Oct 30, 2009

CPRN: RIP – the loss of an independent voice


There was sad news yesterday for those of us who are policy wonks and for anyone else who pays serious attention to public issues in Canada.

After 15 years of public policy research the Canadian Policy Research Network is closing its doors.  The organization’s president, Dr. Sharon Manson Singer announced they were no longer financially viable.

The CPRN has done important work over the years.  They have looked at important labour market issues like employer funded training.  They have looked at homelessness and the role of not-for-profit organizations and too many other things to mention.

I am old enough to remember and regret the loss of other organizations that contributed to the national debate like the Science Council of Canada and the Economic Council of Canada.

In her letter announcing the end for the organization Singer said

From its inception, CPRN had a significant long-term financial commitment from the federal government, along with project funding from other levels of government. In 2006, however, the federal government’s funding commitment was discontinued. Despite this setback, we continued to operate, undertaking dozens of important policy initiatives funded by numerous stakeholders.

I am cynical enough to believe that cutting funding for organizations like the CPRN is just one more way governments seek to control “the message.”  And the fact that they provide an alternative to “the message” is one more reason why such organizations are important.

Each time we lose one of these organizations we lose one more independent analysis of where we are going as a society.  We lose another source of new ideas when we need them most.

So thank you to the CPRN for their work.  And the next time you read a report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, think about supporting them or even joining as a member.  It is one way you can support an independent voice.