The Energy Transition We Need:
Max Bell School of Public Policy Spring Conference

Friday, April 21, 2023 • 9am-5pm • McGill University Faculty Club

How do we tackle the biggest policy challenges in getting Canada to net zero?

Like many countries, Canada is now committed to achieving net zero greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050. It is one thing to make such a commitment, and quite another to figure out how to achieve it. How will we finance the massive investment in new technologies that will be necessary in the years ahead? How will we deal with the inevitable economic dislocation created for millions of workers as some sectors expand while others contract? And how will all of this change be accomplished within our existing political system, which already has its fair share of tensions and challenges?

This one-day conference will highlight some of the biggest policy challenges Canada faces in the years ahead as it determines its path toward a cleaner and hopefully more prosperous future. If you can't join us in Montreal, you can watch the livestream.


The conference features three panels and a keynote speaker, all in-person:

Panel #1: The Money and Investment We Need

Who will pay for the massive investments in cleaner energy systems and the development of new and cleaner technologies? Will the private sector take these risks at the necessary scale and time frame? Or will public policies be needed to drive this behaviour? Will our governments need to commit taxpayers’ money and, if so, how can we ensure that these funds are deployed in the most effective manner possible? Our panelists and moderator are experts on public and private investment, financial markets, and tax policy.

See the panelists

Rachel Samson

Vice President of Research, Institute for Research on Public Policy

Previous to her current role, she was Clean Growth Research Director at the Canadian Climate Institute. Rachel also spent 15 years as an economist and executive with the federal government, and five years as a consultant working with clients such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission. Her research has focused on the economic and distributional aspects of climate, energy, and environmental policy.

Paul Rochon 

Executive Advisor, Deloitte Canada

Paul Rochon is Executive Advisor at Deloitte Canada, where he focuses on issues related to economic strategy, climate change, the energy transition and commercial transportation. He is a member of the Independent Review Committee on Standard Setting in Canada, established by CPA Canada to provide advice on the formation of a Canadian sustainability standard-setting board. He is also a member of the Advisory Board for the Max Bell School of Public Policy, McGill University. Paul was Deputy Minister of Finance (Canada) from 2014 to 2020. Prior to this appointment, he held a number of Deputy Minister positions in the federal government; including Deputy Minister of International Development; Associate Deputy Minister of Health and Finance Deputy Minister at the G7, G20 and the Financial Stability Forum. He holds a MA in Economics from the University of Toronto and a BA in History from McGill University.

Leah Lawrence

President & CEO, Sustainable Development Technology Canada

Leah Lawrence is a long-time advocate of entrepreneurship, innovation and the environment. Since taking the helm of SDTC in 2015, she has transformed the organization to be the largest funder of small and medium sized climate tech enterprises in Canada and the most crucial actor in helping start-ups in every region of the country grow into globally competitive businesses that will deliver economic and environmental prosperity to Canadians. Leah was instrumental in the formation of the Innovation Asset Collective, Canada’s first patent collective, where she currently serves as vice chair of its board of directors. She also recently co-authored the report Climate Change Impacts on Canadian National Security, published by the Centre for International Governance and Innovation as part of a larger project to reimagine Canada’s national security strategy.

Moderator: Paul Boothe 

Faculty Director of the Ivey Academy, Western University
Formerly: Deputy Minister, Environment Canada; Deputy Minister, Finance, Saskatchewan

Paul Boothe is a retired professor and deputy minister. He taught economics at University of Alberta and Western University's Ivey Business School. His public service includes serving as Saskatchewan's Deputy Minister of Finance and Secretary of Treasury Board and as Canada's Deputy Minister of the Environment. He was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada in 2016.

Panel #2: The Jobs and Skills We Need

All economic transitions are “disruptive”, and the size and duration of our coming energy transition suggests that it may be more disruptive than most. As economic activity shifts toward cleaner energy sources and technologies, Canadian workers will inevitably be released from some older and higher-emitting sectors. How will we encourage such movements while cushioning the impact on those most vulnerable? How will we identify the skills and training necessary in the future, so that we can assist workers in acquiring this knowledge? Our panelists and moderator are experts on labour markets, skills, and the social safety net.

