Special Events

The Max Bell School will organize a number of special events for MPP students during the 2019-20 academic year. These special events will include policy luncheons and dinners with elected officials and other policy experts, the History-Future Policy Lecture Series, talks from visiting policy leaders, and more.

History-Future Policy Lecture Series

As part of the MPP program, the Max Bell School has designed a 12-part policy lecture series, drawing on the talents of McGill’s professors, and aimed at selected topics in either the “history” or the “future” of policy. Six professors will each address a selected policy topic in a historical context, while six professors will each address a forward-looking policy issue.

2019-20 History

1. Socialist (In)security: Soviet Pensions and Socialist Political Economy

Kristy Ironside

Twentieth-century Eastern European socialist economies promised comprehensive welfare benefits "from the cradle to the grave," including generous state pensions, and had some of the lowest pension ages in the world; however, the expense of this agenda is often pointed to as a long-term cause of the collapse of these economies and its legacy as a drain on post-communist successors states' budgets. Focusing on the Soviet example, this talk will look at the pitfalls of pension financing in the postwar period. WWII increased the burden of pension financing three-fold in the Soviet Union, whose economy was devastated and whose pensioner population was dramatically increased by the war and by several decades of disruptive state policies. In particular, it will look at how the October 1956 pension law tried to solve the problem of providing for the socioeconomically vulnerable while preserving financial incentives to be maximize one's lifetime labor contributions. It also points to some of the reasons why the current Putin government has faced a massive backlash as it attempts to renege on some of the pension guarantees of the Soviet period.

2. The Rise and Fall of Sodomy Laws in Britain and the British Empire

Brian Lewis

This lecture will trace the implementation, modification, spread and dismantling of anti-sodomy legislation in Britain and the British World from the sixteenth century to the present. It seeks to explain why, for centuries, sodomy was such a pressing public policy concern that it necessitated death or long terms of imprisonment, but how and why the logic has shifted in many countries in the last half century.

3. Medicare @ 50

David Wright

A comparison of the successes and failures of universal health care in Canada, place in broader Anglo-American historical perspective.

4. The Politics of Pain: Pursuing Relief in the Opiate Epidemic

Andrea Tone

Today's opiate epidemic in the United States has sparked a lively debate. Should we enact steeper penalties for dealers? Restrict doctors' prescribing power? Often overlooked in these discussions are the medical needs of patients in pain and the clinicians they turn to for relief. This talk explores the history of pain management in the US, including patients and medical providers caught in the crossfire of political debates.

5. On Refugee Policy

Laura Madokoro

Canadian refugee policies are widely-celebrated and have been used to gain significant mileage for the country on the international stage. Often presented as enlightened and progressive, the history of policy-making around refugee protection and resettlement is far more complicated than it appears at first glance. To address this dynamic, this talk focuses on the contested relationship between civil society and the Canadian state over refugee issues from the 1950s to the present.

6. The Public Policy of Slave-owners: Smallpox Inoculation in the British Caribbean, 1700s-1740s

Jason Opal

In the 1500s and 1600s, smallpox replaced plague as the most deadly and terrifying disease in the world. The usual story of how humanity overcame "spotted death" focuses on Edward Jenner's idea of vaccination in the late 1790s, but the process of mass inoculation--the forerunner to vaccination--began instead on the slave islands of the eastern Caribbean, where masters had total control over West African bodies, value, and medical knowledge.

2019-20 Future

1. After the Apocalypse: Journalism at the end of the MSM

Andrew Potter

That the mainstream media is struggling is not news. Much of the policy debate around the news business has focused on how to protect and preserve the status quo while allowing for transformation and innovation. But there has been very little thinking about what the media landscape would look like in the absence of the legacy outlets. But what happens if Postmedia, Torstar, and Maclean’s magazine all go bankrupt? What does a healthy media ecosystem look like in their absence? And what policy instruments can best cultivate such an environment?

2. Federalism and Public Policy in Canada: A Comparative and Institutional Perspective

Daniel Beland

In the Canadian context, most policy issues are tied to federalism, in a way or another. This is why it is essential to understand federal institutions and their potential impact on policy development. Using concrete examples and focusing on the institutional “varieties of federalism” across countries and policy areas within the same countries, this lecture offers a comparative and institutional perspective on Canadian federalism as it intersects with public policy.

3. Implementing the 2030 Agenda: Global Governance and the Rise of Non-State Actors

Sonia Laszlo

International Development policy is currently centered around the 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. This lecture discusses some of the challenges of implementing this agenda in light of recent trends in global governance with a specific focus on the increasingly important and at times controversial role played by private entities, NGOs and philanthropists. We will also take a look at how Canada’s International Development Assistance policy can navigate this changing environment.

More Future lectures to be added


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