The Engagement of Philanthropic Foundations in Canadian Public Policy
Thomarat, Jacquie A. 1981-
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This dissertation elucidates the policy roles of foundations in Canadian public policy by comparing three case studies at the federal and inter-provincial levels, and across three policy domains, i.e., in fiscal, post-secondary education, and health-research policy. The research method is a comparative, qualitative review of these recent cases informed by semi-structured interviews of over 40 people conducted over 36 months, and document analysis. The three case studies are explored in this research span a period of approximately 30 years, from 1987-2016. The first case considered concerns a tax incentive for donations of capital to charities that was piloted by the federal Liberal government in 1997. Private philanthropic foundations were excluded as qualified recipients for this tax exemption until 2007. Consideration for further extension to the capital gains tax exemption were still underway in 2016 based on the ideas of the original policy entrepreneurs noted in this case. Second, between 1987 and 1998, Crown foundations for provincial universities, including the University of Saskatchewan (U of S), were established across nine provinces in order to take advantage of unique tax structures for this organizational type. Third, in 2006 a partnership between the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (the Gates Foundation) in support of the Canadian HIV Vaccine Initiative (CHVI) was formalized in a memorandum of understanding and publicized at the 16th International AIDS Conference in Toronto. The partnership concluded in 2016, but did not necessarily meet the ambitious objectives that were originally set out. Each of these cases establishes that foundation and third sector policy entrepreneurs use collaborative strategies to increase their policy influence. These research findings indicate that foundations are also increasingly active in Canadian public policy. Across each case, foundations’ roles varied at different stages of the policy cycles. Foundations’ access to government processes was consistently higher at the problem-definition and agenda-setting stages of the cycle. Also in each case, foundations’ impacts on Canadian public policy waned at the policy implementation and evaluation stages. In the Canadian context, foundations’ varying degrees of influence across stages of policy cycles can be attributed to the particular character of the Canadian public and third sectors. Canada’s parliamentary system, the closed fiscal policy regime, and the fragmented nature of oversight and regulation of charities constrain outsider access at the latter stages of policy cycles, thus impeding successful implementation of foundations’ policy agendas. That said, as a result of their entrepreneurialism, foundations’ engagement in Canadian public policy is increasing. The theoretical starting point for this dissertation is John W. Kingdon’s (1995) concept of policy entrepreneurship, although his original conceptualization is expanded to cover the entire policy cycle, rather than just agenda setting. The policy-cycles framework is used to organize the case study materials into straightforward chronological narratives. The main concepts of policy entrepreneurship and the policy-cycles framework are also supplemented with institutionalism. Institutionalism helps to account for the potential differences reported in the existing literature on United States (US) and Canadian think tanks and foundations.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
DepartmentJohnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy
CommitteeBourassa, Maureen; Hawkins, Robert; Atkinson, Michael; Mou, Haizhen
Copyright DateMarch 2018
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
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