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Searching for Substance: Externalization, Politicization and the Work of Canadian Policy Consultants 2006-2013

Author(s): Michael Howlett | Andrea Migone

Journal: Central European Journal of Public Policy
ISSN 1802-4866

Volume: 7;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 112;
Date: 2013;
Original page

Keywords: Policy advisory systems | policy consultants | policy work | policy development | evaluation

The nature of policy advisory systems and the capacity and influence of individual system actors has been a subject of much interest in recent years, especially vis-à-vis observed trends towards the twin themes of politicization and externalization of policy advice. Studies to date for the most part have focused only on the capacity of highly visible advisory system actors such as professional policy analysts in government or those in the NGO and business sectors. This study examines the role of the ‘shadow’ or ‘invisible’ actors employed by governments on temporary contracts as managerial or other kinds of policy consultants to undertake activities related to policy development and evaluation processes. The study reports on the findings of a 2012-2013 survey of such consultants in Canada and presents data on relevant aspects of their background, training, perceptions and capabilities compared to permanent policy analysts employed fulltime by governments. It finds most consultants to be better qualified than their permanent counterparts and to primarily engage, like the latter, in process-related policy work. This answers some questions about the roles and relationships of these members of the advisory system but raises other questions about where the ‘substance’ of policies originates.
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