Applied Policy Research

Building on McGill's research strengths

The School will represent a hub for McGill’s many policy-minded researchers, making linkages with individuals and their research centers. Some connections will be through teaching programs, some through research collaborations, and others through the various events created to engage with the public.

Whatever the specific topic being examined—from trade policy to family policy to defence policy—the Max Bell School’s research activities will emphasize not only the theory of sound public policy but the importance of the many practical details of policy implementation. The machinery of government and the role of partisan politics and special interests will be given the attention they deserve.

The School’s research will be widely disseminated, but not only in the peer-reviewed professional journals familiar for those in academia. In an effort to better engage the public in the importance of various policy issues and debates, the Max Bell School will offer more accessible outlets for the School’s researchers.

The organizing themes of the Max Bell School of Public Policy

The activities of the Max Bell School are organized along five broad themes, each of which is an important policy objective for Canada, now and for the years ahead. Some of the policy issues we will tackle include the following:

Building an enduring and inclusive prosperity

An appropriately broad concept of prosperity goes far beyond traditional economic measures to include various aspects of “social well-being”. How can we ensure that material living standards as well as broader well-being continue to grow for all segments of the population? Can modifications in our tax system help to ensure that marginalized Canadians better share in the country’s current and future wealth? How can we more closely integrate our Indigenous populations into the country’s economic activity while also protecting their unique customs and traditions? What is the most effective way to improve Canadians’ health outcomes and reduce the demands on our health-care system? Specific sub-themes include:

  • Social Cohesion and Marginalization
  • Income Growth, Taxation, and Distribution
  • Prosperity for Canada’s Indigenous Peoples
  • Culture and the Arts
  • Health Outcomes and Healthcare

Strengthening Canada's place in the world

As a small but wealthy country, Canada often plays a leading role in international policy discussions. What is the best way to improve our engagement with foreign governments and global institutions? How can we strongly defend our national interests while helping to promote our values abroad? Is it possible to develop our North while maintaining the rich traditions of our Indigenous populations and without threatening the fragile environment so closely linked to their culture? How can we nurture our most important bilateral relationships while building new and lasting relations with the fastest growing parts of the world? Specific sub-themes include:

  • Canada-US Relations
  • International Trade, Finance, and Development
  • Global Peace and Security
  • Arctic Sovereignty and Northern Development
  • Immigration and Cultural Diversity

Managing the energy-environment nexus

Climate change is one of the most pressing and complex challenges today, in Canada and around the world. Which policies are needed to drive a gradual transition away from a fossil-fuel- based energy system and toward one based on low-carbon technologies? How can Indigenous communities be respectfully engaged in promoting national energy-related objectives? What can be done to ensure that Canadian businesses play a leading role in the development of clean technologies? How can challenges to national infrastructure projects be overcome while maintaining harmony between various levels of government? Specific sub-themes include:

  • The Science and Policy of Energy Transition
  • Engagement with Indigenous Communities
  • Managing Our Natural Capital
  • Opportunities in the Clean-Tech Sector
  • Advancing National Infrastructure

Strengthening our democratic institutions

At the heart of Canada’s democracy lies a number of critical institutions, each of which has gradually evolved since Confederation. How can we ensure the various elements of our legal system work cohesively to deliver the social justice Canadians desire? Is self-governance of our Indigenous populations compatible with our established federal structure? How can our government structures be made more responsive to changes in the economic and social landscape? What can be done to improve public engagement in the electoral process? How can policymakers design and debate complex policy ideas while facing the constraints imposed by today’s fast-changing media environment? Specific sub-themes include:

  • Law, Courts, and the Judicial System
  • Intergovernmental Relations and Indigenous Self-Government
  • The Machinery of Government
  • Political Engagement
  • Public Policy and the Media

Improving Canada's economic resilience

The ongoing process of globalization generates tremendous benefits for open societies, but also exposes individual economies to greater economic volatility. How can we design our financial markets to operate with greater stability without unduly sacrificing their efficiency? What policies can improve the social safety net so Canadians whose jobs are displaced by automation can still have rewarding and satisfying careers? Is there a compelling case for better diversifying the Canadian economy, and is it possible to do so? How can our macroeconomic policies best respond to global economic and financial shocks? Specific sub-themes include:

  • Employment and Technological Progress
  • Financial Stability
  • The Social Safety Net
  • Global Shocks and Economic Diversification
  • Monetary and Fiscal Stabilization


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