Poverty reduction strategies in Canada: A new way to tackle an old problem?
Geranda Notten & Rachel Laforest
Since the end 1990s, jurisdictions across the world have adopted an
innovative governance process called a Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS).
PRS processes are a perfect example of a new governance dynamics in
which collaboration between the public sector and the community sector
is leveraged to develop policy solutions to complex problems such as
poverty. Jurisdictions argue that this new process helps ensure
continued prioritisation, improved information for decision making, and
improved coordination between different units of government and other
partners. In Canada nearly all provinces and territories now engage in a
PRS process. This paper asks whether the PRS processes, as implemented
by four Canadian provinces (Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario
and Quebec), have the potential to deliver on the expected governance
benefits. This research is the first to connect theory to a widespread
yet under-researched practice in government. We review the collaborative
governance and performance management literatures for theories and
empirical evidence on the costs and benefits of similar practices. We
use official documents to identify a theory of change which explains how
PRS processes could result in more poverty reduction. We use public
information to describe and compare PRS processes in the four provinces.
Our research shows that each province makes quite different choices in
implementing its process and that such differences likely influence the
degree to which aspired governance benefits are realised. When
legislation supports the PRS process, provinces have more continuous
activities and, where legislation details the role of non-government
stakeholders, stakeholder involvement is more substantive and visible.
There is now more public information on government’s actions but also
still much scope for improvement, especially in linking fiscal expenses,
effects of policy actions, and wellbeing outcomes. Whether new
coordination mechanisms have been sufficient to yield substantive
benefits in coordination is unclear.
Keywords: poverty reduction strategy (PRS), poverty reduction, collaborative governance, performance management, social policy
JEL Classification: I30, I39