2012 Tansley Lecture - In defence of political staff

Ian Brodie

Presented by Ian Brodie, Author, Friends of the Court; Former Executive Director, Conservative Party of Canada; Former Chief of Staff to Stephen Harper; Former Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Western Ontario

April 19, 2012

The work of the political aide in Canadian politics is little understood, but widely assumed to be malign. Aides, or 'exempt staff', do essential work in Ottawa and other capitals. Far from being shadowy forces operating outside the law, political aides are in fact closely regulated and contribute to the democratic accountability of governments. Improving the quality of political staff will require better attention to their training, but also more stable career paths over longer periods of time.

Ian Brodie was a major player in the Conservative Party's rise to power over the past decade. He served as Executive Director of the Conservative Party and Stephen Harper's Chief of Staff, and put together the 2006 Conservative election platform, Stand Up for Canada. Before his political work, he was associate professor of political science at the University of Western Ontario. After leaving the Prime Minister's Office, he worked at Hill & Knowlton Canada. Brodie was born and raised in Toronto. He graduated from McGill University and pursued his graduate studies at the University of Calgary. He is the author of Friends of the Court, published by the State University of New York Press. Brodie now lives in Bethesda, Maryland, with his wife and two children, and works at the Inter-American Development Bank.

Post-event publication
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Poster Presentation

The Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy was also pleased to feature the second annual JSGS Policy Research Poster Presentation. During cocktail hour, students were asked to present posters summarizing their research activities, with opportunity for extended discussion and engagement with those attending the lecture. The poster presentations were evaluated by a panel of representatives including:

  • Jim Engel, Vice President, Policy and Planning, SLGA;
  • Clare Isman, Deputy Minister, Advanced Education, Employment & Immigration;
  • Kathy McNutt, Associate Professor and Graduate Chair, Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy;
  • Neil Robertson, Q.C., Legal Council, Regina Policy Service and President, IPAC Saskatchewan; and
  • Byron Werry, City Solicitor, City of Regina.

The first place grand prize winner of the 2012 JSGS Policy Research Poster Competition was Julene Restall for her poster entitled, Ensuring Memorial University is Sustainable Through Funding and Demographic Shifts. In recognition of this achievement, Julene will travel to St. John's, Newfoundland in August to present her poster and research at the Institute of Public Administration of Canada’s 64th Annual Conference. At this conference, a jury will rank the three best poster presentations submitted from across Canada for the Thought of Leaders Awards. In addition, Julene will receive the R.H.D. (Bob) Phillips Travel Award for Public Policy. This award was establish by Dr. Peter Phillips, a JSGS professor at the U of S, in memory of his father. The purpose of this award is to support graduate students enrolled in the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy to travel to present their academic posters at a meeting and/or conference.


Julene Restall


Ensuring Memorial University is Sustainable Through Funding and Demographic Shifts, by: Julene Restall, MPA candidate - First Place Recipient
Abstract - Postsecondary educational institutions play a vital role in a provincial economy. Costs associated with postsecondary institutes have been rising in Canada at an alarming rate, and governments are not able to provide funding increases to match these rates. Universities within Canada are exploring and implementing new processes and programming to ensure their long--‐term sustainability. The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is responsible for providing a quality, public postsecondary system for its people. They offer a comprehensive public postsecondary system with one university, Memorial University and one College, College of the North Atlantic. Newfoundland and Labrador is facing two factors that will greatly influence the sustainability of their sole degree--‐granting institution, Memorial University. 1) A Government tuition freeze that is ending in 2012. 2) Newfoundland and Labrador is facing a demographic shift with an aging population and an anticipated decrease in the young adult population who are the primary users of Memorial University. Memorial University will have to find new revenue to replace these income sources, and without changes to the system they will have difficulty continuing to provide quality, accessible, and affordable postsecondary education. We will discuss possible innovative approaches that Memorial University could take to help address their future funding and demographic issues, including increasing private partnerships for specialized training programs, creating the Newfoundland Homecoming Scholarship Fund, and expanding online education opportunities.

