Toronto PPG1000 Governance and Institutions

… one of the Specimen Courses in Governance and Institutions

Click for syllabus

Course description

This course is intended to provide foundational knowledge of key governance structures and political institutions at the federal, provincial, and municipal levels in Canada. Together, we examine the Constitution, the Westminster parliamentary system, federalism, and the courts. We consider emerging challenges to existing institutions, including the rise of cities, demands for self-government among Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples, and the transition from government to governance, and conclude by reflecting on the quality of Canada’s democratic institutions in comparative perspective.


Ian Clark, Gabriel Eidelman, Phil Triadafilopoulos (Fall 2016)


By permission of the instructors.

Syllabus link on Atlas (Fall 2016)

Alignment between class topics and Atlas core normed topics

Note 1: The link in the Week number points to the agenda for Section 2’s classes.

PPG1000 Class Topic
Closest Normed Topic
1 Introduction The Study of Governance and Institutions
2 Constitutional Framework Constitutional Framework
3 Democratic Reform Electoral Systems and Democratic Reform
4 Machinery of Government Machinery of Government
5 Institutional Dynamics within Government Institutional Dynamics within Government
6 Federalism Federalism
7 Federal-Provincial Dynamics Federalism
8 Cities in the Federation Municipal Governance
9 Indigenous Governance Indigenous Governance
10 The Courts and the Charter Courts, Tribunals, and Commissions
11 From Government to Governance Modernizing Government
12 Judging Canada’s Institutions The Study of Governance and Institutions

The PPG1000 syllabus addresses all the topics in Governance and Institutions except:

Additional description from the Syllabus

The course is designed as a discussion-intensive seminar. Students are expected to complete each week’s required readings in advance, attend every class, and contribute actively to class discussions.

What students can be expected to learn

  • The institutional context within which public policy is made in Canada
  • The foundational importance of the Constitution and constitutional conventions in the Canadian political system
  • The role of, and interplay between, executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government
  • The formal and informal rules that delineate the responsibilities of federal, provincial, and municipal governments
  • The array of policy challenges facing all governments, and the complex governance structures that have (or have not) emerged to respond to those challenges
  • Core research and writing skills required to be a successful public policy practitioner
Requirements and evaluation

All assignments will be discussed in class and detailed instructions will be distributed as the course progresses.

Attendance and Engagement (20%): Engagement is measured by actions including but not limited to (a) consistent attendance (one cannot participate if one does not attend); (b) being prepared for class (at a minimum, this means having completed the required readings); (c) being attentive to class discussion; (d) raising thoughtful comments and questions in class; (e) providing insight and analysis to the readings and discussions; (f) attending office hours; (g) bringing relevant news articles and other materials to the attention of the class.

Institutional Analysis Topics – Click for Resources

Institutional Analysis (80%): The purpose of the PPG1000 Institutional Analysis Assignment is to better appreciate the impact of institutions and governance mechanisms on public policy making. From a predefined list of governance challenges/issues, you will write a research paper to be developed in multiple parts:

  1. Research Outline (10%) – A two-page backgrounder on your topic and preliminary sketch of your analytical approach. Due October 19.
  2. Research Skills Workshop (included in participation grade) – To help develop your jurisdictional scan, you will attend a research skills workshop led by reference and research librarians from Robarts Library.
  3. Jurisdictional Scan (25%) – A five-page review of how decision makers in other relevant jurisdictions (municipal, state/provincial, and/or national/federal governments) inside or outside Canada have responded to similar challenges. Due November 16.
  4. Final Paper (30%) – A 12-page final paper that incorporates feedback received on previous components and assesses the feasibility of responses to your selected governance challenge given the constraints created by Canada’s political institutions. Due December 16.
  5. Op-ed (15%) – A 650-750 word op-ed article that presents your research findings in a compelling and accessible format for a lay audience. Due December 16.

Seminar topics and readings

Week 1: Introduction – What is governance? What are institutions? Why study them?

Bevir, Mark. 2012. “What is Governance,” in Governance: A Very Short Introduction, pp. 1-15. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Atkinson, Michael. 1993. Excerpt from Governing Canada: Institutions and Public Policy, pp. 5-10. Toronto: Harcourt, Brace and Co.

Week 2: Constitutional Framework – What are the core elements of the Canadian constitution? What are constitutional conventions? How do these rules impact policy making in Canada?

