Why We Need The Canadian Centre For Policy Alternatives

Posted on May 1, 2021

What do the UN anti-Genocide Convention, the Advanced Market Commitments for Vaccines Initiative, and the strategy for rebuilding Europe after World War II have in common? Two things. 

First, they all directly contributed to making the world a better place. Second, they all got their starts within internationally-renowned think tanks. 

Today, the need for think tanks and their work is greater than ever. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives is leading the way in finding creative solutions to pressing modern problems. Here's a guide to the CCPA and what every Canadian should know about their work, their goals, and their value to the nation. 

What Is the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives?

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) is a respected think tank that focuses on:

Founded in 1980, the CCPA is independent and non-partisan. It serves as Canada's leading progressive voice on public policy. It also:

  • Conducts research studies
  • Produces books and reports
  • Publishes the CCPA Monitor
  • Delivers media and policy analyses 

Its goal in each of these endeavors is to help Canadians, from private citizens to policymakers, make informed decisions and pursue productive social change. 


The CCPA's national office is located in Ottawa. It also has branch offices in:

  • British Columbia
  • Saskatchewan
  • Manitoba
  • Ontario
  • Nova Scotia


CCPA research is:

  • Independent 
  • Peer-reviewed
  • Original
  • Ground-breaking
  • Relevant to key issues 

All research is directly linked to the CCPA mission and meets the highest international standards for quality on all fronts. 

Driving Debate and Offering Solutions 

CCPA research specifically seeks to debunk political and media myths. Centre experts proactively work to provide solutions to critical issues that unite and empower Canadians to achieve positive change.

The CCPA also consistently engages with policy-makers, the media, and the public to drive productive and informed debate about key topics such as:

  • The economy
  • Poverty
  • The widening gap between the hyper-rich and the rest of society
  • Climate change
  • Health care
  • Education 

Current Projects and Initiatives for the CCPA

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives pursues a diverse portfolio of research projects and initiatives. Digging into and working on this wide range of topics and issues allows the Centre to not only understand individual issues but to clearly see and account for how they interact with one another at macro and micro levels. This leads to the development of interlocking solutions that promote and support growth across the board.

Currently, CCPA projects include the:

  • Alternative Federal Budget
  • Climate Justice Project
  • Education Project
  • Good Economy Project
  • The Growing Gap
  • Labour Matters
  • Making Women Count
  • Manitoba Research Alliance
  • Public Interest Research Project
  • Resource Economics Project
  • Seniors Care Project
  • Think Upstream
  • Trade and Investment Research Project

Each project is worth exploring on its own merit. 

Alternative Federal Budget

Perhaps the CCPA's most famous and visible initiative is the Alternative Federal Budget (AFB) which is developed and published every year since 1994.

Under this program, CCPA experts break down the annual budget. They explore where money is going and put the numbers into perspective.

They also help Canadians understand who is likely to benefit from a policy or investment and who will lose out. This is critical, since government and media claims often are at odds with the actual results of a budgetary decision and its fallout. 

CCPA experts also produce a hypothetical "alternative budget." This document shows what the government could accomplish by spending the same amount of money as in the official budget but spending it differently. The alternative budget highlights:

  • Missed opportunities to pursue and achieve positive change
  • How budget dollars being funneled to the privileged minority could have real benefits for working Canadians
  • How realistic and feasible alternative options are

A powerful exercise in accountability and education, this project is one every Canadian should be aware of. 

Good Economy Project

Through the Good Economy Project, the CCPA explores the question of what makes for a "good economy." It investigates topics such as: 

  • The best use of public investment dollars
  • Fair taxation systems
  • The creation of sustainable, high-quality jobs
  • How to build measures that promote equality into the economy at every level

The CCPA then uses its findings to help Canadians and policymakers understand how to implement change in feasible ways to achieve a "good economy."

