r. John McDonald Pfiffner literally wrote the book on Public Administration. Originally written in 1935, his work was some of the first to appear on the topic. Dr. Pfiffner’s 650 page tour de force has served as a guidebook for people in the profession, with wisdom including the very foundation of what public administration actually is:
“Public administration consists of getting the work of the government done by coordinating the efforts of the people so that they can work together to accomplish their set tasks…managing, directing, and supervising the activities of thousands, even millions of workers so that some order and efficiency may result from their efforts.”
To this day, those in the profession look at the guidestones he created as they embark on exciting public administration careers, set to innovate within the private sector, academia, and the political realm. There are myriad duties of which they are charged, including social justice and pursuing equality, supporting economic growth and industry, promoting sustainability and environmental protections, and obviously improving educational systems and healthcare.
Their influence is felt across areas of civil service, but one new key area that is receiving increased attention from public administration—and an area that Dr. Pfiffner couldn’t have anticipated—is environmental management.
What is environmental management?
Otherwise known as environmental resource management, at the most basic level, it is management of the interactions of humans in their environments. When a system is created, it establishes a framework in which an organisation can achieve its environmental goals through “consistent review, evaluation, and improvement of its environmental performance,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The belief is that continuous review will help identify places for improving and implementing the environmental performance.
Both cost-effective and proactive, the approach addresses regulatory requirements that benefit the safety and health of employees and the public.
“An EMS can also help address non-regulated issues, such as energy conservation, and can promote stronger operational control and employee stewardship,” according to the EPA website.
Basic Elements of an EMS include the following:
The Canadian way
In Canada, layers of powers and protections are built into each level of government to safeguard the environment. This arrangement of environmental jurisdiction demands collaboration and cooperation between federal, provincial, territorial and Aboriginal governments.
At the foundation of this is the legislative framework for preserving the Canadian Environment and human health: the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999). First and foremost CEPA 1999 helps prevent and manage risks presented by toxins and other harmful substances, and also manages human and environmental health with regard to biotechnology, marine pollution, disposal at sea, equipment emissions, fuels, hazardous wastes, pollution and other environmental emergencies.
“The Minister of the Environment is accountable to Parliament for the administration of all of CEPA 1999. Both the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Health jointly administer the task of assessing and managing the risks associated with toxic substances,” according to the government website. “Efforts taken under CEPA 1999 are complemented by actions taken under other federal acts administered by the Minister of the Environment.”
For example, The Fisheries Act that is administered by the Minister of the Environment on behalf of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, also has provisions to prevent pollution of waters inhabited by fish. Through the Canada Water Act, water resources and environmental quality of that water are managed.
“The Minister of the Environment also manages some aspects of wildlife through the Species at Risk Act, the Canada Wildlife Act, the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, and the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act,” according to the website.
Additionally, efforts under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act ensure that the environmental effects of projects are painstakingly reviewed before action is taken, in order to safeguard against adverse environmental effects.
Dr. Pfiffner couldn’t have anticipated the widespread impact of humankind on the natural environment in the 1930s. Environmental disasters were not yet prevalent, and climate change was not a part of common vernacular. Though his book is brilliant in many ways, civil servants in public administration need to be educated about the most pressing current issues, particularly the ones that are going to be troublesome in the future.
David Barrick is an experienced public administrator within the Greater Toronto Region. For the past 16 years, he has been employed in numerous positions focused on both public and private-facing administration.Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.