School of Policy Studies

School of Policy Studies
School of Policy Studies

Celebrating 150 Years of Public Policy

Though considerable progress has been made since 1867, the challenges that have faced the Canadian federation remain to this day in areas such as social and economic policy, health, federalism, foreign policy and international development, national defence and sovereignty, and energy and the environment. Many Queen’s scholars through the Institute for Intergovernmental Relations helped shape national debates on constitutional arrangements in the 1980s and 1990s. Drawing on Queen’s policy strengths and expertise, Public Policy & Canada's 150 will contribute to new national conversations on emerging policy challenges affecting Canada’s future.

The Challenges

Looking beyond the Canadian Sesquicentennial, Public Policy & Canada's 150 not only considers the challenges that that have shaped Canada today but those that continue to influence the Canada of the present and future. With a changing demographic landscape due to our aging population and rising immigration levels, the Canadian welfare state and healthcare system are facing rapidly increasing demands. Along with these demographic changes, slow economic growth continues to affect employment rates, and accelerate the growing gap between rich and poor. Although income inequality is a major socio-economic challenge for all levels of government, so too are inequities across gendered and racial lines.

Canada’s political institutions and democratic structures are also under pressure to reform, in order to be more democratically representative and accountable. Although the Senate appointment process has been overhauled, the Trudeau government has also committed to amending intergovernmental relations, and the process for Supreme Court appointments. Moreover, lobbying and campaign financing continue to be an issue at the centre of democratic transparency and accountability.

Beyond the issues faced within its borders is Canada’s place on the world stage and its contribution to global security in an increasingly changing and unstable world. Along with the federal government’s renewed and increased commitment to international peace operations, gender diversity and countering of radicalization both inside and outside Canada signify other major policy challenges. And the trade agenda now faces considerable uncertainty: is the postwar model of international integration through trade under threat? Will our network of trade and other international economic agreements start to unravel?

Finally, policy around energy and the environment continues to be a major challenge affecting Canadian economic and security interests. Arctic warming due to climate change is intensifying focus on access to the region’s rich resources, with long-term implications for Canadian sovereignty and security. In Ontario, freshwater pricing has become an emerging resource management policy issue, as well as investing in and incentivizing more sustainable methods of energy use.

These are but some of the issues and challenges faced by the Canadian federation today, which Queen’s researchers and institutes are exceptionally equipped to address. Though specializing in their respective areas of expertise, they are united in their concern for where Canada is going; for its place in the global community; and for the way Canadian institutions and policy can be used to help meet our enduring objectives.