About the Mowat Centre
Canada is one of the most successful national communities in human history, in part due to the good fortunes of history, geography and inherited political institutions, and in part due to the Canadian genius of embracing diversity and making wise policy choices. But the world is in the process of extraordinary social and economic change, and the policy frameworks which served Canadians so well in the latter half of the 20th century may not be right for the 21st century.
Many of the key elements of Canada's social contract and institutional infrastructure have broken down. In some cases our public policies are based on assumptions that are no longer valid; in others, the assumptions are valid but the programs that gave them life have been tinkered with so much that they no longer achieve their intended purpose.
Revitalising Canada's policy strategies
Canada's policy architecture evolved over the 20th century, creating a protected national internal market, a strong manufacturing base centred in southwestern Ontario, and a set of redistributive policies that supported less prosperous individuals and regions. This policy architecture contributed to our collective prosperity, our enviable quality of life, and remarkable social harmony and cohesion.
But Canada and the world are transforming rapidly. Canada's prosperity is now driven by natural resources and services rather than manufacturing. Globalization and free trade are new realities, along with the competition for investment and people.
Federal public policy has been slow to respond to the new challenges faced by Canadians at a time when demographic changes, including an aging population, are putting enormous fiscal pressure on social programs.
All Canadian provinces face these same challenges, but each province has its own unique reality and interests. Ontario is Canada's most urban and ethnically diverse province and the Canadian steward of our Great Lakes. Many of our communities are highly integrated with the United States. It is confronted with economic transformation that will see our future tied to our ability to innovate. Moving forward, it will be essential to re-imagine the Canadian social contract with an understanding of Ontario's new realities.
A new way of approaching public policy
Successive minority governments in Canada have made our federal government less able to undertake the long-term policy work necessary to re-vitalize Canada's strategies. Historically, we have relied on the federal public service, sometimes supported by independent commissions, to develop new policy ideas, but this has not been happening as quickly as necessary given the rapidly transforming global and national economies.
Canadians are increasingly aware that other countries are preparing to compete with Canada as never before and that many are creatively confronting some of their most pressing policy challenges. And many Canadians are increasingly worried that our political leadership is not engaging in substantive debate about the issues that will determine Canada's long-term fortunes.
The absence of federal leadership presents all Canadians--along with provincial and municipal governments and other private and non-profit sector organizations--with an opportunity. Governments' ability to deliver successful policies and programs increasingly depends on their ability to network, partner and engage a diverse set of actors and organizations. In an open source world, all of us have the power to shape the policy agenda.
At the Mowat Centre, we have established new connections between government decision-makers, public policy researchers, and groups and social innovators in the broader community in order to help shape better policy outcomes for Canada. Although government remains the crucial player, others no longer have to wait. Through new forms of knowledge creation, organizations such as the Mowat Centre can suggest new ways to reconstruct outdated policy architecture to strengthen Canada, its regions and its citizens.
Contributing to the national conversation
The Mowat Centre continues to inform and revitalize Canada's public policy agenda, given new Canadian and global realities. We are questioning many of the assumptions that underlie our current approaches, while ensuring that all of us continue to share a sense of common citizenship, benefit from equality of opportunity, and have access to all the benefits of being Canadian.
Canada has been lucky, but luck is no longer enough. Evidence-based applied public policy research and healthy public debate are required on some of our key foundational public policies. We do not yet know what Employment Insurance, Equalization, or immigration policy will look like 10 years from now, nor do we know how intergovernmental processes can be improved to facilitate the development of improved public policy. But we do know that they won't look the same as they do today.
Analysis and Opinion
Following the release of our research report, Public Service Transformed, The Mowat Centre was invited... Read More
Matthew Mendelsohn & Noah Zon
In March, the federal government announced a new approach to their investments in skills training.
... Read More
Sunil Johal & Jennifer Gold
By Jennifer Gold and Sunil Johal
Published in: The Guardian
Canadian academics say behavioural insights... Read More