It's not that these pledges are insincere; it's that even the best and wisest ministers are frustrated by their standing apparat. In real life, Sir Humphrey gets the better of Jim Hacker nine times out of ten. He has all the advantages. Where the minister might have one special adviser, Sir Humphrey can call on hundreds of full-time professionals. Where the minister is passing through – and already half-thinking of his next job – Sir Humphrey is there to stay. Where the minister is distracted by Commons votes, constituency casework and speeches to the Royal Association of Widget Makers, Sir Humphrey is in the department full-time.
It's not much different in Canada.