Decades of restraint has led to diminished public policy development in governments throughout Canada. However, an opportunity, and one that needs to be capitalized on, is the increased interest and capacity in public policy development outside of government. Much evidence-based research is being carried out in areas relating to socio-economic policy by the research community and sectoral experts and practitioners.
The NBSPRN originated in recognition of this capacity shift. When the Province of New Brunswick announced its commitment to “self-sufficiency by 2026” through “transformational change” the opportunity to advance the idea of drawing on “outside capacity” was expanded. The government acknowledged the need to reach out to the broader community for expertise. To respond to this need, the University of New Brunswick (UNB) and the Government of New Brunswick formulated an arrangement to establish the Andrews Senior Fellow in Social Policy to facilitate the design, development, execution and management of the “transformational” approach to policy development.
The initial arrangement was a cost-sharing approach between UNB and the Province. Subsequently, the NBSPRN has received expansive approval and financial support from all four New Brunswick public universities and Government.
An added benefit of governments identifying and utilizing external advice is that expert counsel from the “outside” creates a greater level of engagement with the public. Acknowledging that policy is developed as a result of research gathered by credible experts, the public has confidence that decisions are evidence-based, informed and neutral. As such, governments are better positioned to engage the public with policy initiatives, increasing the potential for support or, at least, acceptance. The NBSPRN functions on the premise that evidence-based public policy is good politics.