Risky Business: Reputation, the Big Three, and the Subprime Mortgage Crisis, by: Travis Reynolds, MPP candidate - Student's Choice Award
Abstract - In 2007, the fragile house of cards built upon subprime mortgages collapsed. Default rates on subprime mortgages soared to record levels as homeowners found themselves unable to cover the increased costs. Securities backed by the subprime mortgages began to fail, dragging the financial institutions that had invested so heavily in them down as well. The resulting financial crisis crippled the world. Fault for the subprime mortgage crisis has been, in part, attributed to the actions of the three major credit rating agencies (CRAs): Moody's, Standard and Poors, and Fitch. Game theory provides a way of understanding the behaviour of the CRAs during the events that led up to crisis, and how shifts in corporate culture pushed the agencies from being institutions ruled by reputation to near-sighted behemoths hungry only for short-term profit.

A New ID Card for Barbados, by: Phillip Lashley, MPP candidate
Abstract - In 2009, the Barbados Electoral & Boundaries Commission began the consultation process of meeting with various Government departments, to develop specifications for a replacement National ID Card system. In 2011, the Barbados government voted US $2M to implement the project. Complications with tendering led to a delay in implementation, resulting in a conflict with the final timeline for the implementation of the new card and being able to use the card to facilitate the electoral process, constitutionally due before the end of January 2013. We briefly review how pragmatic policy prevailed.

Case Study: Tax Treatment of Dividends, by: Yu-Chen Huang and Jay Kirkland, MPA Candidates
Abstract - This study looks at different policy alternatives to address problems with the double taxation of dividends within the classical model of corporate taxation, where dividend payments are taxable as personal income in the hands of shareholders, yet are not deductible from the taxable income of corporations. Double taxation is inefficient due to its distortionary effect on the following decisions: whether to incorporate or not, whether to use debt or equity financing, and whether to distribute or retain corporate earnings. Double taxation also creates inequities between earners of income from labour and earners of income from capital, and adds a regressive component to the taxation of income from capital. We consider three possible policy alternatives to address the problem: the imputation model, the shareholder allocation model, and the dividend deduction model. Models are evaluated using the following criteria: efficiency, equity, complexity, and political feasibility. Recommendations depend partly upon whether a taxing entity would be transitioning from the classical model or an alternative model. While the theoretical effects on efficiency and equity of the models are relatively clear, the empirical effects are less certain within the literature reviewed. For a jurisdiction considering transitioning from the classical system, the dividend deduction model is recommended based largely on its relative simplicity. For a jurisdiction such as Canada, which already has an imputation model in place, it is recommended that that model be maintained in order to avoid the uncertainty and feasibility concerns which would arise with a transition to any of the other models.

Creating a Culure of Quality in Primary Healthcare Settings, by: Ryan Mang, MPA candidate
Abstract - The behavioural policy approach of using incentives, legislation, and regulation to improve the quality of care that primary care physicians provide have generally failed to produce the desired policy outcomes. As a consequence, achieving quality care in primary health care settings has remained an elusive policy goal. It remains uncoordinated, not easily accessible, not aligned with clinical best practices/guidelines, and delivered in the wrong care settings. Using traditional reward and punishment-based policy approaches has resulted in very little positive change and several unanticipated negative outcomes (i.e. demotivation, team conflict, and lack of a focus on patient outcomes). There is an increasing recognition that the policy responses to this problem need to address a broader range of cultural factors. The cultural capital framework provides a lens that can be used to replace or supplement that existing behavioural policy approach; the goal of using this framework is to create a more comprehensive policy approach that is aimed at improving care in primary healthcare settings.

DISC: Effective Co-Constructor of Disability Income Policy, by: Shannon Boklaschuk, BA, BJ, MPP candidate
Abstract - The Saskatchewan Disability Income Support Coalition (DISC) has emerged as an effective policy actor in the provincial arena. The coalition, which is comprised of nearly 40 social economy organizations of various sizes and scope, has partnered with the provincial government to develop innovative disability income support policy. Work is continuing on the resulting Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability (SAID) program, with Premier Brad Wall announcing in 2011 that SAID will be expanded and the benefits will be increased for individuals with disabilities in 2012-2013. This poster explores several reasons for DISC’s policy success, including the coalition’s creation of causal stories, its efficacy in agenda-setting and its position within a social movement. DISC’s partnership with the provincial government has resulted in that Vaillancourt calls the “co-construction” of public policy, rather than monoconstruction by the public sector alone. Vaillancourt argues that when the social economy is involved in the process, greater democratization of public policy occurs.

