinery of government. It discusses how constitutional government and the practical day-to-day functioning of a parliamentary democracy depend on ministerial responsibility as the bedrock principle for the organization and operation of the machinery of government across the range of government organizations. It concludes that ministerial responsibility remains the pivotal constitutional doctrine essential to the functioning of a parliamentary democracy; that notwithstanding the undue concentration of authority in the hands of first ministers, their machinery of government powers ought not to be reduced; and that first ministers in particular should pay closer attention to ministerial responsibility as the foundation of the machinery of government.

"The Federal Government and the RCMP"

The relationship between governments and police is an important element of the bond between the citizen and the state. The relationship is subject to important constitutional principles that support orderly, representative, democratic government. It is also shaped by the attitudes of the general public, government officials and police forces. For the federal government and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, institutional arrangements and history also play important roles in shaping the relationship. The relationship on the whole has been unsatisfactory. This is due in part to inadequate public debate about ways of ensuring both investigative independence and appropriate democratic control and accountability. There is no more complicated or difficult set of relationships in the entire machinery of government than those between governments and police. The article discusses some of the underlying problems and possible means of bringing about improvement.