Update on the Public Policy and Governance Review

The Public Policy and Governance Review will be taking the next few weeks to undergo a site redesign, with aim of creating a more effective and eye-catching digital platform. The current website will remain online during this period, although it will not feature any new posts.

The PPGR will relaunch in mid-August. In the meantime, please feel free to browse old posts, get inspired to contribute, and get excited for the upcoming year – we know we are!

- Lindsay and Matteo, 2014-15 Co-Editors

Understanding Kathleen Wynne’s Ontario Pension Plan


The 2014 election campaign is over, and Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government has seized the majority that no pollster or pundit predicted.

Alessandro Sisti

Endorsements throughout the campaign swayed between the major parties; the Ottawa Citizen presented a reasoned case for endorsing the PCs, and Torontoist gave an articulate (reluctant) defence of the Ontario Liberals. But every endorsement botched its argument for or against reform in key campaign issue: public pensions. The Citizen presented the proposal for the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP) as a “con” in that it added to business costs, while Torontoist said that it “addresses senior poverty in this province in a dramatic way.”

Both of these statements are misleading. If editorial writers who have been paying close attention to the campaign can’t understand a provincial public pension plan, what hope does the public have?

What’s the problem the Ontario Liberals are trying to address in their pension proposal?
More and more Ontarians are at risk of running out of savings and facing a huge decline in their standard of living in retirement. Fewer Ontarians have a workplace pension than before—34 percent of workers in 2012 compared to 42 percent in the early 1990s. For those that do have a workplace pension, that pension is less likely to be defined benefits, and more likely to be a defined-contribution pension.

The Canada Pension Plan (CPP) is defined-benefit and guarantees Canadians a level of payout based on their contributions. But this payout is relatively small: the CPP is designed to replace the first 25% of around the first $50,000 of income. The maximum payout is only about $12,500, and you get that only if you earn at least $50,000 for almost every year of your working life. Most people do not earn $50,000 or more in every year of their working lives, which means that the average yearly payout for Ontarian retirees is substantially lower than the maximum—about $6800.

[Read more...]

Why Local Food Matters in Ontario

Matteo Pirri

With the constant barrage of attack ads, Twitter hashtags, and political commentary leading up to Election Day next Thursday, you would be forgiven for failing to notice that Ontario is currently in the midst of its first official Local Food Week, which began today and runs until June 8.

Local Food Week was born out of last year’s Local Food Act, and is dedicated to highlighting Ontario’s locally produced meats, eggs, dairy products, fruits, and vegetables.

[Read more...]

Crimean Lessons: Implications for China and the Asia-Pacific Region, Part 2

crimea-russia-shifting-borders-1_77224_600x450(This is part 2 of a two-part piece submitted to the PPGR on April  14, 2014. Due to the rapidly-changing events in the area, we regret if any element of this analysis is out-of-date.)
- editors

Ernest Chong

China and the Asia-Pacific can draw a few conclusions from the current situation in the Crimea. Where does this leave the region? How has China responded, and what are the implications?

Strangely, the region is relatively quiet. Beijing’s neighbours are feeling somewhat vindicated in their individual decisions to hedge against China’s ‘peaceful rise’, but they are also hesitant to see the political and social costs of that hedging increase. Funneling state funds into the armed forces ultimately means some other part of the national budget is left comparably behind. The Philippines, for example, is torn between rebuilding its infrastructure after a devastating hurricane and rearming its antiquated military. Japan and South Korea, while dominant regional powers, are both struggling with systemic economic issues.

Elsewhere, conflict with China is a distant second to the pressing immediacy of problems at home. Singapore has a brewing cultural-ethnic problem it must address. Malaysia’s economic success continues to be marred by cultural and racial divisions. Thailand and Myanmar, to say nothing of Indonesia, remain deeply-divided societies.


China, meanwhile, has been uncharacteristically neutral. By abstaining in the UN resolution to deem the Crimean referendum illegal, Beijing has managed to stick to its core “non-interference” foreign policy principle while simultaneously not explicitly condemning Moscow’s actions. Contrary to its usual siding with Moscow in the UN, China gave neither support to Russia or disapproval to the West. It seems that Beijing is content as a third-party observer, warning against escalation from either side and offering a generic plan for negotiations.

[Read more...]

Crimean Lessons: Implications for China and the Asia-Pacific Region, Part 1


(This is part 1 of a two-part piece submitted to the PPGR on April  14, 2014. Due to the rapidly-changing events in the area, we regret if any element of this analysis is out-of-date. Please return next week for part 2.)
- editors

Ernest Chong

As Western Europe and the United States scramble to craft effective responses to the Ukraine crisis, another collection of nations is anxiously watching the aftermath unfold from the other side of the globe. What does the Crimean situation mean for China and the Asia-Pacific? This two-part brief looks at the lessons and implications for the region.  

The American ‘pivot’ to Asia has been dealt an enormous distraction. The Crimean crisis has left the United States in a difficult position and has damaged its credibility as the Asia-Pacific’s historical security guarantor. Washington’s current tepid response has its Asia-Pacific allies wondering how much assistance they can expect from the White House if a similar incident happened in their backyard. Whether this crisis will permanently change American strategic positioning remains to be seen, but the Asia-Pacific will likely draw several conclusions from what has already happened.

The first lesson is probably the modern limitation of diplomacy in solving territorial disputes. Despite international condemnation, Russia still managed to annex the Crimean peninsula through intimidation and creeping assertiveness. This has undermined European assumptions that interdependency between nations would deter revisionist aspirations and that modern diplomacy would preclude the belligerent use of military force. The West’s current inability to offer any serious punitive measure seems to signal that – for the time being, at least – the notions that force trumps negotiation and might makes right have been revived.

[Read more...]

PPGR Volume 5, Issue 2 is published!

Volume 5, Issue 2 (2014) PPGR 2

It is with exceptional pride that we, your Editors-in-Chief, present the final edition of the Public Policy and Governance Review for the 2013-2014 academic year. This edition features a wealth of outstanding writing from some of Canada’s brightest and most engaged graduate students.

For a link to the full publication, in high resolution (5 MB), please click here: Full Publication



[Read more...]

Seen and Heard: Women in House Event in Ottawa

women in house 2014

Claudia Wong

An annual event at Parliament Hill, Women in House provides an opportunity for university students to gain an inside look into the lives of female politicians in the Canadian federal government. The program, which is hosted by many universities across Canada, aims to foster among women a desire for political involvement in and enthusiasm for Canadian politics, while highlighting the successes of women who have broken down gender barriers to enter political life. In early March, the School of Public Policy and Governance sent a delegation of 10 women to represent the University of Toronto alongside 20 undergraduate students on a two-day trip to Ottawa. Delegates toured the Supreme Court of Canada, then met and mingled with female senators and Members of Parliament at a reception hosted by Dr. Carolyn Bennett (MP, St. Paul’s) on the night of their arrival. The following morning, delegates met with their hosts Senators or MPs and spent the day with them, concluding the experience by attending question period.

Overall, the experience was extremely positive for the SPPG women who participated in the program. Many found their host politicians to be inspiring and determined women working in a male-dominated, highly politicized environment. For some, Women in House reaffirmed the decision to study public policy instead of working in the political arena, and for others, the experience opened up the possibility of making change as a politician. 

[Read more...]


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 226 other followers

%d bloggers like this: