Launch of Max Bell Public Policy School at McGill University

November 17, 2017

The Jeanne Sauvé Foundation was pleased to attend the launch of McGill’s new Max Bell School of Public Policy last week at the Omni Hotel in Montreal. The Jeanne Sauvé team and current 2017-19 Fellows took part in this event, which marks the opening of a promising and unique public policy school in North America. The school will serve as a forum for students and the community to negotiate sustainable and accountable policy and ultimately prepare leaders of tomorrow to deliver better policy outcomes.

At the launch, McGill’s Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Antonia Maioni, and Christopher Ragan, Director of the new public policy school, asked invited guests to think about major policy issues facing Canada today and to think about Canada’s role in the world.

Mel Cappe, Professor at University of Toronto’s School of Public Policy and Governance, said Canada was a beacon for democracy in a world where democracy is under stress and in decline.

Roland Paris, University of Ottawa Research Chair in International Security and Governance, emphasized the need to bridge academic work with policy work. He said that Canada has to be careful not to lose its reputation capital in international issues because of the current situation in the USA. He also said Canada could be a leader in achievable projects like providing education in refugee camps.

Michael Sabia, President and CEO of Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, said we need to address massive urbanization. It is very important that this process goes well because the needs are unprecedented to accommodate the exponential growth of urban centers. He said Canada could be a catalyst and act as a leader in this regard since it has reputable urban planning and design schools as well as engineer firms, has a deep pool of expertise, and its cities regularly rank as among the world’s most liveable cities. Canada has to create more awareness and show more leadership.

Jennifer Welsh, Chair in International Relations at the European University Institute, said that policy schools need to address conflicts in the world and how to better prevent them. She asked the audience to reflect on how conflicts are changing, how to prevent conflicts, how outsiders can moderate conflicts, how to rebuild after conflicts, and how to prevent the resurgence of conflicts.  She said the new Max Bell School at McGill is geographically well-positioned to play an important role in resolving international conflicts, as it is close to NY, Ottawa and Washington.

Former Prime Minister of Canada, Paul Martin, discussed the impact that poor policy-making can have for generations by highlighting critical problems for Indigenous Canadians today.

Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Canadian Inuit activist and former Chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, echoed Mr. Martin’s thoughts and called for better and more sustainable policy for Indigenous Canadians. “The Challenges are very great on every level for Indigenous and Inuit Canadians”, Watt-Cloutier emphasized. “Inuit know a lot about sustainability & thriving in a climate where most people would perish in one hour. A lot of bad policies along the way have led to a crisis for aboriginals in Canada. We are people who want to contribute and we have much to teach the world and Canada.”

Brian Topp, NAFTA Council Member, emphasized that good public policy in Canada needs to tackle growing inequalities and the rise of racist populists who threaten to undermine democracies. “There is a rising army of disposed because of policies in Canada that lead to greater inequalities in society” he said. “We need to achieve a prosperity that is more sustainable and equitable”.  He congratulated the win of Montreal’s new female Mayor, Valérie Plante, as a positive step forward in this direction.

Graham Fox, president & CEO of the Institute for Research on Public Policy, emphasized Canada’s changing landscape and unparalleled diversity as enriching Canada’s political ecosystem. He said Canada’s diverse youth have the potential to contribute enormously to reshaping public policy of the future. “The policy community needs to always look ahead and understand the dynamics of modern Canada. We need a fresh look at solving complex policy problems” he said. At the same time, he stressed that Canada still has hiccups to deal with like the fact that Quebec has never signed Canada’s constitution.

We wish the best to McGill’s new public policy school. We look forward to the Sauvé Fellows and Community engaging and participating in the forum and debates around public policy at the Max Bell School.