Research Towards the Common Good
The Institute applies the Canadian scholarly tradition of political economy to understand challenges to the collective good of society and to identify effective responses to these challenges. Three broad based themes structure the Institute's research:
- Revitalizing Democracy and the Role of Government
- Building a Just and Sustainable Economy
- Improving Quality of Life
Revitalizing Democracy and the Role of Government
Democratic participation has declined in recent years in several western countries, including Canada. Many people view government as unresponsive, bureaucratic, and inefficient. Often, they feel alienated from real decision-making.
These depictions need serious investigation. Parkland supports research into means of revigorating government and strengthening participatory democracy. Several important questions arise from this stance. For example, what are the current problems of democracy? Has the recent ascendancy of market ideology harmed democracy and civil society generally? If so, in what ways? What has been the impact of continentalism upon Canadian federalism? What should be the role of media in fostering democracy? How might the current instruments and processes of government be enhanced to ensure government accountability, increase meaningful citizen participation in government policy, and advance the common good? Are "direct democracy" initiatives desirable? Could proportional representation work in Alberta?
Building a Just and Sustainable Economy
Beginning in the 1980's, governments steadily withdrew from direct involvement in the economy. Privatization, de-regulation, mergers, and free trade became buzz-words. The result has been increasing economic instability and a series of apparent contradictions with profound consequences for the economic and social well-being and security of individuals, communities, provinces, and Canada itself.
In the long tradition of political economy, Parkland asks such questions as who benefits from market liberalization, and who pays the costs? In what circumstances will markets work most effectively for the common good? How is "fiscal responsibility" defined?
What should be the role of government in protecting citizens from market instabilities? How do market forces reinforce or break down class, race, gender, and other inequalities? What is the best mix and level of taxes for ensuring a fair, equitable, and sustainable economy? How might the economy be made to serve better the interests of individuals, families, and the community? Beyond taxes, are there alternative sources of government revenue? How would Alberta adjust to a change in oil and gas royalties? How should current and future government surpluses be employed?
Improving Quality of Life
Albertans, as people elsewhere, express growing concern over what broadly are termed "quality of life issues", such as homelessness, poverty, divorce, crime, child and spousal abuse, environmental damage, and deteriorating health care and education systems. These concerns cross ethnic and class lines.
Parkland encourages research into ways of strengthening social cohesion and the good society. This theme stresses four particular areas of research: culture, education, health care, and welfare services. Parkland therefore asks: How might the "cultural commons" - radio, television. the arts - be reinvigorated to reflect the individual identities and community interests of Albertans?
How may modern technologies best be used to enhance the common good?
How widespread currently is corporatization and privatization in Alberta schools and universities? Who are the major actors (corporations, think tanks, etc.) pushing increased corporate control of education and health care? Why are there shortages and unsustainable workloads in Alberta's care sectors? How have recent government welfare policies impacted upon women, single-headed families, Aboriginal peoples, the poor, and children?