Critical discourse for critical policy: examining the discursive construction of the childcare policy "problem" in Canadian newspapers between 2008 and 2015
thesisposted on 11.06.2021, 18:57 by Brooke Richardson
This study provides insight into the wide and chronic gaps between childcare research and policy in Canada. More specifically, connections are made between how childcare policy was discussed in newspapers between 2008 and 2015, power relationships in society and policy outcomes. The theoretical ideas and methodological tools of political scientist Carol Bacchi and Norman Fairclough inform a what-is-the-problem-represented-to-be (WPR) and critical discourse analysis (CDA) respectively. The data was broken up into two periods: Period A (Jan 2008-Oct 2014) when childcare policy was peripheral on the federal policy agenda and Period B (Oct 2014-Nov 2015) when childcare policy re-emerged on the agenda. Data from both periods was analysed using WPR while only Period B data were analyzed using CDA. The findings reveal low levels of coverage of childcare policy during Period A, though coverage that did exist included a variety of problematizations. In Period B, when the volume of coverage of childcare coverage notably increased, the diversity of problematizations was much more limited and polarized. Childcare was most frequently represented as a private/family problem, a free market problem and/or a public problem – though the CDA revealed that the latter problematization was often superficially treated. The CDA revealed ideological tensions through a tendency of authors to dichotomize parental and non-parental care of children (care as a barrier/support to parenting). Gendered differences to reporting on childcare policy were also observed whereby male reporters asserted stronger modal claims than female authors, although female authors appear to have made a more concerted effort to contextualize their muted claims. Overall it is concluded that representation of childcare policy problems was limited to ideological ideals that perpetuate gendered, hegemonic power relations in society. It is suggested that this has contributed to a continuation of the status quo – with no significant shift in childcare policy at the federal level. A closer analysis of selected texts published in the year leading up to the 2015 election revealed that several text and discourse processes allowed dominant discourses not in the interests of those most affected by childcare (i.e., women, children and families) to remain largely unchallenged.