“We define public policy as a course of action or inaction chosen by government to address a problem, but I think it’s more than that,” says Mark Stabile, director of U of T’s new School of Public Policy and Governance. “I think it is the set of ideas that takes us in the direction we want to go as a society. Some of that’s done by government; some by communities, individuals or NGOs who give their time to places that are less fortunate. All of it is to advance the public purpose.”
With this expansive definition in mind, Stabile is overseeing what he hopes will be Canada’s premier school for public policy. Established last fall, the school will contribute to policy process in Canada and internationally by unifying various U of T departments that have been working on policy – and by involving academics and policy practitioners in more frequent exchanges. “We can contribute all of the work we’re doing to shape good policy,” says Stabile.
The school will also launch a two-year master’s program in public policy this fall. Students will benefit from policy research taking place throughout U of T and from the school’s mandate to bring in policy-makers to teach classes with academics. “Public policy these days is more than just about health-care policy or environmental policy or educational policy but really about the linkages between them; changes in our environment or education obviously affect our health,” says Stabile.
The school has already held conferences on child development, health-care financing and government accountability. “One of the things that’s exciting to me about launching this school is that our graduate programs speak to where the university thinks there’s value,” says Stabile. “One of our biggest supporters has been our new chancellor David Peterson, who has said this has been a long time coming. We weren’t training graduate students in public policy and now we are. I think that speaks to how important we think public purpose and public service are.”