News Release

REF NO.: 50

SUBJECT: New report suggests need for new approach to public policy and governance in Newfoundland and Labrador

DATE: October 16, 2014

There is a need for rethinking how public policy and governance happens in this province, suggests a new report by Dr. Russell Williams, associate professor of political science, and Lucy MacDonald, Master of Arts candidate in political science, at Memorial University.

The authors point out that Memorial University and the Harris Centre in particular, are in a position to help foster ideas and discussion about a new approach for public policy and governance. Over the last ten years the Harris Centre has played a key role in facilitating discussions, debates and information sharing on a number of key areas. Topics such as the process of policy development, local and regional governance models and sharing best-practices from other jurisdictions have often been dealt with in reports and events sponsored by the Centre. These have had important implications for the province and are relevant to policy makers and community leaders; however, through many of these discussions the nature of public policy decision-making in Newfoundland and Labrador was consistently raised.

“The governance structure in Newfoundland and Labrador is such that policy decisions in the province are generally made top-down, and that presents a challenge for communities,” said Dr. Williams. “Communities want and need to be involved in policy-making discussions, and governments try to involve them, but with the nature of the system, meaningful involvement is not always possible.”

In examining the past decade of Harris Centre work on the topic, the authors highlight a general interest in a more collaborative and engaged style of governance across policy areas, but it is not always clear how that may be achieved. They suggest with an increased focus on civic engagement and community collaboration, there is opportunity for a parallel discussion to consider a more bottom-up model for the creation of public policy. As well, they point out the need for government officials at all levels to take a more active role in the public policy discussions in the province. The report also illustrates other suggested areas for future research and examination by the Centre, including governance and oversight of natural resource development, multi-level governance and collaboration and citizen engagement.

“The Harris Centre is a key mechanism for rethinking public policy and governance structure,” said Dr. Williams. “Through its ongoing workshops, research and public sessions, the Centre can facilitate policy learning, be a conduit for new ideas and bring local, national and international players together all with a goal of improved public policy and governance for the province.”

The report is one of five commissioned by the Harris Centre, in recognition of its tenth anniversary. The series of reports assess what significant issues the province has faced over the past ten years and what issues can be anticipated in the coming ten years. These reports will form the basis of discussion at NL Forum 2014, a two-day conference hosted by the Harris Centre on Nov. 4-5. 

The remaining report, focusing on environment and natural resources, will be released in the coming weeks.

To read Dr. Williams’ report, to find out more information on NL Forum 2014 and to register for the conference, visit www.mun.ca/harriscentre/nlforum.



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