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Unity in the eye of the beholder? Reasons for decision in theory and practice in the Ontario Works program
University of Toronto Law Journal  (IF1.234),  Pub Date : 2019-11-01, DOI: 10.3138/utlj.2018-0022
Jennifer Raso

This paper unravels the claim to unified reasons for decision underlying much public law scholarship. Using Valverde’s concept of spatiotemporal scale as an analytical tool, it shows how unified reasons only make sense at the scale of judicially-reviewable administrative decisions. In response, it investigates how data, notes, and reasons fluidly shift at the scale of front-line decision-making in Ontario’s welfare program. Drawing from a qualitative study of welfare caseworkers, this article suggests that reasons for administrative decisions are multiple and fractured throughout software programs, emails, and physical files. Further, it demonstrates how notes and data entries function together to articulate why caseworkers make particular decisions, and that caseworker notes perform three internal communicative tasks central to administrative governance: recording evidence, explaining decisions, and justifying potentially contentious actions.