Toronto PPG2021 Priority Topics in Public Administration

Click for Syllabus

Click for Syllabus

Course description

The course focuses on the practice of public policy and public administration – on getting things done in government, and implementing policy outside of it. In our sessions we will:

  • Examine different perspectives about how government should work and deliver services to citizens;
  • Talk about the disciplines of strategy, communications, issues management, regulation and implementing big political priorities;
  • Examine the complexity of work in the public sector by going behind the scenes of major public policy events and government change projects to examine the interplay between policy, strategy, communications, program delivery and building the right capacity to do these things well in government.

Common threads running through seminars from week to week will be the role of public sector leadership and the development of public sector capacity for policy and delivery, including interdisciplinary and cross-jurisdictional approaches to meeting major challenges in public administration and public policy. As part of the course, students will examine a current public policy challenge/ opportunity and develop options and advice on the issue for consideration by the lead government department or ministry. There will be 4-5 invited speakers. These will be public service and political leaders who have first-hand experience of the issues we will be examining: people who were “in the room” or “on the ground” at critical moments in the life of key events.


Tony Dean


By permission of the instructor.

Syllabus link on Atlas

Alignment between class topics and Atlas core normed topics
PPG1007 Class Topic
Closest Normed Topic
1 Recent Trends in Public Administration  International Trends in Service Delivery
2 Integrated Approaches to Public Service Delivery  The Study of Implementation and Delivery
3 Strategic Communications in Government  Persuading
4 Delivering on Big Political Priorities  Strategic Management in the Public Sector
5 Delivering on Big Political Priorities  Strategic Management in the Public Sector
6 Leadership and Capacity Building in the Public Sector Leadership and Capacity Building in the Public Service
7 Regulation and Risk Management  Assessing and Mitigating Risk
8 Analysis and Advice on a Policy Challenge  Policy Analysis Terms and Techniques
9 Analysis and Advice on a Policy Challenge  Policy Analysis Terms and Techniques
10 The Relationship between Public Servants and Politicians/Political Staff  Ministers, Departments, and Civil Servants
11 Students’ Choice Session
12 Course Review  The Study of Implementation and Delivery

Additional description from the Syllabus

The landscape

A professional, non-partisan, public service is an essential element of democratic governance. The role of public servants includes:

  • Providing professional and technical support to elected governments in areas such as policy, finance and communications;
  • Managing and delivering government programs. In providing services directly to citizens governments deliver critical public services costing billions of dollars annually – in health care, education, social services, justice and corrections – to name just a few. Public expectations of public servants are rising rapidly, requiring constant change and adaptation.

In view of the above, sophisticated approaches to leadership, organizational design, and the management of people: Public service organizations are among Canada’s largest, most complex and diverse employers. They need first-rate leadership.

Historically, these three strands of public service work have developed separately with each focusing on its own clients and developing distinct occupational cultures. Like boundaries between ministries and departments, these distinctions are dissolving with the development of more corporate approaches to leadership and organizational development. There is recognition of the mutually reinforcing nature of these activities. This is a critical development which is driven in part by the need to respond to a more complex operating environment and increased expectations from political leaders and citizens for effective and efficient public services.

Course outline and reading list

This year, my forthcoming book “Building Better Public Services”, which was designed for the course, will be a core text. The idea for the book came from SPPG students taking the course in previous years.

The additional readings for each seminar are listed below. All of these readings will be posted on Blackboard. Unlike in previous years, you are not required to buy any additional books for the course. Relevant chapters from other books and journals will be posted on Blackboard.


Grades are based on:

  1. Class participation (10%). Regular attendance will be required and each student will be expected to arrive at class ready to contribute to discussion and to demonstrate an understanding of the required readings. Students can expect to be asked to summarize 2-3 key points taken from required readings.
  2. A major policy paper of between 3,000 and 3,500 words (50%). This paper will analyze a relatively recent contentious political event in Canada, with reference to concepts and case studies considered in the course. This will go behind the scenes of the event to examine the interests, issues, key players and outcomes. This paper will describe the event and provide critical analysis of the issues involved and the response of the government department/s or government agency involved. It will comment on lessons that governments can learn from it. Assignments will be agreed between the student and instructor at end of October and be completed by November 30, 2012. Please note that research topics must not be the subject of an existing published report or study, I will be looking for fresh and original analysis, perspectives and recommendations.
  3. Participation in a group-based, problem solving seminar (20%). This will focus on a live public policy challenge or opportunity and will require quick turn-around and succinct written output in the form of policy, communication and implementation advice. Students will employ concepts from the course and be assessed on individual and group problem solving skills, innovation in research, policy analysis, and design and practicality of solutions.
  4. In-class examination to test understanding of the required readings (20%)
Seminar schedule and structure

Each seminar will start promptly at 9:10 a.m. and finish at 12:00 Noon, with one 20-minute break.

