Tales of Policy Estrangement: Non-governmental Policy Work and Capacity in Three Canadian Provinces


  • Bryan M. Evans Dept of Politics and Public Administration Ryerson University
  • Adam Wellstead Department of Social Sciences Michigan Technological University Houghton, MI 4993




Policy engagement, Policy workers, Non-governmental organizations, New public governance / Engagement politique, Stratèges, Organisations non-gouvernementales, Nouvelle gouvernance publique


Recently, there have been a number of Canadian-based studies of federal and provincial government policy workers. One key theme across all of these studies is the importance of well-established networks outside of government. However, these studies have demonstrated that government policy workers interact very infrequently outside the comfort of their own department cubicles. This stands in contrast to the considerable literature on new public governance theory, which suggests that non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including nonprofit groups, should, and do, play an important role in shaping public policy. This article provides some insights into this question and identifies where NGO–government interaction does exist. The descriptive results from a survey of non-governmental organization policy workers across four fields (environment, health, labour, and immigration) in three Canadian provinces (British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Ontario) clearly illustrate the limitations, at all levels, on interaction between NGO groups and government officials. The article argues that this does not disprove the basic tenet of new governance theory—that non-state actors are engaged, to some degree, in the policy process. The article examines the results of an ordinary least squares (OLS) regression model to determine what factors shape and drive NGO interaction with government.


Depuis peu, bon nombre d’études canadiennes sont apparues sur les stratèges des gouvernements fédéral et provinciaux. Un thème clé dans ces études est l’importance de maintenir des réseaux viables au-delà du gouvernement. Pourtant, selon diverses études, les stratèges gouvernementaux interagissent très peu au-delà de leurs bureaux à cloisons. Cette situation ne reflète pas l’approche recommandée dans les nombreux écrits recourant à la théorie de la nouvelle gouvernance publique. Celle-ci recommande aux organisations non-gouvernementales (ONG), y compris aux groupes sans but lucratif, de jouer un rôle plus important dans la formulation des politiques publiques. Cet article explore cette question et identifie les domaines où existent des interactions entre ONG et gouvernements. Les résultats d’un sondage de stratèges d’ONG dans quatre domaines (environnement, santé, travail et immigration) dans trois provinces canadiennes (Colombie-Britannique, Saskatchewan et Ontario) illustrent clairement les contraintes, à tous les niveaux, sur les interactions entre ONG et gouvernements. L’article soutient que cette situation ne contredit pas le principe fondamental de la théorie de la nouvelle gouvernance publique, à savoir que des acteurs non gouvernementaux s’engagent effectivement, jusqu’à un certain point, dans la formulation de politiques. Cet article examine en outre les résultats de l’application d’une méthode des moindres carrés pour déterminer quels sont les facteurs qui influencent et motivent les interactions entre ONG et gouvernements


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Author Biographies

Bryan M. Evans, Dept of Politics and Public Administration Ryerson University

Bryan Evans, Associate profesor, Dept. of Politics and Public Administration, Ryerson University, 350 Victoria St. Toronto, Ontario, M5B 2K3, b1evans@politics.ryerson.ca

Adam Wellstead, Department of Social Sciences Michigan Technological University Houghton, MI 4993

Adam Wellstead, assistant professor, Michigan Technological University, Dept. of Social Sciences, Michigan Technological University, Houghton, Michigan, 49931, awellste@mtu.edu


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