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Mingus wins Fulbright for research in Canada

Aug. 30, 2005

KALAMAZOO--A Western Michigan University public affairs specialist is in the Canadian capital of Ottawa to study an attempt by Canada's prime minister to change the Canadian system of government so the nation's parliament is more democratic.

Dr. Matthew S. Mingus, associate professor and doctoral director in WMU's School of Public Affairs and Administration, has been awarded the 2005-06 Fulbright Research Chair in Public Policy, Governance, and Public Administration at the University of Ottawa's Centre on Governance. He will be at the University of Ottawa through December researching the convergence and divergence of the Canadian and American systems of government.

Mingus' research will focus on Prime Minister Paul Martin's Democratic Action Plan through archival research and an ambitious series of interviews with ministers, backbenchers, opposition members of parliament and provincial politicians.

"With the publication of 'Ethics, Responsibility, Accountability: An Action Plan for Democratic Reform,' Prime Minister Paul Martin appears to be taking a leap toward the Americanization of Canada's parliamentary system," says Mingus. "Backbenchers may gain a significant voice and the power of parliamentary committees may, over time, rival Cabinet committees. Elected representatives may also gain a real voice in budgetary matters by having a better oversight process for "the Estimates," as Canada's federal budget is known."

Mingus says the challenge ahead is to determine the extent that this plan is being enacted and whether or not the changes are really leading toward a convergence with the U.S. system.

"Being in Ottawa is perfect for this research because I intend for these interviews to be in person to the extent possible," he notes. "In addition, the prestige associated with the Fulbright program will help me very much in obtaining cooperation from members of parliament and other high ranking officials."

Mingus' goals for the research project are to:

Explore Martin's specific proposed changes in such areas as parliamentary voting, the role of parliamentary committees, federal-provincial relations and the review of appointments;

Relate these proposals to historical literature on the differences and similarities in the American and Canadian political systems;

Pass judgment on changes that represent divergence and changes that represent convergence between the American and Canadian systems; and

Review the extent that this action plan appears to be getting implemented in its first two years out of the gate.

In addition to support from the Canada-U.S. Fulbright Program and the University of Ottawa, a grant from WMU's Faculty Research and Creative Activities Support Fund will enable Mingus to purchase needed equipment and to travel around Canada to gather provincial perspectives as well.

"That is key," says Mingus, "because Canadian provinces generally have a stronger voice in national affairs than do American states."

Mingus has been a WMU faculty member since 1998. His background includes roles as nonprofit executive and a project officer for the Canadian Department of Finance.

Mingus earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Denver, a master's degree from the University of Victoria in British Columbia and a doctoral degree from the University of Colorado-Denver.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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