See the panelists

Jim Stanford

Economist, Director, Centre for Future Work

Jim Stanford is one of Canada’s best-known economists. He served for over 20 years as Economist and Director of Policy with Unifor, Canada’s largest private-sector trade union (formerly the Canadian Auto Workers). He is quoted frequently in the print and broadcast media, and contributes regular commentaries to the Toronto Star, Global National News, and CKNW Radio. He is also the Harold Innis Industry Professor in Economics at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, and an Honorary Professor in the Department of Political Economy at the University of Sydney. Jim received his Ph.D. in Economics from the New School for Social Research in New York. He also holds an M.Phil. in Economics from Cambridge University, and a B.A. (Hons.) in Economics from the University of Calgary. Jim is the author of Economics for Everyone: A Short Guide to the Economics of Capitalism (second edition published by Pluto Books in 2015), which has been published in six languages. Stanford has written, edited or co-edited six other books, and dozens of articles and reports in both peer-reviewed and popular outlets. He has provided research and advice through numerous federal and provincial government panels and inquiries on economic policy, innovation, jobs, and social policy. Jim is recognized for his ability to communicate economic concepts in an accessible and humorous manner.

Pedro Barata

Executive Director, Future Skills Centre

Known for his strategic leadership, an active voice on social policy, and a commitment to community building, Pedro Barata’s career and extensive volunteer work in the non-profit sector spans two decades. As the Executive Director of the Future Skills Centre, Pedro works with the key project partners to realize the Centre’s mandate and objectives: to build a network of key partners and stakeholders, lead and invest in cutting-edge research, test and evaluate innovative projects, and ensure that knowledge is shared and acted on. Prior to joining FSC, Pedro held roles at the United Way Greater Toronto, Atkinson Foundation, Family Service Toronto, Social Planning Toronto, and the City of Toronto. Pedro holds a Bachelor of Arts from York University and a Masters of Social Work from the University of Toronto.

Jennifer Robson

Program Director and Associate Professor, Political Management, Carleton University

Jennifer Robson is Program Director and an Associate Professor of Political Management at Kroeger College, Carleton University, where she teaches courses in public policy and research methods Prior to joining Carleton, Jennifer worked in the Government of Canada and she spent nearly a decade in the voluntary sector holding senior roles in policy development and research. Her research has included studies of social policies such as family benefits, education savings, poverty in Canada, wealth inequality, tax policy and the financial lives of low and modest income persons.


Moderator: Heather Scoffield

Senior Vice President of Strategy, Business Council of Canada

Heather focuses on collaborating with business leaders and policymakers to find practical solutions to the economic challenges of our time: climate, competitiveness and the constantly changing workforce. Previously, Heather was the Ottawa bureau chief and economics columnist at the Toronto Star where her writing focused on political economy and its effect on people. She was also the Ottawa bureau chief for The Canadian Press, leading an award-winning team of 15 journalists focused on politics, public policy and the nation’s capital. Over the course of her 30-year career in journalism, she covered monetary and fiscal policy, economics, trade policy, social policy, aboriginal affairs, environment and energy, and several different political parties. Before joining CP in 2009, she spent 12 years at the Globe and Mail. She and her team won several National Newspaper Awards for their work, among other recognitions. Heather has a Master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario and a BA in international relations from York University. She lives in Gatineau, QC.

Panel #3: The Politics and Partnerships We Need

A challenging economic transition places strains on democratic politics, especially when energy resources align so closely with existing regional divides. How will we secure the social license required to build the major infrastructure projects needed for the coming energy transition? How will we ensure that Indigenous communities are full partners in these activities? How will federal-provincial relations be handled when tensions arise? Our panelists and moderator come from across the political spectrum and are seasoned practitioners in the “art of the possible”.

See the panelists

JP Gladu

Founder & Principal, Mokwateh; Indigenous business leader

JP Gladu is a prominent Indigenous business leader, currently serving as Principal of Mokwateh and on the board of several major organizations including Suncor, Institute for Corporate Directors, Broden Mining, and the First Nations Major Projects Coalition Advisory Centre. Previously, he was President and CEO of the Canadian Council of Aboriginal Business (CCAB) and on the Board of Ontario Power Generation and Noront Resources, among others. In addition to his corporate roles, JP is a senior fellow with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute and served as Chancellor of St. Paul's University College Waterloo from 2017 to 2020. JP is a sought-after public speaker both nationally and internationally, sharing insights into the challenges and successes of Indigenous business and the growth of the Indigenous economy within Canada today. He is also Chair of Canada's Forest Trust and the Boreal Leadership Champions, as well as a member of BHP's International Forum for Corporate Responsibility committee.

Rachel Doran

Director of Policy and Strategy, Clean Energy Canada

Rachel has spent her career at the intersection of advocacy, policy, politics, and law. Rachel currently works as head of policy for Clean Energy Canada, a thinktank based out of Simon Fraser University which works to advance clean energy solutions for Canada’s sustainable economy. Rachel previously served as policy advisor to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and chief of staff to Ministers of Justice and Indigenous Services as well as senior special advisor to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change. She has also worked in non-partisan roles in the Ontario and federal governments, primarily acting as counsel on litigation, administrative law, resource management and Indigenous rights. She holds law degrees in civil and common law and a Bachelor of Arts from McGill University. She is based in Chelsea, Quebec.

