Commentary by the Atlas editors:
The Atlas editors have identified four major subject areas that, together, comprise the core of MPP/MPA learning. One of these subjects is “Democratic Institutions and the Policy Process.” Some MPP programs, including the Harvard Kennedy School, attempt to address this entire subject area within one core course. The University of Toronto’s core curriculum splits this subject up into two core courses, PPG-1001: The Policy Process and PPG-1000: Governance and Institutions.
PPG-1000 presumes that students bring a basic knowledge of Canada’s governing institutions. The seminar sessions and assigned class readings therefore do not use seminar time to provide students with a detailed overview of the roles and functions of various components of the Canadian State. However, a single class session (“The Architecture of the Canadian State” is devoted to instructing students on the proper functioning of the institutions of the state within the conventions and practices of parliamentary government. Students who lack basic knowledge of Canada’s governing institutions are instructed to familiarize themselves with this background material by reading a recommended primer on the subject, (The Canadian Regime: An Introduction to Parliamentary Government in Canada third edition, by Malcolmson and Myers). Instead of describing Canada’s political institutions, this course is focused on exploring how the design of these institutions shapes the behavior of policy actors and influence policy outcomes.
This course is divided into two major sections. In the first major section, which lasts 8 weeks, students are introduced to the major topics and themes of this subject. Among other topics, students learn about the role of the bureaucracy in policy development, models of bureaucratic behaviour, federalism, and the evolution of the state’s role in society.
In the second component of the course, students apply what they have learned during thorough examinations of a number of the most important specific public management issues facing Canadian policymakers. These issues include: the prospect of Quebec secession, employment insurance, retirement income, immigration, and institutional reform aimed at strengthening democratic responsiveness.
This course also aims to help students develop specific professional skills. For example, one seminar is devoted entirely to teaching students “the art of the Issue Note.” In this class session, students learn how to write effective briefing notes under the supervision of an Ontario Public Service policy expert. Students are required to apply the material learned during this session for their first graded assignment, which is to write a mock “issue note,” due three weeks after the formal briefing note seminar.
Aside from the briefing note assignment, students are evaluated on class participation and a 5-6 page “options note” that defines a policy problem, states governmental objectives and identifies options for policy action.
Page created by: Ben Eisen, last updated 25 February 2013. The content presented on this page, except in the Commentary, is drawn directly from the source(s) cited above, and consists of direct quotations or close paraphrases.