Beyond Ottawa: The career of Christine Hogan

Christine Hogan’s career path has not exactly been conventional. Currently the Executive Director responsible for Canada, Ireland, and the Caribbean at the World Bank, she has previously been a Deputy Minister of International Trade and a foreign and defense policy advisor to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. She has also held senior policy positions in the federal public service at Industry Canada, the Privy Council Office, Environment Canada, and the Canadian International Development Agency, and various other roles outside of the public service.

On October 30th, Hogan spoke in front of an audience at the University of Toronto’s School of Public Policy and Governance (SPPG), where she discussed work in public service, the fight against global poverty, and Canada’s role in international development. Students from both SPPG and the Munk School for Global Affairs had a rare opportunity to engage in dialogue about global governance and international development with a senior official for one of the most prominent international financial institutions. Hogan’s talk was the latest in the School’s speaker series on Women and Leadership, and it proved to be a valuable and insightful experience for all in attendance.

“People in Ottawa sometimes need to get out of Ottawa.”

For someone with such an incredible career in the federal public service, Hogan said that some of her most valuable professional and personal experiences were those she spent outside of the nation’s capital, noting that “people in Ottawa sometimes need to get out of Ottawa.” Her first leave from public service was to work for the United Nations as an adviser to the executive director of the Environment Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi, Kenya. She described her first foray into international relations as an eye-opening experience with the rewards and challenges of international development. She also said that she spoke more French in Nairobi than she did in Ottawa.

Later in her career, Hogan moved briefly to Calgary to act as a visiting executive for EnCana, a major oil and gas corporation. Such a role might seem like a surprising career move for someone who had just previously been Chief of Staff to the Deputy Minister for the Environment, but Hogan described it as one of the most valuable experiences of her career, saying she “almost didn’t come back to Ottawa,” and that she “preferred the focus that the private sector brought to issues.”

She explained how deeply her time in that role changed her perspective on public service, saying that she now thought the biggest challenge of the public service in dealing with issue like climate change and international development is how to engage with the private sector. Private corporations have a commitment to innovation, science, and technology that needs to be used more by the public sector, said Hogan.

Much of the talk focused on her current position at the World Bank, which she described as “an organization with a cause and a huge job to be done.” She spoke of the organization’s two main goals: ending extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting prosperity for the poorest people. She also noted that the World Bank’s structure is more inclusive than it has been in the past, saying that “it takes time to be consultative and inclusive, but [it also] legitimizes things.” The changes at the World Bank are part of the organization’s “natural evolution,” she said.

“Good will isn’t in short supply, and the expectations are extraordinarily high.”

On the subject of Canada’s role in international development, Hogan was very positive about her hopes for Canada, saying that “good will isn’t in short supply, and the expectations are extraordinarily high.” She expressed hopes that Canada would make additional commitments to international development causes in the future, but said that she was nevertheless “very glad that [the government] put their effort towards gender issues,” and noted that international development historically has done a poor job unlocking the economic power of women in developing countries. More broadly on the subject of gender, Hogan said that “we need to think more about how to have institutions that are a reflection of reality.” For example, she observed that the World Bank has started to improve how it structures development investments to focus more on social investment and sustainable development — including a commitment to increase the climate-related share of its total portfolio of investments from 21 to 28 percent by 2020.

In response to a question from the audience about the structural challenges preventing the end of poverty, Hogan said that “the needs outstrip the financial resources for financial development,” but also encouraged an increased focus on security and stability in order to ensure long term prosperity. Hogan said that the long-term building of infrastructure is only possible when the local government is stable, and you can only achieve long-term prosperity by helping to prevent humanitarian crisis and their causes.

In conclusion, Hogan advised her audience: “Put your heart into whatever you are going to do.” Sometimes, she said, you just need to follow your curiosity and take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves–even if they seem unconventional at first.

L-R: Christine Hogan, author Nicholas Renzetti, and SPPG professor Mel Cappe

Nicholas Renzetti is a Y1 MPP Candidate at the School of Public Policy and Governance. He is interested in issues of sustainability, economic growth, and climate resilience. Nicholas writes for the PPGR about ongoing campus events and current issues. 
Editor’s Note: This article was updated to correct the amount for the World Bank’s commitment to climate financing.