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Current Research Projects

What do we mean when we talk about “flows”? BIG uses the term to describe any sort of domestic, cross-border and broader international movement of goods, services, capital and people. 

Due to the sheer scale of the type, number and volume of such flows, researching the patterns that lie within this subject requires identifying representative economic and policy sectors. What we are planning is to drill down and focus on two or three key sectors in each region that can address core issues.

Specifically, we will explore five core research themes: a) market flows and border management; b) regionalization – the geographic distribution of trade and investment flows inside and outside North America; c) transportation networks and supply chains; d) labour markets and migration; and e) the relationship between and among domestic, regional and international governance structures.

Through these themes, we will investigate how regional patterns of cross-border economic interaction have evolved significantly in recent years. We also want to ask to what extent differences in the form such patterns of interaction take are explained by generic factors that come with borders, e.g, the physical proximity of populations across borders; and the relative political clout and shared or divergent interests amongst different sectoral actors. Or is there something a bit more intangible at play here, such as variations in what could be called “local borderlands cultures”? To what extent have such developments changed the nature of Canada’s national and regional borders?  To what extent has all this provoked increased contestation of borders in relation to trade and investment?

And do these changes vary significantly by province or region, as existing data on flows already suggests significant interprovincial differences from national averages?

The flexibility and efficiency of supply chains and related transportation systems, border and gateway infrastructure are certain to have profound effect on the nature of cross-border flows – but how exactly? And how does such infrastructure vary from region to region? Relatedly, the evolution of supply chains has shaped the development of existing trade corridors, but in what ways? Equally, we regularly hear that significant changes to pre-clearance processes and similar arrangements have helped “push back” borders – but concretely, what are the contours of this transformation?

Transnational food-safety systems are a key example here, growing up alongside growing internationalization of agri-food trade. Citizens and consumers remain largely blind to this development until high-profile break-downs hit the headlines, but such incidents and the recent passage of major U.S. and Canadian food safety system legislation, provide valuable case studies on the evolution of cross-border management.

Migratory and labour market flows meanwhile vary sharply from region to region in Canada, with major cyclical and inter-provincial variations in the supply and demand for various skill sets. How have migration rules and the disparities in the recognition of credentials affected migration patterns? Have they resulted in significant distortions and inequities within labour markets?

Lastly, in the absence of international government, international governance proceeds apace through treaty and diplomatic processes rather than legislative processes, such as the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, parallel EU negotiations with the United States, and negotiations towards a prospective Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. How do these new governance regimes compare?

Dr. Geoffrey Hale at the University of Lethbridge leads the Flows theme.