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Conference: Comparing Modes of Governance in Canada and the European Union: Social Policy Engagement across Complex Multilevel Systems

** This event was held at the University of Victoria on October 14-15, 2011 **

Both Canada and the European Union (EU) are complex multilevel governance systems where authority is dispersed between orders of government ─ local, regional, provincial, national and supra-national ─ as well as across spheres and sectors including markets, stakeholders and citizens. Each political system uses different modes of governance, resulting in different degrees of effectiveness in policy-making and implementation.

Since 1996, Canada has made significant governance changes to social programs by devolving responsibility from the federal government to provinces and territories, or by reducing conditions on federal funding. While this has led to many positive outcomes and enhanced provincial and local flexibility, little attention has been paid to whether reforms are also needed to pan-Canadian institutions and processes to ensure that decentralized governance in Canada is working as effectively as it could.

This conference looks to the European Union (EU) for ideas on how Canada might improve collaborative governance in social policy. ‘Soft’ governance tools through the Open Method of Coordination (OMC) ─ including voluntary coordinated action, exchange of best practices, benchmarking, codes of conduct, and comparative analysis ─ help EU member states work towards pan-European goals and policy convergence while respecting their differences.