Think tanks are often thought of as a uniquely US phenomenon. Although the largest concentration of think tanks is in the United States, they can be found in virtually every country. Often overlooked, Canada’s think tanks represent a highly diverse and eclectic group of public policy organizations such as the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the C.D. Howe Institute, the Fraser Institute, and the Mowat Centre among others. In Northern Lights, Donald Abelson explores the rise of think tanks in Canada and addresses many of the most commonly asked questions about how, and under what circumstances, they are able to affect public opinion and public policy. He identifies the ways in which Canadian think tanks often prioritize political advocacy over policy research, and seeks to explain why these organizations are well-suited and equipped to shape the discourse around key policy issues. The first comprehensive examination of think tanks in Canada, Northern Lights is both a primer for those looking to understand the role and function of think tanks in the policy-making process and a guide to the leading policy institutes in the country.
Donald E. Abelson is professor and chair of political science at the University of Western Ontario and the author of A Capitol Idea: Think Tanks and U.S. Foreign Policy and Do Think Tanks Matter?: Assessing the Impact of Public Policy Institutes.
“Very little is known about think tanks in Canada, but this volume fills in much of the missing information – who they are, what role they play in the policy process, how they have developed over time. Northern Lights is a substantial addition to the academic literature on politics and policy.” Keith Brownsey, Mount Royal University