There will be a common format, with 15-20 minutes being used to contextualize the discussion, prior to a structured power-point presentation. For case studies, the seminar will commence with a narrative of the issue or event with video, photos or other news media to highlight key storylines. This will be followed by an analysis of the event – looking at causes, key players, interests, professional skills applied and outcomes achieved. The seminar time will be divided equally between presentations, and student reactions, discussions and small group-based work.

Where there is a guest speaker the seminar will follow the regular format with the Instructor setting context and providing the narrative where appropriate, with a guest speaker addressing key issues and adding on-the-ground experience to the day’s theme or narrative.

Expectations of students

Writing Skills: the quality of your writing will have a significant impact on your grade. You will be expected to produce clear, logical and well organized papers. Papers should concisely summarize key facts, issues, and descriptions of key players and interests. Evidence of your own size-up of issues and critical analysis will be important.

Week-by-week list of topics and assigned readings

Week 1: Course Overview and Key Themes – Overview of recent trends in public administration and introduction to the field of integrated service delivery

Dean, Tony Building Better Public Services, Chapter 2. Pressures for Change

Osborne, David and Ted Gaebler. 1992. Reinventing Government: How the Entrepreneurial Spirit is Transforming the Public Sector. Toronto: Penguin Books, Introduction pp.1-24; Chapter 4 pp.108-137; Chapter 5 pp. 138-165.

Lynn, Laurence E. Jr., Public Management Old and New (Routledge, 2006). Chapter 8. pp.157-182.

Osborne, Stephen P. Osborne. 2010. The New Public Governance: Emerging perspectives on the theory and practice of public governance. Routledge. Chapter 1. “The (New) Public Governance: a suitable case for treatment?” pp.1-16

Week 2: Integrated Approaches to Public Service Delivery – Delivery of front counter and internal services; Integrating human service delivery

Osborne and Gaebler. 1992. Reinventing Government. Chapter 6. pp. 166-194

Dean, Tony. Building Better Public Services. Chapter 3 – The Architecture of Government; and Chapter 7 – Integrated Service Delivery in Canada and the United Kingdom pp. 93-126

This seminar will feature a guest speaker: Chief Executive Officer of Service Ontario.

Week 3: Strategic Communications in Government

Lynn Betzner, Deputy Minister of Communications and Intergovernmental Affairs and Associate Secretary of Cabinet in the Ontario Cabinet Office will attend this seminar.

Week 4: Delivering on Big Political Priorities – Getting Things Done in Government and Outside of It

Dean, Tony. Building Better Public Services.Chapter 5. The Shift Towards Open and Integrated Policy and Delivery pp. 27-54

Barber, Michael. 2007. Instruction to Deliver. London: Portico’s. Chapter 3 pp. 70-109; Chapter 4 pp. 110-147; Chapter 5. pp. 148-191

Fenn, Michael. 2006. Reinvigorating publicly funded Medicare in Ontario: new public policy and public administration techniques. Canadian Public Administration Volume 49, Issue 4 (Winter 2006, pp.527-547)

Week 5: Delivering on Big Political Priorities – Getting Things Done in Government and Outside of It

We will hear from Dalton McGuinty, former Premier of Ontario, about political leadership in achieving implementation breakthroughs.

Week 6: Leadership and Capacity Building in the Public Sector

Dean, Tony. Building Better Public Services. Chapter 9 “Leadership and Capacity-Building in the Public Sector”.

Ulrich, Dave. 1998. Delivering Results: A New Mandate for Human Resource Professionals. Boston: Harvard Business School Press. Introduction pp. 1-28; Chapter 1 pp. 29-44.

This seminar will feature Michelle DiEmanuele, President and CEO of Trillium Health Partners (the recently merged Trillium and Credit Valley Hospitals), and former Associate Cabinet Secretary and Deputy Minister of Government Services – Government of Ontario.

Week 7: Regulation and Risk Management

Malcolm K Sparrow. The Regulatory Craft: Controlling Risks, Solving Problems and Managing Compliance (Brookings Institution Press, 2000). Introduction; Chapters 1, 2, 6, 9, 10.

We will hear from guest lecturer Frank Denton, Assistant Deputy Minister at Ontario’s Ministry of Consumer Services.

Week 8: Analysis and Advice on a Current Policy Challenge

Workshops and group-based policy analysis culminating in advice to government officials.

Week 9: Analysis and Advice on a Current Policy Challenge

Workshops and group-based policy analysis culminating in advice to government officials.

Week 10: The Relationship between Public Servants and Politicians/Political Staff

Guest speaker: Peter Wilkinson, former Chief of Staff in Office of the Premier of Ontario.

Week 11: Students’ Choice Session

Week 12: Course Review and Discussion

Page created by: Ian Clark, last updated 19 March 2016.