Canadian public policy think tank axed

By on 08/05/2019 | Updated on 24/09/2020
The Mowat Centre, housed at the University of Toronto, is to close its doors this summer (Image courtesy: bobistraveling/flickr).

Canadian public policy think tank the Mowat Centre has announced its imminent closure after the provincial government of Ontario cut its funding.

Announcing the closure in a written statement, the centre’s director Andrew Parkin said that as a result of the cancellation of its funding agreement, it would “cease operations no later than June 30, 2019.”

“I am sure that it is not lost on any of us that the Mowat Centre is closing at a time when the twin challenges of transforming government and strengthening the federation are perhaps more acute than ever,” the statement said. “I sincerely hope that the work that the Mowat Centre has conducted since its inception will continue to be a useful resource for all of us working to address these issues.” 

No pennies for their thoughts

According to the Globe and Mail, Christine Wood, press secretary for Ontario’s economic development minister Todd Smith, said high debt and the Progressive Conservative party’s commitment to balance the budget lay behind the decision to end funding for the centre.

The Globe and Mail reported that the centre received an annual C$1m (US$740,000) grant from the government towards its C$2.8m (US$2.07m) running costs. Wood told the paper funding has been cancelled “to all think tanks” as part of the 2019 Ontario Budget.

“There are a number of think tanks across the province that are able to conduct independent public interest research without depending on taxpayers’ dollars,” she added.

Wood suggested that the state government might offer short-term contracts in future, saying if research is needed by the government “a temporary one-time contract could be signed.”

Munk dons hair shirt

The Mowat Centre has been running for the past decade at the Munk School of Global and Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto. Since opening in 2009 it has published almost 200 reports, on topics ranging from the impact of emerging technology on taxation to how the public sector can work more collaboratively.

After a number of queries about what would happen to its research archive, the think tank confirmed on Twitter that its website would “remain online for the time being,” and would eventually be housed within the Munk School.

Thinking tanks

Graham Fox, president and CEO of Montreal-based think tank the Institute for Research on Public Policy, told the Globe and Mail the closure of the Mowat Centre was a “serious loss”.

“Under the leadership of Andrew Parkin, the Mowat was an active contributor to advancing national debates but always with the perspective of Ontario,” he said, adding that the centre has been a strong partner in advancing dialogue on important issues for Canadians “from coast to coast.”

The Mowat Centre is not the only think tank to be hit by the budget cuts. The Institute for Competitiveness & Prosperity also announced its closure in April. Meanwhile, innovation hub Communitech suffered a 30% funding cut, leading to the loss of 15 staff last week.

About Natalie Leal

Natalie is a freelance journalist whose work has been published by The Sun Online, The Guardian, Novara Media, Positive News, and Welfare Weekly, among others. She also writes reports and case studies on global business trends for behavioural insights agency, Canvas8. Prior to working as a journalist Natalie worked for the public sector in social services for several years. She switched careers in 2013 after winning a fully funded NCTJ in a national writing competition. She holds a Masters degree in social anthropology from Sussex University where she specialised in processes of social change and international conflict and reconciliation processes.

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