Early Childhood Development: A "White Horse" to Bet On?, by: Wendy Moellenbeck, MPA candidate
Abstract - Marchildon (2006) refers to health system reforms that pushed decision makers to focus on a “black horse” aimed at cost-cutting and a “white horse” aimed at integration, accessibility, prevention of illness and wellness. Is early childhood development a good “white horse” to bet on to improve wellness? Early childhood development is a social determinant of health because it impacts later lifetime outcomes. Early experiences influence well-being, mental health, heart disease, obesity, school success and economic participation. What happens in the early years impacts the entire life course. Canada scores behind other Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries in material well-being and health outcomes for early childhood. The Early Development Instrument assesses early childhood development wellness and is a predictor of school readiness. It highlights that while less than 5% of Canadian children are born with developmental limitations, over 27% of school-aged children are delayed in at least one area. Canada invests fewer dollars in the early years than other OECD countries. Canadian beliefs about the individual, the role of women, challenges to successful integration by governments, and the scientific approach of health research may be reasons for lower levels of investment. In order to make early childhood a “white horse” to reduce future health costs, consideration should be given to balancing the needs of an ageing population with the needs of the young, building on the success of existing Canadian research and creating services that respond to the diverse needs of children.

Education on First Nations Reserves: critical strategy and policy implications, by: Jaime Leonard, MPP candidate
Abstract - First Nations' on-reserve education has come under focus recently. A National Panel, appointed by the Government of Canada last year, released a report in Feb. 2012 detailing a new strategy. The Strategy for on-reserve primary and secondary schools includes infrastructure and curriculum renewal. The new strategy is assessed in terms of its cost-benefit and related accountability structures. The research suggests there are some unresolved concerns related to budgetary constraints and legislative accountability.

"Friend or Foe?" The Role of Physician Remuneration in Primary Mental Healthcare Reform, by: Miranda E. Brown, BHS, MPP candidate
Abstract - In Canada, mental illness primarily encompasses the range of mild to moderate depression or anxiety, often requiring minor psychological or pharmaceutical intervention. In most provinces, primary mental healthcare is physician-driven, where private practice general practitioners (GPs) are the critical first point of contact and gatekeepers to psychiatric specialists. Since access to publicly funded psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers is restricted to physician referral and acute-care settings, GPs are heavily relied upon to provide diagnosis, treatment, and management of mental illness. Increasingly, there are concerns regarding quality of GP-delivered primary mental healthcare, given that it is estimated less than 30% of patients receive proper depression care in primary care settings. Addressing quality issues has been one focus of current mental health reform, where proponents of collaborative care dominate the rhetoric. According to these policy actors physician remuneration is a key systemic barrier in GP-delivered mental healthcare. In this context, fee-for-service remuneration is perceived to lack financial incentive to provide collaborative care. In the wake primary care reform, provincial governments have pursed policies to address physician remuneration. This has spilled over to primary mental healthcare with enhanced fee items for mental healthcare management. Yet, the literature remains conflicted regarding the influence of financial incentives embedded in physician remuneration schemes. While perfect remuneration schemes are improbable; it is important to understand how primary mental healthcare reform is confined to the limitations and implications physician remuneration.

Gardasil Vaccine and Boys: A Cost Savings for Treating Genital Warts?, by: Michelle Busch, RSW, BHS, Master's Certificate candidate
Abstract - The purpose of this case study is to provide information on the current HPV vaccination program in Saskatchewan and to analyze it in the context of market failures resulting in vaccination rates below the socially optimal level. Currently in Saskatchewan only females in Grade 6 are included in the public vaccination program, and parents of males are required to pay for the vaccine through their family doctor if they wish for their child to be vaccinated. This means the monetary and time costs for parents of males is significant, and will affect the vaccination rates for males. HPV, or Human Papillomavirus, is a virus that infects both men and women. There are over 100 types of HPV, some of which cause anogenital (cervical, penile, and anal) warts, and some of which can cause cervical cancer. SaskHealth estimates that 75% of sexually active males and females will become infected with at least one type of HPV in their lifetime. The treatment costs associated with HPV can be significant. In 2007 the National Advisory Committee on Immunizations (NACI) released recommendations that girls between ages 9&13 be vaccinated against HPV, and in January 2012 NACI updated their recommendations to include males.

