New position for our resident scholar, Louis-Robert Beaulieu-Guay
Louis-Robert Beaulieu-Guay, CIRM's resident scholar for 2023, has been hired as Assistant Professor of Canadian Governance at the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, part of the University of Saskatchewan. Fortunately, he'll be able to enjoy Montreal for a little while longer, as he takes up his new position in July. We took advantage of this happy news to catch up with him about his residency.
What was your research project as CIRM's scResearcher-in-Residence?
My project was to build a database on public consultations in Montreal, in particular on the documents collected and produced by the Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM). On their website, the OCPM archives all the briefs they receive and all the transcripts of their public hearings. We're talking about 26,000 documents, dating back to 2002. In short, it's very rich; there really is an impressive amount of textual data. These documents are very accessible, but difficult to navigate; you have to click in all sorts of places to find what you're looking for. As part of my doctorate, I had already worked on web harvesting, cleaning and text mining techniques, and this is what I came to mobilize with CRIEM and OCPM, to be able to add value to their data.
My aim was to bring all this together in a single database that could be easily exploited for quantitative analysis and computer-assisted textual analysis. I was able to make the most of all this data and create a databank, so that researchers could explore it and carry out effective research on this invaluable corpus.
Can you tell me about your new position?
It's an assistant professor position at the University of Saskatchewan, in a school of public policy. It's a bit like political science, but applied. I'll be working at the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy (JSGS). It's a bit like ENAP in Quebec, in that they train their provincial public administrators. It's focused on the application and evaluation of public policy. There's a more practical side to it, but there's still a lot of research. There are two Canada Chairs in the department itself.
I'll be contributing to the Canadian governance axis. In terms of the study of public administration, JSGS is more focused on provincial government. My expertise will support the department in teaching and research on federal public administration. I specialize in regulation and will continue to explore these avenues, with applications to Saskatchewan.
What are your plans for your first few months (or rather years!) as assistant professor of Canadian governance?
I'm sure it will revolve around regulation. My two areas of expertise are regulation and stakeholder consultation, or in other words, public consultations and the various ways in which public administrators question their stakeholders in order to extract information from outside government. Hence the principle of governance, not government. It's still top-down, but it involves stakeholders more actively, those who are affected by public policy. And I'm going to try and assess the extent to which people can influence the regulatory decision-making process.
I have a project comparing Canada and the European Union, which have processes similar to ours for consulting stakeholders and gathering information. But also the University of Saskatchewan focuses a lot on agricultural policy and economics and that's something I'm interested in. I did my master's in agricultural economics; I may go back to that!
How has CRIEM helped you on your career path?
Being a researcher in residence at CRIEM gave me a university affiliation, with all the advantages that entails. Being a researcher in residence has given me access to university resources (such as the library), which is an undeniable asset. I can also get legal advice on data anonymization. Maintaining a link with the university has been an undeniable advantage, enabling me to build up my database, with all that that implies.
You'll be moving far from Montreal for this job! What will you remember about Montreal?
I wasn't born in Montreal, but I love Montreal. I did my B.A. at the Université de Montréal and my M.A. at McGill (but on the Macdonald campus), so I've done a lot of mileage on the island. But what interests me is stakeholder consultation. In Saskatoon, it's not the same level of engagement with their stakeholders. There are fewer players involved, and some of them are powerful; the agricultural fertilizer companies are big players there. The economy is a little less diversified in general (maybe not in Saskatoon itself).
But what's promising is to see how the dynamics between the stakeholders, who are the important players in political life there, and see if there are openings to integrate more public consultation and citizen participation. Of course, it's not the same dynamic at all; in Montreal, we already had a model before the OCPM, the BAPE (Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement). Public consultations were institutionalized quite easily. In short, the challenge will be to see if we can get Saskatchewan citizens more involved in their political lives. I know that there are already a lot of online consultations; it remains to be seen how this can take shape and whether we can "import" Montreal's way of doing things.
In a few words, how would you describe Montreal to a non-Montrealer?
Too cold in winter, too hot in summer, but you don't want to be anywhere else.
Favourite Montreal neighbourhood?
For the outdoors, the South-West; for neighborhood life, Rosemont.
3 must-see symbols?
Montreal is already symbolically a cool, festive city!
Architectural symbol: the Jacques-Cartier Bridge, still a majestic landmark in the city's history.
Visual symbol: Mount Royal, which we could have lost but kept, thanks in part to public consultations and citizen mobilization.
Some references on public consultation and textual data analysis:
Beyers, Jan, et Sarah Arras. "Stakeholder Consultations and the Legitimacy of Regulatory Decision‐making: A Survey Experiment in Belgium". Regulation & Governance 15, no 3 (July 2021) : 877–893.
Bherer, Laurence, Mario Gauthier, and Louis Simard. "Quarante ans de participation publique en environnement, aménagement du territoire et urbanisme au Québec : entre expression des conflits et gestion consensuelle". Cahiers de géographie du Québec 62, no 175 (March 5th, 2019): 15‑40.
Grimmer, Justin, Margaret E. Roberts, and Brandon M. Stewart. Text as Data: A New Framework for Machine Learning and the Social Sciences. Princeton University Press, 2022.
Grimmer, Justin, and Brandon M. Stewart. "Text as Data: The Promise and Pitfalls of Automatic Content Analysis Methods for Political Texts". Political Analysis 21, no 3 (2013): 267‑97.
Hill, Cassandra J., Richard Schuster, and Joseph R. Bennett. "Indigenous Involvement in the Canadian Species at Risk Recovery Process". Environmental Science & Policy 94 (April 2019): 220‑26.