Better Policy for a Better World

Max Bell School Conference: Better Policy for a Better World

November 14, 2019 | Montreal

How can we close the gap between the theory of public policy and the complex art of putting it into practice?

While there’s certainly no shortage of problems in the world, there’s also no shortage of good policy ideas to solve them. But good ideas alone don’t seem to be enough. Those good ideas need to be implemented effectively in a difficult political, social, and economic context.

Join McGill University's Max Bell School of Public Policy for Better Policy for a Better World, a conference that explores the many reasons that policy making is difficult in the real world.


Our speakers are experts in public policy, communications, philanthropy, economics, stakeholder management, and partisan politics.


Agenda for max bell school conference

The conference features four panels: 

We’ll address the importance of communications, stakeholder management, and the role of the partisan political process. We’ll cover the role of think tanks and public policy schools in generating big ideas. We’ll take a close look at the case of Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission, a purpose-built organization to promote the greater use of one specific kind of policy. Finally, we’ll be joined by leaders who have successfully navigated their way through the policy minefields of a challenging political landscape.

Panel #1: Why Good Ideas Aren't Enough

This panel will explore the many aspects that make public policy difficult in the real world. It features experts on communications, stakeholder management, civil society, and philanthropy. 

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Ken Boessenkool 

Partner, Kool Topp & Guy Public Affairs

Ken has worked for, or volunteered in a senior capacity for, Ray Speaker, Preston Manning, Jim Dinning, Stephen Harper, Christy Clark and Ric McIver. He has published numerous policy and academic papers on a range of key national issues, and is a frequent contributor to numerous online and print publications.

Bruce Lourie 

President, Ivey Foundation

Bruce is co-author of the best-selling books Toxin, Toxout: Getting Harmful Chemicals Out of Our Bodies and Our World, and Slow Death by Rubber Duck. He is an Honorary Director of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment and a founding Director of Canadians for Clean Prosperity.

Velma McColl 

Principal, Earnscliffe Strategy Group

Prior to joining Earnscliffe, Velma advised Federal Cabinet Ministers on political strategy, policy and communications. She has also worked provincially in British Columbia and Alberta. Through her career, she has focused on Canada's competitiveness and innovation opportunities, climate change, energy, technology and sustainable development.

Dan Tisch 

CEO, Argyle Public Relationships

Daniel is widely known as a leader in the Canadian and global communications community. He is a long-standing advisor to all three orders of government in Canada and has been the lead strategist on branding, communications and stakeholder engagement programs on some of the most challenging issues in the public sector.

Moderator: Paul Boothe 

Faculty Director of Ivey's Senior Public Leaders Program
Formerly: Richard Ivey School of Business, Western University; Deputy Minister, Environment Canada; Deputy Minister, Finance, Saskatchewan

Paul's career has included university research and teaching, acting as an independent consultant to Canadian and international organizations, and serving at the deputy minister level in provincial and federal governments.

Panel # 2: Many Good Ideas: The Role of Think Tanks and Policy Schools

Where do good ideas come from? This panel examines the role played in the policy process by think tanks and policy schools. Experts from these two areas will discuss the origin and propagation of good ideas in the policy process. 

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Mel Cappe 

Professor, Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy
Formerly: President of Institute for Research on Public Policy; Clerk of the Privy Council; Canada's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom; Deputy Minister of Environment Canada

Mel provides strategic advice on a wide range of financial, environmental, and human resource development issues.

Martha Hall Findlay 

President and CEO, Canada West Foundation

As a corporate lawyer, senior business executive and successful entrepreneur, Martha has more than 25 years of domestic and international experience with major multinationals as well as start-ups, primarily in telecommunications and technology.

Jack Mintz 

President’s Fellow, School of Public Policy, University of Calgary
Formerly: President and chief executive officer of The C.D. Howe Institute

Jack's research is focused on tax, urban and financial market regulatory policy programs. He has published widely in the fields of public economics and fiscal federalism, been an advisor to governments throughout the world on fiscal matters, and has frequently published articles in national newspapers and magazines.

Nancy Olewiler 

Economist and Professor, School of Public Policy, Simon Fraser University

Nancy’s areas of research include natural resource and environmental economics and policy. She was formerly a professor in the Economics department at Queen’s University.


Moderator: Daniel Béland 

Director, McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, McGill University

Daniel is a Canadian political sociologist who is currently working on research projects focusing on issues ranging from universal social policy and health care reform to the role of ideas in policy development and the relationship between fiscal policy and welfare state development.

Panel #3: One Good Idea: The Case of Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission

Canada's Ecofiscal Commission is a unique, purpose-built, think tank dedicated to the research and advocacy of pollution pricing. Four independent experts will assess the role played by the Commission in influencing Canadian policy. 

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Andrew Leach 

Associate Professor, Alberta School of Business, University of Alberta

Andrew teaches courses in energy markets and environmental management as part of the Alberta School of Business Natural Resources, Energy and Environment (NREE) programs. His academic research interests span climate and energy economics and policy.

David McLaughlin 

Climate and sustainability public policy expert
Formerly: Director of Climate Change, Canada, International Institute for Sustainable Development

David is one of Canada's leading climate and sustainability public policy experts. He is the former president and CEO of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy and Senior Advisor, Climate Change in the Manitoba Government.

Bill Watson 

Economist and columnist at Financial Post; Research fellow, Institute for Research on Public Policy
Formerly: Associate professor, Department of Economics, McGill University

Bill advises the IRPP on its research activities pertaining to the Competitiveness, Productivity and Economic Growth research program. He writes on economics and other issues for the National Post weekly, and for the Ottawa Citizen fortnightly.

Andrea MoffatModerator: Andrea Moffat 

Vice President, Ivey Foundation

Andrea is the Vice President of the Ivey Foundation whose mission is to help create a shared vision for Canada’s future that integrates the economy and the environment, achieves resource efficiency, and fosters innovation and investment for a smarter, sustainable economy. Previously, she was the Vice President of the Corporate Program at Ceres, where she led work on sustainability issues.

Panel #4: Leading Through the Policy Minefields 

Political leadership has always required a careful reading of the landscape, a judgement of the opportunities, and a clear vision of the path forward. Political leaders will share their perspectives on making their own way through the policy minefields that they have encountered. 

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Paul MartinPaul Martin 

21st Prime Minister of Canada

Paul Martin continues to contribute on the international arena through a variety of initiatives such as Incentives for Global Health, the not-for-profit behind the Health Impact Fund, where he serves as a member of the Advisory Board. He also sits as an advisor to Canada's Ecofiscal Commission.


Rachel NotleyRachel Notley 

Leader, Alberta New Democratic Party
Formerly: Premier of Alberta from 2015 to 2019

Rachel is a member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta for Edmonton-Strathcona, and leader of the Alberta New Democratic Party. She was a lawyer before entering politics, focusing on labour law, with a specialty in workers' compensation advocacy and workplace health and safety issues.

Moderator: Chris Ragan 

Economics professor and Director, Max Bell School of Public Policy; Chair of Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission

Chris was a member of Finance Minister’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth, former Special Advisor to the Governor of the Bank of Canada, and also former Clifford Clark Visiting Economist at Finance Canada.


Conference includes a light breakfast, lunch buffet, and cocktail reception.


Location Max Bell School conference

The conference venue is the:

Sofitel Montreal Golden Mile 

1155 Sherbrooke ST. W.


H3A 2N3

This venue has accessibility and facilities for people with reduced mobility. Valet parking is available. Please let us know if you have any specific accessibility requirements so we can accommodate your needs.



Registration Max Bell School conference


Student ticket: $60

General admission: $275

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