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Austerity and its Alternatives - SSHRC Partnership Development Grant

Professor McBride's research entitled "Austerity and its Alternatives" funded by SSHRC Partnership Development Grant

Sep 23, 2016

Austerity, defined as fiscal consolidation, public sector structural reforms, and flexibilization of labour markets, has triggered social protest, electoral defeats, major international tensions, significant academic controversy, and is blamed for various social ills. Yet it remains the default policy response to the economic crisis for most states and international organizations. There is little evidence that critical or alternative perspectives to austerity have been considered by decision makers. The resulting vacuum of policy engagement is unhealthy for democratic processes and laden with social and economic consequences for the societies implementing austerity packages.

Understanding how and why this vacuum prevails and using this understanding to contribute to healthier democratic debate through effective knowledge mobilization strategies is the key motivation behind our partnership. We ask: Why is some evidence privileged and other evidence ignored? Or, put differently, how can research evidence on austerity and its alternatives be better mobilized so as to achieve more serious policy consideration?

Our goal is to probe simultaneously understandings of austerity in the Canadian context and to engage with and explore international understandings in order to stimulate greater reciprocal debate that can contribute to evidence-based policy-making. In austerity studies a Canadian perspective is important to European observers, who note its relatively strong performance in the 2008 crisis.

These observers are also interested in earlier rounds of austerity based policy making in the 1990s. However, Canada's experience is far from unique and the reasons why the country has opted for austerity can benefit from comparisons to developments elsewhere. Austerity and its Alternatives has recruited organizational partners and academic collaborators in three other national contexts to complement the Canadian story. International comparisons permit a variety of policy learning and knowledge mobilization opportunities that our partners are well-equipped to provide.
Academic participants from Canada and other countries have highly specialized and relevant knowledge, but typically not the pathways or conduits to policy makers or social activists. Combining Canadian and international experiences enables a deeper understanding of the diversity of austerity experiences, the strengths and weaknesses of various knowledge mobilization techniques, and highlights the similarities, differences, and the means by which alternatives can be integrated into policy discussions.

The focus here is original. No similar research focused on identifying opportunities for policy learning about alternatives to austerity by Canadian governments has been undertaken. Similarly, placing Canada's crisis performance and earlier experiences with austerity policies together with indications of weakening electoral support for them will be helpful for the international partners in identifying the range of alternatives, and the potential for applying policy lessons in relevant policy debates. The primary objective of this partnership is to engage and build a dialogue with Canadian policy communities concerned with austerity and its alternatives, and to bring into these discussions an international dimension based on experiences elsewhere. Ultimately we hope to create a forum where both government and non-state policy actors can exchange views and options and, as a result, enhance the level of policy deliberation. 

Congratulations Professor McBride