Parkland Institute is an Alberta-wide, non-partisan research centre situated within the Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta.
Parkland Institute studies economic, social, cultural, and political issues facing Albertans and Canadians, using the perspective of political economy. The Institute shares the results of its research widely and promotes discussion of the issues its research raises.
Parkland Institute exists because of widespread concern about the changes within the political and economic culture of Alberta and Canada. Political discourse has shifted over the past number of decades as the language and assumptions of the marketplace have expanded corporate power and challenged the role and ethos of the public sector and the commons. The post-war consensus on providing public services to all citizens and the image of Canada as a caring and sharing society can no longer be taken for granted.
In this new intellectual and policy climate, market-oriented assumptions, arguments and policies need to be examined to determine whether or not they can be justified. This examination, touching on issues of provincial, national and international importance, requires more than partisan and self-interested participation if it is to reflect the views of Albertans and other Canadians. Through scholarly research and public education, Parkland Institute draws attention to and promotes discussion of these substantive questions that are central to political dialogue in Alberta and Canada.
Parkland Institute conducts research within the long-established intellectual approach of Canadian political economy. Parkland examines power and wealth differentials, social and class-based conflicts, and ways in which public policy and public choice shape and are shaped by these factors. Parkland seeks to provide ways to understand forces of change, forces that resist change, and conflicts of interest in our society. This understanding identifies the decisions that must be made if these forces are to be harnessed for social change and the greater good.
Political economy is highly interdisciplinary, drawing on economics, history, business, anthropology, sociology, and political science to uncover material and conceptual linkages among aspects of our society.
Three broad themes structure the institute's research:
Strengthening Alberta’s Democracy
Parkland Institute research explores key solutions to strengthen democracy in Alberta. Like many parts of the world, Alberta is seeing the rise of populist and authoritarian movements and an intensifying partisan divide. Political discourse is increasingly shaped by well-funded political action committees through social media rather than in-depth research and informed discourse. The global COVID-19 pandemic and the systemic changes to Alberta’s economy are deepening the growing inequality and division in Alberta, and this will have a long-term impact on people’s engagement in the democratic process.
Parkland’s research into strengthening Alberta’s democracy is more vitally necessary than ever. This work will include research into the implications of legislation that aims to silence the voice of working Albertans. Parkland explores the powerful political and economic interests who influence the debate about environmental issues impacting the province. We also work with researchers and community organizations led by Indigenous, black, people of colour, youth and the LGBTQ2S community to explore barriers to democratic engagement. Parkland also examines the important role of democratically elected municipal councils and school boards.
Envisioning Alberta’s Economic Future
Parkland research explores the systemic economic changes and policies impacting Albertans. This includes provincial government budget decisions that affect the province’s health care, education, human services, environment and workers. The COVID-19 pandemic, provincial budget cuts and other systemic changes to the economy are hitting diverse communities and marginalized segments of the population much harder than others. We look at the underlying social determinants of health, and examine the economic and social benefits of investments in high quality public services by all orders of government.
Parkland’s research will help develop a positive vision of what Alberta could look like if the province invested in communities to help diversify and transition to a more sustainable, clean economy. These positive alternatives for energy transition and economic diversification explore how we can best address the needs of workers and marginalized, rural and Indigenous communities.
Investing in Public Services and Strong Communities
High quality public services are essential to a healthy and prosperous future for all Albertans. Parkland researches the austerity agenda and impact on economic and social benefits of investments in public health care, K-12 and post-secondary education, a public child care and seniors' care system, and vital programs that reverse growing inequality. This includes how best to envision a progressive systemic response to the social, economic and political stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The research includes how to make government revenues more sustainable, progressive and fair, rather than using the pandemic to justify deep cuts and privatization of public services. Parkland examines the role of quality public services in towns and cities and progressive policies that build stronger, healthier and more inclusive communities.
For an overview of Parkland Institute's activities and impact you can read our past annual reports:
As part of a review process carried out by the University of Alberta of our research, impact and effectiveness, the Parkland Institute has prepared detailed self-study analyses outlining our work, areas of success, and major accomplishments in 2008 and 2014. The studies clearly demonstrate the ability of Parkland Institute to consistently perform and deliver results far beyond what would be expected of an organization of our size and budget.
To learn more about Parkland's impact, read "25 Years: Research and Education for the Common Good," a magazine commemorating Parkland Institute’s 25th anniversary in 2021.