Gilles Paquet

Pictures of Gilles Paquet

Gilles Paquet and the medias

In most weeks, over the last thirty years, Gilles Paquet has been present in the media or in other public platforms to explain, comment and critically appraise some current issues or to denounce some pathologies of one sort or another. In all such cases, he has shown that much light could be thrown on such issues and pathologies via an examination through the lenses of one of the social sciences. For Paquet is first and foremost a social scientist whose interests range from economics and political studies to sociology, philosophy, and communications, and one whose original thinking has stemmed mainly from his deliberate taste for trespassing into ill-mapped territories. He has used his talents as a communicator to extend significantly the ambit of useful social sciences.

What has made Paquet's contribution somewhat unique is that he has not only been passively used by the media as a source of explanations and commentaries, but that he has been actively involved in designing new ways for social scientists to have an impact on the debates on important policy issues.

Paquet's first hand experience with applied social sciences came early in his university career with his contribution to four central policy debates in the 1960s-1970s. First he was part of the small team working with Senator Croll and his Senate Committee on Aging - work that led to the creation of the guaranteed annual income scheme for the aged in Canada. Second, Paquet was centrally involved in the mid 1960s with the work of the Castonguay Commission on health care in Quebec. Then as one of the small group that worked on the redesign of the unemployment insurance scheme between 1968 and 1972, Paquet was in part responsible for the refurbishment of the unemployment insurance scheme. Finally, Paquet was one of two directors of research for the Lamontagne Senate Committee on science policy that opened new vistas for public policy in the early 1970s.

At approximately the same time, Paquet's first two edited books in the late 1960s and early 1970s reached a much broader audience than these scholarly books were originally meant to. They dealt with urban studies in Canada and the multinational firm and the nation-state. These were hotly debated issues and these books did much to frame public debates on these issues. During the decade from the late 1960s to the late 1970s, Paquet was quite present in the media either as a frequent interviewee on technical questions or in print as a columnist for L'Actualité or a frequent contributor to Le Médecin du Québec - the magazine of general practitioners in Quebec.

Paquet's presence in the media increased dramatically following that period of apprenticeship.

During the period from the late 1970s to the late 1980s, he was a regular animateur, interviewer and commentator on a two-hour weekly show on the national radio network of Radio-Canada - Le Magazine Economique. He was responsible for a 30-minute weekly block of broadcasting on economic affairs. Over that period, this led to a few thousand interviews with thought leaders, politicians, practitioners, and opinion molders in Canada and abroad.

During the same period, and in parallel with Le Magazine Economique, Paquet conducted two separate projects for Radio-Canada.

First, in the early 1980s, he wrote and hosted a 25 one-hour series of programs on Canadian economic history. This series was based on his own teaching in this field but also on interviews with over 50 specialists from all over the world. The transcription of this series (well over 500 pages) was widely distributed by Radio-Canada by the thousands of copies and was used widely in university courses in Quebec universities.

Second, Paquet ran a series of radio interviews with Quebec economists (older, younger, those that had moved to Canada from abroad and had had an impact on the canon, those also who had challenged the economic perspective). This led to the publication in 1988 of the only book on Quebec economic thought.

After a short one-year stint as co-animateur of a live one-hour weekly show on the national television network of Radio-Canada, he undertook a more wide-ranging approach to communication of social scientific ideas and "manières de voir" in the 1990s.

Over and beyond being a regular interviewee on radio and television in French and English, and being present on a variety of stages, Paquet (1) began to appear regularly on English Canadian radio and television as a panelist on Peter Gzowski's Morningside, and then as a regular panelist with the weekly program STUDIO TWO on TV Ontario from 1995 to the present time; (2) Paquet became a regular editorial writer for Le Droit and wrote hundreds of signed editorials between 1992 and 1997; (3) Paquet became a regular columnist for a regional magazine Le Lien Économique and produced some 75 columns for this magazine between 1993 and the present time (4) Paquet wrote also occasional pieces for The Ottawa Citizen, La Presse, Le Devoir, and the Hill Times; (5) finally, Paquet has become editor in chief of OPTIMUM (later www.optimumonline.ca) in 1994 and has made it one of the most important and most widely read magazine/ journal of public management in Canada at the moment.

More recently Paquet has persuaded Radio-Canada to introduce a column on GOVERNANCE in its national morning show - INDICATIF PRÉSENT. These two dozens of columns broadcasted between January 2002 and June 2003 are available on line through a Radio-Canada hyperlink available through www.gouvernance.ca and have now been compiled in a short book entitled PATHOLOGIES DE GOUVERNANCE that should be published in the Fall of 2003.

These formal media contributions are however only the tip of the iceberg. Paquet has also over the last thirty years produced a multitude of briefs, conferences, training sessions, videos, and commentaries presented to various local, regional, national and international audiences.

Such exposure has made Paquet a public figure and a person well known coast to coast. It has also helped him spread through the land the results of his substantial and highly original research output - for which he has received numerous national accolades in Canada and abroad including the Order of Canada and the Presidency of the Royal Society of Canada. He also found time during these thirty years to be Dean at two universities, to win prizes as an outstanding teacher, to serve as consultant and advisors to various ministries and agencies, and to be a lecturer at many other teaching institutions like the Canadian Centre for Management Development.

Given the sharp way in which Paquet has chosen to express himself in these various public forums, he has obviously been involved in numerous controversies and has drawn equally sharp criticisms. It may be said however that he has rarely entered a debate or an arena - and there have been many - without illuminating it in a significant way by his analyses and comments.

Robin Higham and Christopher Wilson
Centre on Governance
June 2003