The Growing Gap Project

The Growing Gap project explores the ever-widening gap between Canada's wealthiest one percent and everyone else. It tracks:

  • Household income and wealth
  • Spending and credit statistics 
  • Factors that contribute to wealth inequality 

The project also produces articles, fact sheets, and other publications that put these issues in perspective. Then CCPA experts, researchers, and economists apply their findings to create viable, actionable solutions everyone can benefit from.  

Labour Matters

The Labour Matters project promotes public awareness and understanding of the value of unions. It addresses:

  • Their role in the workplace
  • Their role in the labour market
  • Their benefits in communities and society at large

The project provides a counter-voice to often inaccurate and harmful portrayals of unions in other spaces. 

The Education Project

Since 1996, the critically important Education Project has monitored the breadth and impact of corporate influence on public education. It explores and shines a light on key industry issues and offers:

  • Enlightening case studies 
  • Critical research
  • Insightful analysis and commentary
  • A counter-point to mainstream rhetoric 

Seniors Care Project

CCPA's Seniors Care Project champions the rights and needs of Canadian seniors. It sheds light on seniors' biggest challenges and the inequalities they suffer. It promotes policy change and public discussion aimed at:

  • Allowing seniors to age and die with grace
  • Improving care-giving conditions for health care workers and families supporting seniors
  • Empowering seniors to be active in determining their situations and speaking out about policies that affect them  

Other Projects and Initiatives

The CCPA operates a number of other important initiatives, as well.

The Climate Justice Project combines climate change and social justice. It investigates the ways these two seemingly disparate topics are interconnected and how the right solutions can address them both at once. The CCPA's partners in this effort include:

  • The University of British Columbia
  • Over 40 trade unions
  • Environmental organizations
  • Social justice groups
  • Other researchers and academics 

The Making Women Count initiative deals with Canada's persistent gender gap. It:

  • Looks for new ways to close the gap
  • Educates Canadians and policy-makers on the benefits of closing the gap 
  • Teaches Canadians of both genders how they can contribute to these efforts in practical and valuable ways

The Public Interest Project researches trends and up-and-coming issues in several sectors including:

  • Health care
  • Crown corporations
  • Social programs
  • Taxation
  • Education
  • Government spending
  • Public services 

It provides essential information on how to improve policy and take action in every area. 

The Resource Economics Project is headed by renowned researcher Ben Parfitt. Parfitt and his team tackle environmental justice issues and develop policy solutions that encompass:

  • Environmental sustainability
  • Quality job creation
  • Social justice

In the Think Upstream project, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives digs into the social determinants of health. They map the impacts of and connections between:

  • Social conditions
  • Ecological conditions
  • Economic factors

They use their findings to design policy options that promote comprehensive health and wellbeing in Canadian communities. 

The CCPA's Trade and Investment Research Project (TIRP) brings together trade policy research and Canadian non-governmental organizations. It aims to raise awareness of trade and investment-related issues, as well as promote policies that chart a better way forward.

The Value of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

It is easy to imagine think tanks as academic ventures disconnected from daily life. The CCPA, however, is deeply grounded in real-life issues of vital importance to every Canadian. It works exclusively with issues that affect individuals and households on a daily basis and that powerfully influence the future of the nation, its environment, and its children.

All of the CCPA publications are accessible and designed to empower individuals, activists, and communities to:

  • Collaborate
  • Cut through media and political rhetoric to the truth
  • Drive change
  • Hold their policy-makers accountable 

The Centre serves as the powerful voice for truth and equality that Canada needs right now. 

How Is the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Funded?

As an independent voice for change and the premier think tank in Canada, the CCPA relies on private donors for its funding. It is a registered non-profit charity that receives support from more than 12,000 donors each year. It publishes a full breakdown of its funding online to promote transparency and accountability. 

Fund for the Truth

Individual donations play a key role in CCPA funding. Every dollar donated helps enable the Centre to continue its work. Without the CCPA's contributions to public discussion and its groundbreaking efforts to identify viable alternatives to entrenched policies, finding new and better ways forward would be impossible.

Individuals and organizations interested in supporting this vital work can explore all the ways to give on the CCPA's website.   

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