Malcolmson, Patrick, and Richard Myers. 2012. “The Constitution,” in The Canadian Regime: An Introduction to Parliamentary Government in Canada, 5th ed., pp. 13-33. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Aucoin, Peter, Mark D. Jarvis, and Lori Turnbull. 2011. Excerpt from Democratizing the Constitution: Reforming Responsible Government, pp. 1-20, 29-73. Toronto: Edmond Montgomery Publications.

Week 3: Democratic Reform – What are the basic principles of Canada’s parliamentary system of government? What are some current challenges to the structure and functioning of Canada’s parliamentary institutions? What are the prospects of reform?

Docherty, David. 2012. “Imperfect Legislatures,” in Imperfect Democracies: The Democratic Deficit in Canada and the United States, eds. Patti Tamara Lenard and Richard Simeon, pp. 181-203. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Heath, Joseph. n.d. “The Democracy Deficit in Canada.” Unpublished paper.

Cappe, Mel, and Janice Stein. 2016. “Government by Referendums is not Democracy.” Globe and Mail, July 8.

Week 4: Machinery of Government – What is the role of Cabinet in policy making? What is the role of the Prime Minister’s/Premier’s Office? What checks and balances are created by Parliament?

Siu, Bobby C. Y. 2013. “Public Policy and the Government,” in Developing Public Policy: A Practical Guide, pp. 35-46. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press.

Bakvis, Herman, and Steven B. Wolinetz. 2005. “Canada: Executive Dominance and Presidentialization,” in The Presidentialization of Politics: A Comparative Study of Modern Democracies, eds. Thomas Poguntke and Paul Webb, pp. 200-219. Oxford : Oxford University Press.

Tindal, C. Richard, and Susan Nobes Tindal. 2009. Selections from “Municipal Governing Structures,” in Local Government in Canada, 7th ed., pp. 245–56, 264–73. Toronto: Nelson.

Week 5: Institutional Dynamics within Government What are the relationships between “guardians” and “spenders,” central agencies and departments, the political executive and the civil service, and partisan advisers and public servants?

Savoie, Donald. 2013. “The Machinery: Running on its Tracks,” in Whatever Happened to the Music Teacher?: How Government Decides and Why, pp. 107-126. Kingston: MQUP.

Sossin, Lorne. 2005. “Speaking Truth to Power? The Search for Bureaucratic Independence in Canada.” University of Toronto Law Journal 55(1): 1-59.

Brodie, Ian. 2012. “In Defence of Political Staff.” Canadian Parliamentary Review (Autumn): 33-39.

Craft, Jonathan. 2016. Introduction to Backrooms and Beyond: Partisan Advisers and the Politics of Policy Work in Canada, pp. 3-23. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Week 6: Federalism – Why is federalism such an important part of policy making in Canada? Why are some policy responsibilities considered exclusively federal or provincial, yet others shared? How has this division of responsibilities changed over time?

Simeon, Richard, Ian Robinson, and Jennifer Wallner. 2014. “The Dynamics of Canadian Federalism,” in Canadian Politics, 6th ed., eds. James Bickerton and Alain-G. Gagnon, pp. 65-91. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Brown, Douglas M. 2012. “Fiscal Federalism: Maintaining a Balance,” in Canadian Federalism: Performance, Effectiveness and Legitimacy, 3rd ed., eds. Herman Bakvis and Grace Skogstad, pp. 118-140. Toronto: Oxford University Press.

Lecours, André, and Daniel Béland. 2010. “Federalism and Fiscal Policy: The Politics of Equalization in Canada.” Publius: The Journal of Federalism 40(4): 569-596.

Week 7: Federal-Provincial Dynamics – How does federalism structure the substance of policy making? What is meant by “performance” considerations in federalism?

Bakvis, Herman, and Grace Skogstad. 2012. “Taking Stock of Canadian Federalism,” in Canadian Federalism: Performance, Effectiveness and Legitimacy, 3rd ed., eds. Herman Bakvis and Grace Skogstad, pp. 340-357. Toronto: Oxford University Press.

Atkinson, Michael M., Daniel Béland, Gregory P. Marchildon, Kathleen McNutt, Peter W.B. Phillips, and Ken Rasmussen. 2013. “Intergovernmentalism and Provincial Policy Setting,” in Governance and Public Policy in Canada: A View from the Provinces, pp. 1-22. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Schertzer, Robert, Andrew McDougall, and Grace Skogstad. 2016. “Collaboration and Unilateralism: Explaining Recent Dynamics of Intergovernmental Relations in Canada.” Working paper presented at the annual conference of the Canadian Political Science Association.

