Max Bell School of Public Policy Launch

The School launched at an event in honour of the Max Bell Foundation's landmark gift.

On November 7, 2017,  the McGill community came together for the launch of the Max Bell School of Public Policy at the Hotel Omni Mont-Royal. The event was in honour of the Max Bell Foundation’s landmark gift to McGill to establish the new school of public policy. During her opening remarks, Suzanne Fortier, McGill’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor, highlighted how: “There’s never been a more important time for McGill to contribute its full voice to the public conversation about the most critical issues affecting the future of Canadians and all citizens around the world.”

The launch of the Max Bell School of Public Policy builds upon a forty-four year relationship between the Max Bell Foundation and McGill University. In 2004, the Max Bell Foundation started supporting public policy research projects at McGill focusing on a variety of topics from public health to education to the environment. In 2014, that partnership evolved with the proposal to provide the seed money to McGill for the creation of the Max Bell School of Public Policy. In 2017, this project came to fruition with a 10 million dollar gift from the Max Bell Foundation and the appointment of Chris Ragan, as its inaugural director. 

“We have every confidence that you will be successful in developing a world class curriculum and in recruiting competent, creative academic faculty and many of Canada’s leading public policy practitioners to this campus. To not only share their expertise with students and faculty but to also engage in improving the quality of our society,” said Carolyn Hursh, Chair of the Max Bell Foundation.

Prior to introducing the Honourable Rona Ambrose, former Leader of the Opposition and interim leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, for her keynote, Chris Ragan’s remarks focused on the three key messages of the Max Bell School of Public Policy:


During her keynote, Rona Ambrose discussed her experience being a leader in the House of Commons and the importance of public policy schools connecting the public to the policy-making world. "I really look forward to being able to contribute my small bit of experience that I have gathered in developing, implementing, and communicating public policy. I have seen failures, I have seen successes. I think that will help us build a policy school, that has a different kind of vision, and in particular, as Chris mentioned, has a more outward facing public engagement goal," said Ambrose. 

Panel on Canada’s Engagement on Global Issues

The keynote was followed by a panel discussion on Canada’s Engagement on Global Issues with Mel Cappe, former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom and former Clerk of the Privy Council; Roland Paris, University of Ottawa Research Chair in International Security and Governance; Michael Sabia, President and CEO of Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec; and Jennifer Welsh, Chair in International Relations at the European University Institute and former Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on the Responsibility to Protect.

Topics raised during this panel included global urbanization trends, the state of democracy, and armed conflict. During the panel, Roland Paris also highlighted the perils facing Canadian foreign policy:

Panel on Addressing Canada's Domestic Challenges

This panel was followed by a discussion on Addressing Canada's Domestic Challenges with The Right Honourable Paul Martin, former Prime Minister of Canada and former Minister of Finance; Graham Fox, President and CEO of the Institute for Research on Public Policy; Brian Topp, NAFTA Council Member and former Chief of Staff to Alberta Premier Rachel Notley; Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Canadian Inuit activist and former Chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference. 

The panel covered the political consequences of inequality, the impact of bad policies on Indigenous Peoples in Canada, and federal constitutional arrangements. In the course of the panel, the Right Honourable Paul Martin mentioned the importance of implementing policies to provide support to the Indigenous children of Canada — the fastest growing segment of Canada's population:

The Max Bell Foundation’s gift to McGill creates what has long been discussed in McGill’s corridors as a significant missing element in the University’s offerings.

The Max Bell School of Public Policy will be committed to four main activities: applied policy research, practical policy teaching, effective public outreach, and engagement with policymakers. It will bring applied research into the public eye, engage various stakeholders in informed discussion and debate, and develop the next generation of policy leaders. The school will begin accepting admission applications as of September 2018 for the Fall 2019 semester. It was also announced that Dominic Barton, Rona Ambrose, and Michael Sabia will be joining the school’s advisory board.

Though the Max Bell School is only now beginning to build its program, there is already much excitement regarding the future of the school at McGill University and its impact on the global policy community.

More videos of the launch event are available here.

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