Moving Saskatchewan Forward: Budget Proposal for 2012-13 for the Government of Saskatchewan, by: Iryna Lobach, Janis Nett, Judy Shum & Rasheed Soomro, MPA candidates
Abstract - Moving Saskatchewan Forward is proposed as the strategic goal for the 2012-13 budget, in order for the Government of Saskatchewan to sustain the phenomenal economic growth, meet the growth related challenges, and improve the quality of life for all in our province. The key strategies of this budget are addressing labour shortage; building a highly educated and skilled workforce; and keeping taxes low. The Saskatchewan Labour Market Commission projected that the province would require the addition of over 120,000 workers by 2020. The government must remain pro-active in finding solutions from many sources to meet the labour demand, including increased immigration, interprovincial migration and participation. The province needs to continue building a highly educated and skilled workforce, and also keep taxes low by maintaining previously introduced tax reductions. The performance in the major sectors of Saskatchewan’s economy remains strong. Therefore, despite the lower average real GDP growth currently forecasted (2.9% in March 2012), we are confident that the estimates made by the government in the GFF Four-Year Financial Plan still reflect the current realities, and are therefore used in developing our 2012-13 budget. The increased expense estimate reflects increased spending in priority areas such as Health, Education, Social Services, Advanced Education, Employment and Immigration.

No Such Thing as a Free Kidney: easy answers escape Saskatchewan's organ donation crisis, by: Michael Sherar, MPP candidate
Abstract - Organ donation and transplantation (ODT) is a topic in healthcare that receives a lot of media attention and academic literature, but very seldom is it positive. Canada, and Saskatchewan in particular, is facing an organ shortage much like the rest of the world. There are too many patients in need and not enough donors, with a gap that widens every year. The health consequences are disastrous and as the medical technology is sufficient, it's the donor supply that's lacking, public policy is often sought out to provide answers. One of the most commonly suggested is an "opt out" ODT system (see for example, Kennedy et al. 1998; Ariely, 2009; Bird and Harris, 2010) where patients are presumed to consent to the ODT process, unlike currently in Canada, where prospective donors must "opt in" to the system. This paper assesses the possibility of such a system providing the necessary boost to transplantation rates and finds that the nature of the system is far less important than the mortality rates in a country, but there still is good policy to be implemented to improve the conditions in Saskatchewan.

Obesity Reduction Policy: Weighing the Benefits of Taxation, by: Kristopher Schmaltz, MPP candidate
Abstract - The conditions of obesity and being overweight are linked with a multitude of ailments that limit both the length and quality of human life, and cost millions of dollars in healthcare spending every year. The Saskatchewan population has a higher than average rate of obesity and being overweight. The population health approach to obesity suggests that obesity reduction policies need to look beyond energy inputs (calories consumed) and outputs (expended energy from exercise) in order to address the complex multicausal environment that leads to obesity. According to this theory, policy approaches that only target the individual will not be effective. This poster examines what is commonly referred to as the “fat tax” – the practice of taxing foods known to cause obesity such as high fat snacks, high sugar drinks, and fast food – from a population health perspective. The poster defends taxation as a legitimate component of a comprehensive obesity reduction strategy. Although taxation is not likely to shift demand on its own, when combined with a broader approach, such a tax is important for funding preventative measures to reduce obesity, and to offset some of the costs of treating obesity.

Quality of Care and Healthcare System Performance Measures: Indicator Chaos?, by: Carla Hale, MPA candidate
Abstract - High priority health policy outcomes for Canada include greater provider accountability, improved processes of care and health outcomes, more satisfying care experiences, and greater operational efficiency. Performance measurement is an important tool for developing strategies to achieve an optimal balance among these goals. This study examines measures of healthcare system performance to assess their current application and utility in managing for targeted outcomes. Given that the demand for measures of health and healthcare systems has surged since 2000, a proliferation of indicators and a need for conceptual frameworks has resulted. Current multidimensional conceptions of quality of care and healthcare system performance indicators are reviewed, and associated challenges and opportunities outlined. Implications for the application and utility of quality of care and healthcare system performance measures are discussed. Findings of this study suggest potentially greater utility of indicators at regional levels than at a pan-Canadian or global level. Balancing ongoing demands for measurement between top-down requirements for healthcare system performance data and bottom-up requirements for quality of care data may be improved through persistence in developing standardized definitions, outcome efficiency measures, Big Dot indicators, cascading of indicators to align and integrate with strategic directions, and appropriate benchmarks.

