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Preserving Canadian democracy

Experts in the School of Policy Studies are investigating the pandemic’s impact on government.

Photo of Canadian Parliament
The op-ed series in the Ottawa Citizen will explore topics such as democracy, executive accountability, public services, and government debt.

Since the Queen’s School of Policy Studies (SPS) was founded in 1970, its experts have brought a scholarly voice to public debates about the most pressing issues in Canada. Now, as the country navigates its way through the pandemic, SPS has formed working groups to study how governments have been adapting to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. As their studies progress, these working groups will be sharing their findings with both the scholarly and broader communities through white papers, articles, presentations, and other methods.

The Governance Working Group (GWG), one of the collectives formed in SPS, has now entered the conversation on how the pandemic has affected the Canadian government by writing a series of op-eds that are being published in the Ottawa Citizen. Titled “The Coronavirus Challenge to Government in Canada,” this series will feature eight articles informed by the expertise of the authors. The series began in late May and will run to mid-July.

“In the School of Policy Studies, we have many fellows whose expertise is especially relevant during the pandemic, when governments at all levels are adapting their operations. And we wanted to make sure that their voices were being heard,” says Kathy Brock, Professor and Senior Fellow, SPS and a member of the GWG. “Our goal is to inform decision makers and citizens about how the political system is responding to COVID-19, and to explain how governments are being changed by this situation.”

Covering critical topics

The op-eds will address a range of topics that the GWG finds especially critical at this moment. Some of the subjects include democracy, executive accountability, public services, and government debt. In the debut op-ed, Brock explores the strengthening authority of the prime minister and cabinet during the pandemic. The second op-ed, by Lori Turnbull, discusses the powers of the deputy prime minister and their ramification for Canadian democracy. Gregory Tardi published the third op-ed on June 8, in which he explains possible methods Canada could use to prevent the erosion of democracies in times of crisis like COVID-19.

“Universities play a critical role in keeping societies informed, especially in times like this. Fellows in the School of Policy Studies and faculty members across Queen’s all recognize this, so it was easy to find people who were eager to join the working group and contribute to the op-ed series,” says Brock.

While the working groups started as an SPS initiative, the GWG has welcomed expert participants from across Queen’s. The school wanted to ensure that these groups were interdisciplinary, so that each topic would be examined from a range of academic perspectives. Of the 14 members of the GWG, many are SPS fellows but others come from the Faculty of Law and the Department of Political Studies. The SPS fellows also bring a breadth and depth of practical policy experience, spanning the local to the federal levels of government.

Sharing their findings widely

Following the op-ed series, the GWG will turn its attention to producing a white paper. Each of the SPS working groups will produce a similar white paper, outlining their findings and providing policy recommendations. Once the white papers are complete, the GWG and the other groups will find ways to share their findings widely with policy makers, scholars, and the public.

Follow “The Coronavirus Challenge to Government in Canada” on the Ottawa Citizen, where new op-eds in the series will appear each week until mid-July.