(Edmonton) For Janine Brodie, being awarded a Trudeau fellowship is, in many ways, like coming full circle.
Though Brodie says winning this prestigious social sciences and humanities research award is a humbling honour, she notes that her first reaction was actually memories of her grandfather, a staunch Liberal and a former Grit candidate in Ontario. When her grandfather took ill, Brodie took his place at the fateful April 1968 leadership convention that swept Trudeau into the leadership of the party.
�Those memories are still as clear as they were the day after; it was such a transformative moment for me,� said Brodie. �I immediately thought about all of that.�
A self-confessed �Trudeauphile� as a teen, Brodie says she has always respected Trudeau�s ideas in relation to social justice. Noting Trudeau�s notion of a �just society,� an ideology that was realized through the policies on immigration and official bilingualism, as well as through the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Brodie says that some of principles Trudeau stood for have stayed with her as a researcher, guiding her career by informing her research questions and ethics.
�Trudeau was clear that he thought that democracy had an unrealized potential, and I think that�s still the case,� she said. �I continue to believe, contrary to popular opinion, that the state is an instrument through which society gives to itself. That is critical.�
Secondly, Brodie notes that Trudeau believed that those in the social sciences had an obligation to critique government policy from the basis of social justice. She says that the job of social scientists is to hold government accountable by identifying social inequalities and deficiencies and directing them to better policies and ideals. As a political scientist, her research project to the Trudeau fellowship delivers on that Trudeau-esque idea, she says.
�The idea�that the award is about promoting research productivity and research impact, but also about concern for social justice�is the basis of the honour for me,� she said.
Brodie will use the $225,000 research prize, which is spread over three years, to look at issues of globalization and neo-liberalism of governance, specifically an erosion of the notion of collective responsibility and its relation to governance. Brodie says that, in the post-Trudeau era, there has been a shift of this social responsibility from the federal level to the provincial and municipal levels and to individual families.
�In relation to social governance, I increasingly think about federalism as �doughnut federalism��there�s no centre in relation to social governance,� she said. �The provinces have struggled with this for 10 to15 years and there�s been no coherent response.�
Brodie�s work will examine the six Canadian provinces that have implemented anti-poverty and poverty reduction strategies in the past eight years. Her focus will be on the genesis and the composition of the policies, determining, she says �how much is commitment and how much is rhetoric.� By looking at the goals and the strategy to �rethink social policy in a global era,� she wants to be able to measure whether the policies are having an impact.
�I want to explore what we call policy diffusion,� she says.�If the federal government no longer takes the role of policy thinking and policy leadership, where does new thinking about new policies come from?�
Her research will take her from the macro (global policy influences such as the World Bank) to the micro (studying an imported trend of anti-poverty activism called the �living wage campaign�). The research itself will be, in her words, the study of watching where social thinking relocates in an era of globalization.
Seemingly, all things lead back to Trudeau, says Brodie, since he once noted himself that the provinces could be used for experimental modelling of social justice projects. Yet, despite the legacy he left behind, Brodie doubts whether his model of a federal government can ever be retrieved in this era of globalization and North American integration. Yet, as a former Trudeauphile, she is almost positive that he would approve of the research she is doing to analyze these new developments in social policy.
�To the extent that we�re looking at the potential shifting of innovative social thinking in the provinces,� she said. �I think he�d be happy that I critiqued that.
�I hope he�d smile on it.