Race to Bottom?, by: Denise Brooks, MPA candidate and Bernie Zhang, Master's Certificate candidate
Abstract - This case study will provide a review of the trends in the social support programs in Saskatchewan. A progression of federal changes has had an impact on the administrative delivery of social services in the province. Social services is an exclusive provincial jurisdiction however, federal spending power has been available. In the 1990’s, funding was cut drastically due to the huge federal deficit. Instead, federal incentives were offered to provinces to reform their social assistance programs. Provincial response to funding cuts and federal reforms of social transfers resulted in policy changes to welfare programming. Provincial social assistance programs consist of the Saskatchewan Assistance Program (SAP) and Transitional Employment Allowance (TEA). SAP is a needs based welfare program, which is the last resort for individuals who cannot meet their basic needs for reasons such as disability, illness and unemployment. TEA recipients have to be job ready, thereby reducing full dependency on government support. SAP, compared to TEA, offers longer term support. There are no separate performance measurements available for these two programs Social service funding as a percentage of the provincial budget has decreased and the dollar amount of the budget allocated to social services has changed substantially. Most notable, welfare income has not kept pace with other household incomes of varying types. Both welfare and median incomes have grown across family types, with the latter growing at a faster rate. The number of SAP recipients has been steadily decreasing since 1997. There are no statistics available for TEA. Even though Saskatchewan’s poverty rate has been declining in the past decade there is no direct evidence of the low-wage trap.

Reforming Ontario Higher Education: Moving forward after "Reaching Higher", by: Everett Berg and Justin Redekop, MPA candidates
Abstract - In 2004, the Ontario government implemented a strategic plan entitled, “Reaching Higher” to enhance post-secondary education (PSE) in the province by increasing enrolment and providing additional support for student financial aid. Eight years since enacting “Reaching Higher”, the province has been unable to maintain adequate levels of funding and the funding structure has become completely unsustainable due to recessionary forces, inadequate cost controls and rising inflation. Compensation costs for faculty salaries and benefits as well as a complicated funding formula have caused universities to raise the price of tuition on an annual basis with funds being diverted away from teaching initiatives into research activities. This has left the quality of education in Ontario universities in disarray. To combat this dilemma, we have designed and proposed three policy options. First, the complicated funding formula will be restructured where funding will be delivered to universities on a per student basis with half of the total amount earmarked for teaching and the other half allocated for research. Secondly, the number of seats available to students will be based on a consistent participation rate with an initial increase to seats at a rate of 2% over the next ten years. Lastly, tuition will continue to increase by 7% annually backed by an increase of funding for provincial student loans and student assistance. The recent financial crisis in Ontario has drawn awareness to the depth of the problem facing PSE and the reforms presented are necessary to sustain a sufficient funding model as well as improve the quality of PSE in Ontario.

Saskatchewan: The  Leading Destination of Choice for Newcomers, by: Monica Chu, Nicholas Jow, Oleksandra Kravets, Julia Lacell, Andrew Langgard, Kevin Jiao Li, Ryan Mang, Karen Morris, Wayne Zhu, MPA candidates
Abstract - Between 2002-2010, immigration to Saskatchewan increased exponentially by 356 percent. By promoting immigration and retention of immigrants to increase the pool of workers in the labour market, Saskatchewan reaps rewards but also faces new challenges. This poster focuses on four policy areas for immigration in Saskatchewan: service delivery, economic and labour market conditions, employment and skills utilization, and foreign worker protection. Issues specific to each area are addressed and policy solutions advanced to improve the status quo.

Why did the Health Care lobby contribute the same amount to Democrats and Republicans in the 2009/10 U.S. Health Care debate process?, by: Phillip Lashley, MPP candidate
Abstract - On March 12th, 2012 the United States Congress passed H.R. 3590 , the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, 219--‐212. Sources monitoring campaign contributions estimate that contributions from the Health Care Lobby to the individual congress--‐people totaled just over US$ 209M. We briefly review reasoning by Tollison on rent, and why lobbyists might seek to influence the Health Care vote. We look at how the lobby money was distributed and discuss why that distribution is then congruent with behaviors under rent seeking.

Photo Gallery 

(Photo credit: University of Regina Photography Dept.)