Toolkit for Policy Analysis

Learning objectives:

  • Identify policies, regulations, and laws relevant to Canadian government departments
  • Develop an interdisciplinary toolkit to approach policy analysis
  • understand what sort of policy questions different disciplines can answer
  • describe the differences between natural and social science methods

What do different disciplines contribute to analysis of science and technology policy questions?


Chapters 2 and 3 in Smardon this week set the scene for our understanding of the evolution of Canadian industrial and R&D policy. Fordism is describes organizing for mass production, and Taylorism describes scientific approaches to management.  Both of these phenomena had an impact on Canadian industrial and technological development in the first and second halves of the twentieth century.

After you have worked through the Smardon readings, we will address two questions that are central to the course.

The first question concerns policy – what is government policy? How does it relate to regulations and laws that govern each federal department and the actions of public servants and Canadian citizens?

The second question concerns the tools we bring to bear to understand policy.  Since the emergence of universities in the Middle Ages, academic knowledge has evolved within disciplinary silos, which have become more specialized over time. Abbot (1988) described some of the implications of academic disciplines for the ways in which knowledge is accumulated, and later turned his attention to the way in which academic disciplines fragment knowledge over time.

Required reading

Policies, regulations and laws by department or agency, look at  Industry Canada and Invest in Canada  in particular.

Smardon, Chapter 2, “Entrenching Dependent Technological Development: Canadian Fordism in the Early Twentieth Century”

  • Fordism in the US and Canada (organization for mass production)
  • Views of Canadian Economic Development
  • US Fordist structures
  • The Canadian case
  • Canadian mass production (note tables 2.2 and 2.3)
  • Shifting relative position
  • Canadian Taylorism (scientific management)
  • Further dimensions of Fordism (reliance on American technology)
  • The Wheat boom and Fordism (1896-1913, US investment)
  • Conclusion (skim the rest and focus here if you are short of time)

Smardon, Chapter 3, “Reasserting Dependent Technological Development: Canadian Fordism in the Postwar ‘Golden Age’”

  • Fordism in other economies (Germany, France, Britain, US, Japan)
  • Fordist reconstruction after 1945 (Canada gives away new domestic research capacity)
  • Fordism and the Keynesian Welfare State (focus on private investment, not deficit spending and income redistribution)
  • Shifting international position of Fordism after 1945 (capital concentration for export, support for mass consumption)
  • Auto Sector Restructuring (1965 Auto Pact, compliant labour search)
  • Different paths of develoment (Cdn focus on US, not global export, qv payment for licensing, patent ownership)
  • Entrenched technological dependency (Cabinet would not undermine US FDI)
  • Diverging paths of R&D development (Canada invested less per capita; US added military R&D on top)

Optional reading or listening

Abbott, A. (1988) The System of Professions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Conclusions.

This is a useful resource because it explains how claims to expertise are based on increasing specialization of knowledge, which lie at the heart of professionalization.

Kellett, S. (2008) Borrowed Knowledge: Chaos Theory and the Challenge of Learning Across Disciplines. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

As knowledge fragments through increasing specialization (Abbott, 1988, 2001) we learn to borrow specialized knowledge across boundaries, but this doesn’t always work well. “Physics envy” amongst economists is particularly risky, because society does not behave in the same way as the physical world; particles do what they have to, but people do what they want to. This should lead us towards caution about market omniscience.

Mary O’Connell, “It’s the Economists, Stupid,” CBC Ideas, Wednesday, 9 September 2015 (54 minutes). “Interest rates.  Unemployment. GDP.  Markets. Austerity measures.  Economists tell us what we, as societies, can and can’t afford.  But how do they decide? What values are at play? IDEAS producer Mary O’Connell speaks with two economists about how modern mantras on the economy limit our choices and shut down civic debate.”

This engaging set of interviews with two contrarian economists provides cause for more skepticism about the role of market determinism dictated by economists as a professional group.

Howlett, et al (2009) Howlett, M., Ramesh, M. and Perl, A. (2009) Studying Public Policy: Policy Cycles and Policy Subsystems. New York: OUP. “Studying Public Policy examines three dimensions of efforts to engage and resolve public problems: policy actors, institutions, and ideas. Using this focus, the book overviews past efforts to understand public policy-making, outlines the different stages of the policy-making process, and discusses the principal elements and patterns of policy dynamics. Developing an analytical framework of the subject, the text examines the theoretical and conceptual foundations of, and approaches used in, policy sciences giving students a solid basis for understanding public policy…”

Policy actors include the four functions of government (executive, legislative, administrative, and judicial) but concentrate in the executive and administrative functions.  Policy institutions are rule-sets that govern the ways in which policies are made, including budget cycles, cost-benefit analysis, stakeholder consultations, etc.  Ideas are the most insidious part of the policy process, because particular ideas can come to dominate policy choices and preclude experimentation or evolution. Enthusiasm for markets and skepticism about the utility of government intervention in the public interest (e.g. for investment or redistribution) is one example.  See O’Connell above.


Complete required reading and prepare for seminar.  Be prepared for each of the 60 second summaries listed.

Self assessment questions

From Smardon, chapters 2 and 3:

  • What are Fordism and Taylorism?
  • How is the agricultural development related to industrial development?
  • How did the Second World War impact Canadian industrial policy?
  • What happened to the Canadian R&D capacity developed during the Second World War?
  • What role did C.D. Howe play, and why is that significant? (Mont Pelerin Society and its critics)
  • Why was Canada’s pattern of development different from industrial countries emerging from the Second World War?
  • Why were US automakers prepared to share production in Canada in the 1960s?
  • Why did US and Canadian R&D expenditure diverge increasingly from the 1950s on?

Why did US and Canadian R&D expenditure diverge increasingly from the 1950s on?
On policies and tools

  • How are laws translated into regulations and policies?
  • what is an academic discipline?
  • how are disciplines linked to professions?
  • what disciplines contribute to science and technology policy studies?
  • what are the differences between natural and social science methods?
  • can policy-makers conduct experiments?  If they do, how do these differ from natural science experiments?


Participation evaluation for week 4 Concepts will consist of:

  • 60s: what are Fordism and Taylorism, and why are they important for Canadian industrial development?
  • 60s: why did an R&D gap open up between Canada and major trading
  • 60s: what is the relationship between laws, regulations, and policies?
  • 60s: Natural and social sciences contribute different things to policy. How would you characterize these differences?
  • 60s: As a field of political science, what can public policy studies contribute?
  • 60s: What is evidence-based policy?
  • 60c:  an opportunity to reprise or critique any of the other responses.
  • 5R: You have been appointed policy advisors to Industry Canada, and you have access to any expertise you need. What experts do you want to have on speed dial, and why?  Discuss for 5 minutes. Present the results in 60s. There is an opportunity for a minority report as a 60c.

Questions and discussion

  • For new material in earlier weeks, look for ***
  • I have marked your definitions and written exercises and will give you feedback this week about your progress on the participation mark.
  • Comments on the week 2 definitions are attached to week 2
  • Comments on the week 3 framework exercise are attached to week 3