Tonight on The Agenda, we look at think tanks in Canada. One of the issues we’ll talk about is the challenge for the public to understand the work of these organizations, since they often seem to take a political stance, even though they're officially non-partisan. I’ve wondered about this before, as have others.
Many folks, more qualified than I am, have spent time working on these questions, but we thought it might be good to do a preliminary mapping of the political poles where major think tanks cluster. I asked Western University political science professor Donald Abelson, a leading expert on think tanks, and one of tonight's panelists, for his perspective on what a topography of think tanks might look like. He sent along this outline. It's by no means an exhaustive list, but offers an interesting snapshot:
Centre: The Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP), the Conference Board of Canada, the Caledon Institute, the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), and the Canadian International Council (formerly the Canadian Institute of International Affairs)
Of course, painting the spectrum in this way comes with a variety problems. Some of the think tanks mentioned might bristle at how they are characterized above. The left, right and centre paradigms seem like an increasingly vague and even problematic way to view politics. There are plenty of people who hold views that could be considered both left and right at the same time, so how useful would it be to put them on any spectrum? That said, since we still employ these short hands for much of our political debate, I used it here until we can get a more finely-tuned way to categorize our politics. I hope this will just be the beginning of our effort to map this out.
So, please feel free to weigh in below, describing the kind of metric you would find most useful. If you’d like a more complete list of the think tanks in Canada, Trent University has good list as does Western University.
Please tune into The Agenda tonight, then tell us what you think and what other ways you'd like us to map think tanks in Canada.
Image credit: manningfoundation.org
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