News Release

New Centre of Excellence on the Canadian Federation Provides Key Insights on National Politics and Public Policy

September 22, 2020 Print

Today, the Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP) officially launches its Centre of Excellence on the Canadian Federation, a permanent research body that will build a deeper understanding of Canada as a federal community. With the provincial and federal governments focused on their responses to COVID-19, and all eyes turning to Ottawa as Parliament resumes this week, the Centre is uniquely positioned to provide insights into key public policy challenges facing the Canadian federation in this new post-pandemic context and to offer proposals for the path ahead.

The Centre’s Executive Director, Charles Breton, aims to build on the IRPP’s nearly half-century status as a recognized authority on the complex and thorny issues surrounding the Canadian federation. “We need to do more to make sure that we have the data and the knowledge at our fingertips when debates on federal arrangements or the federation itself inevitably occur—as is becoming the new normal. The Centre’s sustained commitment to studying the fundamentals of our federal arrangements will provide the research base required to inform the work and decisions of our governments,” says Breton.

As Executive Director, he leads the Centre’s research activities, which include:

  • Investigating public attitudes toward federalism and the federation;
  • Examining how federalism and democracy might evolve in future;
  • Engaging in public debate on Indigenous governance and on the relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities;
  • Conducting economic analyses of issues that affect Canada’s federal arrangements;
  • Studying the impact of emerging economic and social trends on federal arrangements;
  • Finding and supporting new and more diverse research voices in these fields; and,
  • Regularly convening decision-makers and leaders from other sectors to discuss research findings and their implications for public policy and the country’s cohesion.

Many of these topics and themes will be taken up in an inaugural series of essays on public policy challenges for the decade ahead, published on the Centre’s website by some of the country’s leading scholars.

The IRPP’s President and CEO, Graham Fox, sees this as an ideal time to undertake new research on federal arrangements and democratic institutions, and better understanding public attitudes toward the federation.

“News headlines remind us every day of the importance of understanding the dynamics of the Canadian federation. Every important policy issue facing our national leaders today has a meaningful intergovernmental dimension, and making national decisions in the public interest is becoming increasingly difficult. For Canada to thrive, we must focus our attention once again on understanding what binds our citizens and regions together as a country and how we best address the tensions that arise.” says Fox.

This major new research initiative was made possible by a contribution from the Government of Canada, which committed $10 million to the IRPP to create the Centre in 2018.

“The history of the Canadian Federation and its impact on the society in which we live today is an integral part of our heritage,” said the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage. “Our government’s contribution to this new permanent and independent body will help give Canadians access to the data and knowledge they need to have a global perspective on the issues that affect the Canadian federation. They will be better equipped to face the political challenges ahead in the years to come. This is a great legacy for future generations!”

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