Centre to study damned Yanks

American pop culture is already well known, and with the opening of a new research centre, American policy will be too.

The University of Calgary opened the Institute for United States Policy Research on Wed. Mar. 30 as part of a strategy to develop better academic institutional linkages with the U.S., including combined research and student recruitment.

“It is critically important for Canadians whether they are students, faculty or members of the business community and government to understand the United States, who is overwhelmingly our most politically and economically influential neighbour,” said social sciences dean and institute director Dr. Stephen Randall.

Canada and the United States have the largest bilateral trade relationship in the world. Alberta is a key player in that relationship, especially with the recent economic boom based on oil and gas industries, Randall explained. It is no coincidence that the institution will be based in Calgary, a centre of trade with the U.S. and a major destination for American investment over the last 50 years.

Rather than act as a consultant in the private sector the institution’s primary job is to do basic research on the political issues that underlay actions. The research will incorporate professors, graduates and undergraduates and in time they may develop an undergraduate program.

The institute will also look at recent issues like the mad cow crisis, the softwood lumber dispute and west coast fisheries as well as the opportunities and responsibilities of the future of Canadian oil sands.

“There is a range of important issues that need more in-depth studies,” said Randall. “There will be a focus on looking at the political context–what drives United States policy on things like BSE and softwood lumber?”

The institute will not be just for political scientists and is designed to incorporate many faculties around the university, including social work, humanities, engineering, business and the sciences.

The energy sector policy will be a critical point in study and will add an important dimension to the department of sustainable energy.

“It is critically important that we focus the expertise we have now on issues concerning the United States,” said Randall. “The institute will give us the leverage to do that.”

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