In November 2022, the fourth cohort of Master of Public Policy candidates visited Parliament Hill to learn firsthand from policymakers. Organized by the Max Bell School including visiting professor Neil Bouwer and alumnus Enzo Zorigtbaatar, the inaugural trip was designed to educate and inspire. A few MPPs - Elisa, Aftab, Linda, Gianna and Raúl - reflect on the experience.
I had the opportunity, alongside my peers at the Max Bell School of Public Policy, to participate in a tour of the House of Commons and learn about the federal government in Ottawa.
Our packed agenda consisted of meetings with Members of Parliament including Cabinet Ministers, political staffers, federal public servants, and alumni of McGill University. Each person we met was a part of a larger puzzle in decision-making, pieced together to reveal a larger tapestry of how our communities can dream and work together on an array of policy issues.
Here are a few takeaways from my time on the Hill, which will be informative to me and my peers as we reflect on our future roles in shaping policy issues in the near future:
More can be done to combat partisan divides.
While it is positive that there is a cross-party collaboration among MPs through their committee work, there are still ways in which the legislative process is designed to encourage combativeness. For instance, one MP spoke about how seating is arranged in the house during debates. It can be entertaining to watch government and opposition members seated in opposing sides to one another, considering a mixed-seating arrangement could foster more collaboration among MPs.
Potential reforms should be explored to address equity challenges with representation.
Moreover, funding allocations are not always equitable for officials. For example, MPs receive the same budget to manage their offices, regardless of costliness due to differences in regional contexts. In other words, for MPs in northern, rural and remote settings, they have the same budget as their urban counterparts, and their cost of reaching out to their constituents is relatively more expensive. Considering changes to the funding allocation to MP offices, whether it be through proportional allocations, can help to better address equity challenges with representation.
Get creative with the sandbox you’re in.
Finally, during a panel with public servants, one speaker outlined an analogy to consider how different departments may be in the same “sandbox,” but the tools for how they would go about building the sandcastle may be different. This is a useful analogy for understanding what should be contained within the sandbox, or scope, of a policy issue, and for considering how different departments would approach them. Since each department often has some variation in culture and language, working to create interdisciplinary opportunities to learn from various perspectives and audiences can help to improve outcomes of policy and program development.
Linda Bùi is a 2022-23 MPP Student at the Max Bell School of Public Policy at McGill and is a 2022 McCall MacBain Scholar. Previously, Linda worked for the Council of Ontario Universities and the Ontario Legislative Assembly. She co-founded the Girls Empowerment Movement—a youth-led initiative for young women— and Empowered Phụ Nữ—an arts collective of Vietnamese women based in Tkaronto/Toronto.