Master of Public Policy

Complexity Seminars

For four weeks in May/June of each year, students are offered several intensive one-week seminars, each on a single theme. Each seminar presents students with a particular type of complexity in the policymaking process. Whereas each of the Policy Case Studies examines one specific policy with many associated complexities, the Complexity Seminars are designed to examine one particular type of complexity as it applies to many different policy examples. In this way, students see each complexity as a phenomenon with considerable generality.

Policymaking in a World of Business

Policymaking in an age of business involves interactions between individual stakeholders who are embedded in organizational structures across institutional sectors. Beyond formal analyses of public policies, how does policymaking actually occur in a world in which businesses have considerable influence? What kind of collaborative approaches are necessary to sustain the relationship between policymakers and businesses? This seminar will draw on many different policy examples to examine the complexity of the policymaking process in contexts where decision-makers and leaders from the private sector play a key role.

Instructor: Nii Addy

Ethical Dimensions of Policymaking

The power to set and administer policy comes with great responsibility. What types of conflicts of interest do policymakers encounter? What moral principles should policymakers adopt to govern their own behaviour? The importance of the power of administrative discretion and its impact on the implementation of policy is being increasingly recognized. How should this power be exercised? And what constitutes an abuse of this power? This seminar will consider these central questions while attempting to address both the theoretical debates and practical challenges.

Instructor: Andrew Potter

Stakeholder Management

For policies to succeed, stakeholders need to be taken into account during the development and implementation of policies. Failure to do so often results in a policy agenda being derailed. Effective stakeholder management requires developing positive relationships with the relevant stakeholders so that a policy goal can be realized without obstacle. Stakeholder management is a process carried out both by government but also by interest groups to ensure their respective agendas are brought forward. This seminar provides students with insight into the stakeholder management process from the perspectives of government and lobbyists and will provide them with the skills to manage stakeholders as part of the policy development process.

Instructor: Geoffrey Kelley

Rhetoric and Communication of Public Policy

Through this course, participants will gain an understanding of the many considerations and factors that shape a political position, frame and narrative, including self-interests, current events and ideology. We will explore how a political communications campaign is strategically deployed and how it must adapt to the current context, shifting public opinion and competing campaigns. We will explore public policy debate and the stress-test public policy must endure to be successful.

Instructor: Cheryl Anne Oates

Budgeting and Fiscal Policy

Exploration of key variables in a budget, budget rules, the internal and external dynamics of budgeting, and the impact of debt burdens on countries.

Instructor: Louis Levesque

Partisan Politics and the Policy Process

In modern politics, the term “partisan” has become a dirty word. Political parties stand accused of prioritizing their interests above the common good. Partisanship can also impact policy making by creating gridlock which holds up decision making, or by resulting in constant pendulum swings when governments change their political stripes. But partisanship also allows debate to flourish, and competing points of view to be heard. Modern democratic political systems organized around political parties for a reason: to escape the tyranny of absolute monarchs, who were answerable to no one. So how do policy-makers navigate the good and bad effects of partisanship? Will the future of policymaking be more - or less - partisan than today?

Instructor: Tasha Kheiriddin

Policy and Globalization

This course addresses the overarching policy question of whether – or to what extent – does globalization put constraints on domestic policymaking. Stated another way, the seminar would examine whether globalization – or deep global economic integration – shrinks the space for policymaking within a country’s borders.

Instructor: Julian Vikan Karaguesian

Race, Inequality and Public Policy

This seminar examines the dynamics and persistence of racial inequality in Canada and other advanced industrialized societies. Students will explore the ways that public policy has worked to aggravate and/or ameliorate these circumstances and analyze the impact of racial inequality on democratic norms and institutions.

Instructor: Akwasi Owusu-Bempah

State Capacity for Policymaking

This course will take a step back from the headlines and start from the beginning: What is state capacity, and what are its sources? And if it is indeed in a crisis, why is that? We will then look at the question of state capacity in Canada and in the context of the pandemic, and close with a look at what the future of state capacity might look like.

Instructor: Andrew Potter

Achieving Policy Transparency

Transparency is generally considered a necessary condition of good democratic power, effective policies and accountability and an engaged citizenry. Democracy is now under strain around the world. Some are questioning whether we are entering a post-truth environment. This seminar examines policy transparency from a 360 degree public policy perspective. We will examine the assumptions and implications of transparency theory. Theory will collide with complexity and the public interest when we look at a full array of policy transparency challenges related to public finance, central banks, trade, income inequality, climate change and access to information laws. We will debate the benefits, costs, and obstacles on the design and implementation of policy transparency. We will look to the future, where the next generation of public policy leaders will grapple with the importance and challenges of policy transparency on big issues like income inequality and climate change in a more integrated global and digital environment.

Instructor: Kevin Page

Public Choice: Do Governments Always Act in the Public Interest?

Economics often assumes that voters, elected officials and the government are motivated by the public interest. But is this right? How does the public policy calculus change if we assume that voters, legislators and government officials are also motivated by self interest? Ken Boessenkool brings 25 years of practice in politics and government to the theory of public choice. We will not only learn the theory, but learn how the theory translates, or doesn’t, into real life.

Instructor: Ken Boessenkool

Complexity in Regulatory Systems

Regulatory systems have been an important part of public policy as long as societies have needed public goods, like water supply and urban sanitation.  This course surveys recent discussions about regulatory complexity in developed economies.  Study focuses on experiences in selected, highly regulated and knowledge-intensive sectors:  past experience with telecommunications, and current experience with finance (credit/lending and investment funds), electricity, and vaccines.  The course then looks at the developing public conversation about regulating big technology companies (big tech). 

Instructor: John Stewart


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