Pour la revue Policy Sciences
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Some policy scholars insist that any policy change is difficult to achieve, while others argue that large change occurs more frequently than we imagine. The work of Baumgartner and Jones reconciles these arguments, suggesting that the extent to which large public policy changes can take place depends on the ability of decision makers to conduct wide-ranging and varied information searches. The more open policy makers are to a diversity of information, the more likely it is that profound change will occur. Given human limitations in cognitive capacity, policy makers cannot simultaneously undertake multiple broad information searches. At any given time, however, such searches occur on a small number of policy topics, and produce significant changes on those topics, while the status quo prevails on the others. As important as this hypothesis is for policy studies, it has not been the object of significant empirical testing, especially outside the US Congress. This article fills this gap through a comprehensive analysis of Canadian federal government regulatory change from 1998 to 2019. We find that Baumgartner and Jones theory is largely corroborated in the Canadian context.