Daniel Béland has been named Director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada (MISC). A widely-cited scholar working on public policy from a comparative and historical perspective, Béland will join the Department of Political Science as Full Professor and lead the Institute’s teaching, research and public outreach activities as of January 2019. His comparative lens and interest in many broad historical, political and social processes will be great assets as he joins the Faculty of Arts. Béland spoke to the McGill Reporter.
Tell us about your research and how it will inform your directorship at the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada.
I study the politics of public policy in comparative perspective. This is why I think that a comparative lens is most helpful to understand Canada. By comparative lens I mean comparing Canada with other countries but also comparing what’s happening in different provinces, territories and municipalities across our country. As for my public policy angle, it is most helpful for MISC, as one of the core aspects of its mission statement is to foster informed discussions about public policy. Finally, I’m interested in many broad historical, political and social processes that are essentially to understand Canada. This broad outlook is enhanced by my collaborative and interdisciplinary research projects, which allow me to analyze issues from different perspectives and produce scholarship with economists, historians and political scientists, among others.
Why should Canadians care about social programs and public policy?
Canadians should care about public policy because each and every aspect of our lives is shaped by public policies dealing with issues ranging from the health and food security to the environment and transportation. As for social programs, Canadians rely on them in a way or another from cradle to the grave. This is especially true of health care, which is such a central component of provincial budgets. So not only social programs play a major role in the lives of Canadians, they’re also a key fiscal issue that has major economic implications. This is why Canadians should care about social and public policies.
Take us on your academic journey from Quebec, Calgary, and Saskatchewan. How has living in these provinces shaped you?
I have lived in three different provinces but also in several other countries, especially France and the United States. I do think that moving around has helped me better understand what is common and specific about Canada and about its different regions and provinces. I love to travel and to meet new people, both within and outside academia. I see myself as someone who seeks to foster dialogues among people from different backgrounds and regions, something that is useful as far as MISC is concerned. We live in a large and decentralized country and most citizens know relatively little about parts of the country they don’t live in. I hope that, as the Director of MISC, I can help organize events and exchanges that will fill some of these knowledge gaps, not just within academia but across different areas of society.
What are your immediate plans for MISC?
I think the most important thing is to make sure we have an amazing 2019 annual conference that will bring people together to discuss crucial issues that matter to Canadians. I also want to get to know people across the Faculty of Arts and beyond who are passionate about the study of Canada so that we can find new ways to collaborate and make sure MISC remains a fantastic research, teaching and outreach hub for those who care about the past, present and future of Canada. This is why I welcome any suggestions that members of the McGill community may have about how we can foster new interdisciplinary dialogues about the study of Canada.