CHPC plays a role in Science Meets Parliament

July 5, 2024

In the historic halls of the BC provincial legislature, Kimberly Thomson discovered how much government runs on relationships.

The Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University and member of the Children’s Health Policy Centre was attending a two-day session at the legislature as part of a Science Meets Parliament event in April.

With the goal of improving conversation between policymakers and scientists, the Science Meets Parliament organizers had arranged for Thomson and the other delegates, including several members of SFU’s Faculty of Health Sciences, to meet with MLAs and government staff.

As part of the experience, all delegates met with Raj Chouhan, the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, and with Lieutenant Governor Janet Austin. Thomson also met with BC Green Party representatives, including Party Leader Sonia Furstenau, and with NDP MLA Dan Coulter, the Minister of State for Infrastructure and Transit. Despite working in different fields, Thomson and the MLAs she met with discovered several points of connection, including shared interests in child rights, diversity and inclusion, and youth justice. These conversations helped Thomson better understand how policymakers set their agendas.

“It was really beneficial to spend the day immersed in their world and understand what their priorities are, the considerations that they are juggling when making different policies,” Thomson said.

“Research is important for policy making, but it’s only one part. Your researcher brain says that if you just construct the best possible evidence and present it to them, they’ll make the decision based on that. But that’s not entirely how it works. At the end of the day, policymakers want to make the best decisions for people living in BC and there are a number of factors to consider.”

For Thomson, this experience also highlighted the importance of the work the Children’s Health Policy Centre does to share its research with policymakers.

“Building connections with policymakers allows you to be part of their process so they might call on you for advice,” she said. “This experience made me respect and appreciate the time and effort that goes into building these relationships and how special it is that the Centre has these relationships.”

Thomson spent the rest of the program attending Question Period, listening to panel discussions with legislators, and networking with the 30 other Science Meets Parliament delegates from universities across BC. She left the legislature with several new connections and a stronger sense of how she could support policy decisions through her work.

“I would absolutely recommend it [Science Meets Parliament] to other researchers,” Thomson said. “This was an invaluable experience to better understand the roles and responsibilities of policy makers, their priorities, and how science can best support decision-making.”

Science Meets Parliament is hosted by the Canadian Science Policy Centre, a non-profit organization dedicated to building a strong and inclusive science policy community in Canada. Since 2018, the annual event has brought emerging science leaders to Parliament Hill in an effort to strengthen the connection between Canada’s scientific and political communities. The Science Meets Parliament BC program was the event’s first expansion into a provincial legislature.