People Profiles

Kennedy Stewart, MA, Political Science

September 02, 2015

Dr. Kennedy Stewart is building idea pipelines. Destination: the Canadian government.

Stewart is the Member of Parliament for the electoral district of Burnaby-Douglas and the Official Opposition Critic for Science and Technology. He is also an associate professor with SFU’s School of Public Policy. He completed a Master's in Political Science at SFU in 1995 and a Doctorate in Government at the London School of Economics and Political Science in 2003.

As Stewart explains, one of his main political goals is to make government more responsive to citizen’s priorities: “Democratic reform is what I have always believed in. The world is better place when people have more control over decisions,” says Stewart.

Thanks to Stewart’s narrowly passed Motion 428, Canadians will now have a new and extremely accessible tool to do just that. Previously, only paper-based petitions could be accepted for tabling in Parliament. Motion 428 and the subsequently implemented e-petition proposal mean that electronic petitions will now also be accepted.

“Not only does this create a direct link between citizens and the House of Commons, but by centralizing petitions they have a greater ability to trigger action. For example if the media sees there is a big petition calling for a missing women inquiry because it’s online, then journalists as well as activist communities will be able to push for action,” says Stewart.

Stewart has also been working to create more sound and effective decision-making processes by engaging the expertise of leading researchers. “I always bring in witnesses that are not partisan but are actually experts in their field. I think we can make better laws if we can get the best ideas—not the best partisan ideas. I want to build that into the institution,” says Stewart.

Though he is only one of a very few Members of Parliament with a PhD, Stewart credits his academic training as key to both his practice and formation as a politician—particularly his experience at SFU.

“At the time I got into graduate school I was doing manual labor but had all these ideas I wanted to explore. SFU gave me the research skills, the analytical skills, the language and the framework to engage with these ideas. I would not be doing what I do now if it wasn’t for my degree,” says Stewart.

He points to the newly implemented e-petition proposal as an example of how he uses those skills. “When I was preparing Motion 428, I applied concepts I learned from academia — like game theory — to match my preferences with those of the House Of Commons. I had big charts and spreadsheets on the walls. My academic training helps me understand how power works, the rules of games, how committees work and how to help them work more effectively.”

Author: Jackie Amsden

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