Week 8: Cities in the Federation – How are cities in Canada governed? What do municipal governments actually do? What is the relationship between municipalities and federal/provincial governments?

Sancton, Andrew. 2010. “Local Government,” in The Oxford Handbook of Canadian Politics, eds. John C. Courtney and David E. Smith, pp. 132-151. Toronto: Oxford University Press.

Sancton, Andrew. 2011. “Central Governments and Local Governments,” in Canadian Local Government: An Urban Perspective, pp. 26-40. Toronto: Oxford University Press.

Horak, Martin. 2012. “Conclusion: Understanding Multilevel Governance in Canada’s Cities,” in Sites of Governance: Multilevel Governance and Policy Making in Canada’s Big Cities, eds. Martin Horak and Robert Young, pp. 339-370. Montreal, QC: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Week 9: Indigenous Governance – What is Aboriginal self-government? How has the relationship between Aboriginal Peoples and the institutions of Canadian federalism evolved over time? What are the remaining obstacles to recognizing Aboriginal governing institutions?

Siggner, Andrew J, and Evelyn J. Peters. 2014. “The Non-Status Indian Population Living Off-Reserve in Canada: A Demographic and Socio-Economic Profile.” Aboriginal Policy Studies 3(3): 86-108.

Papillon, Martin. 2012. “Canadian Federalism and the Emerging Mosaic of Aboriginal Multi-Level Governance,” in Canadian Federalism: Performance, Effectiveness and Legitimacy, 3rd ed., eds. Herman Bakvis and Grace Skogstad, pp. 284-301. Toronto: Oxford University Press.

Papillon, Martin. 2014. “The Rise and Fall of Aboriginal Self-Government,” in Canadian Politics, 6th ed., eds. James Bickerton and Alain-G. Gagnon, pp. 113-131. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Abele, Frances, and Michael J. Prince. 2009. “Four Pathways to Aboriginal Self-Government in Canada.” American Review of Canadian Studies 36(4): 568-595.

Week 10: The Courts and the Charter – Do politicians make laws, or judges? What is the relationship between the courts and elected legislatures? What has been the impact of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms on public policy?

Petter, Andrew. 2009. “Legalise This: The Chartering of Canadian Politics,” in Contested Constitutionalism: Reflections on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, eds. James Kelly and Christopher Manfredi, pp. 33-49. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Hogg, Peter W. and Allison A. Bushell. 1997. “The Charter Dialogue between Courts and Legislatures (Or Perhaps the Charter of Rights Isn’t Such a Bad Thing after All),” Osgoode Hall Law Journal 35(1):75-124.

Wells, Paul. 2011. “Insite: The Harper Government’s Sweeping, Narrow Defeat,” Maclean’s, September 30.

Macpherson, Donald, and Nicholas Klassen. 2015. “Vancouver Buyer’s Club,” The Walrus, May.

Week 11: From Government to Governance – What is governance, as opposed to government? Has the transition to governance strengthened or undermined existing institutions? How can effective and legitimate governance be ensured?

Skogstad, Grace. 2003. “Who Governs? Who Should Govern? Political Authority and Legitimacy in Canada in the Twenty-First Century.” Canadian Journal of Political Science 36(5): 955-974.

Aucoin, Peter. 2008. “New Public Management and New Public Governance: Finding the Balance,” in Professionalism and Public Service: Essays in Honour of Kenneth Kernaghan, eds. David Siegel and Ken Rasmussen, pp. 16-33. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Wells, Paul. 2016. “Meet Sir Michael Barber, the Political Delivery Man.” Maclean’s, February 18.

Wherry, Aaron. 2016. “How Justin Trudeau Plans to Deliver on ‘Deliverology.'”, August 27.

Week 12: Judging Canada’s Institutions – How do our institutions perform in comparative perspective? By what criteria?

World Bank. 2006. A Decade of Measuring the Quality of Governance. Worldwide Governance Indicators project. Washington, DC: World Bank Institute. 20 pp.

World Bank. 2014. Country Data Report for Canada, 1996-2013. Worldwide Governance Indicators project. Washington, DC: World Bank Institute. 7 pp.

Banting, Keith, and John Myles. 2013. “Introduction: Inequality and the Fading of Redistributive Politics,” in Inequality and the Fading of Redistributive Politics, eds. Keith Banting and John Myles, pp. 1-39. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Heath, Joseph. 2015. “The Forever Campaign: Have Our Politicians Killed Democracy by Being Too Good at Politics?” Ottawa Citizen, August 7.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified 18 November 2016.