Tony Keller

The Globe and Mail

Tony Keller is a columnist with The Globe and Mail. Until 2022, he was The Globe‘s editorials editor. Over a 30-year career, he has also been editor of The Financial Post Magazine, managing editor of Maclean’s and a news anchor at BNN (now BNN Bloomberg). Born and raised in Montreal, he’s a graduate of Duke University and Yale Law School. He won Canada’s National Newspaper Award for editorial writing in 2016.

Moderator: Mel Cappe, OC 

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 Cappe is a distinguished Fellow and previously a Professor in the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, University of Toronto. He has been President of the Institute for Research on Public Policy, High Commissioner for Canada to the United Kingdom, Clerk of the Privy Council, Secretary to Cabinet and Head of the Public Service. He was the Deputy Minister of several economic and social departments in the government of Canada. He has been a Commissioner on Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission and sits on the Board of the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices. He was Chair or Vice Chair of the Boards of the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, and Canadian Blood Services and is Chair of the Board of the Health Research Foundation. He has graduate degrees in Economics from the Universities of Western Ontario and Toronto and honourary doctorates from both. He is an Officer of the Order of Canada and a recipient of the Queen’s Diamond and Golden Jubilee Medals.

Keynote: "Reimagining A New Way Forward, with Intention"

Sheila Watt-Cloutier

Environmental, Cultural, and Human Rights Advocate

Nobel Peace Prize nominee Sheila Watt-Cloutier is in the business of transforming public opinion into public policy. Experienced in working with global decision-makers for more than a decade, Watt-Cloutier offers a new model for 21st century leadership. She speaks with passion and urgency on the issues of today — the environment, the economy, foreign policy, global health, and sustainability — not as separate concerns, but as a deeply interconnected whole. At a time when people are seeking solutions, direction, and a sense of hope, this global leader provides a big picture of where we are and where we're headed.

In 2007, Watt-Cloutier was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her advocacy work in showing the impact of global climate change on human rights — especially in the Arctic, where it is felt more immediately, and more dramatically, than anywhere else in the world. Watt-Cloutier is an Officer of the Order of Canada, and the recipient of the Aboriginal Achievement Award, the UN Champion of the Earth Award, the Norwegian Sophie Prize, the Jack P. Blaney award for Dialogue, and the Right Livelihood Award, which is widely considered the "Nobel Alternative".

From 1995-2002, Watt-Cloutier was elected the Canadian President of the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC). She was later elected in 2002 to become the International Chair of the ICC, representing the 155,000 Inuit from Canada, Greenland, Alaska, and Russia — she held this post until 2006.

Widely recognized for her influential work, Watt-Cloutier gave a TEDx Talk in 2016 titled “Human Trauma and Climate Trauma as One”. She is also the author of the memoir, The Right to Be Cold: One Woman's Story of Protecting Her Culture, the Arctic and the Whole Planet, which was nominated for the 2016 BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction and the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing. In 2017, the book was shortlisted for CBC Canada Reads, defended by Chantal Kreviazuk. Watt-Cloutier was also shortlisted for the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize.

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.

About the Ecofiscal Commission

Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission was formed by a group of experienced, policy-minded economists from across the country, seeking to broaden the discussion of ecofiscal policy reform beyond the academic sphere and into the realm of practical policy application. The Ecofiscal Commission and its Commissioners were fully independent and aimed to inform the public and policy-makers across the political spectrum, at all levels of government. Together, from 2014-2019, they aimed to bring people together around the table to have the critical discussion about ecofiscal reform that Canada’s future requires.

About this Conference Series

Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission operated from 2014-2019 and was funded through the generosity of 11 donors, including corporations and family foundations.

When Ecofiscal wound up its operations, the donors signed over the remaining funds to the Max Bell School of Public Policy, to finance a series of ten annual conferences on policy issues at the intersection of the economy and the environment.

Like the Ecofiscal Commission before it, the Max Bell School thanks these donors for their generous support while maintaining its independence to explore and debate public policies that can advance Canada’s economic and environmental prosperity.

2023 Conference Organizers

  • Research Assistants: Asma Bouikni, Linda Huyen Bùi, Abigail Jackson, Harshini Ramesh, Nicole Simineri, Prodpran Wangcherdchuwong

  • Faculty & Staff: Chris Ragan, Adriana Goreta, V. Weston


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