Montreal – To become more influential on the national stage, Canada’s Council of the Federation must develop a more focused internal agenda, says a new publication by the Institute for Research on Public Policy.
National agenda-setting is a primary objective of Canada’s Council of the Federation and the National Governors Association (NGA) in the United States. However, “premiers and governors cannot influence, let alone drive, the national agenda if they cannot formulate their internal agendas and promote them effectively,” observes author Jared Wesley, an associate professor at the University of Alberta.
Based on his analysis of media coverage and in-depth interviews with officials, Wesley finds that diverse interests have divided Canada’s premiers, particularly in areas such as resource development and climate change. Even when premiers agree on a particular priority, arriving at a common position or set of key messages has often been challenging.
According to Wesley, American governors have proven more effective at influencing the national agenda than Canadian premiers. Far fewer topics are up for discussion at the NGA table, and governors consequently have greater opportunity to develop short-term strategies. In addition the NGA has full-time, dedicated communications staff to support these objectives.
Wesley believes that hiring full-time staff specifically to engage the media and the federal government would assist the Council of the Federation in raising its national profile.
Coordinating Federalism: Intergovernmental Agenda Setting in Canada and the United States by Jared J. Wesley, can be downloaded from the Institute’s website (irpp.org).
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