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U of O president aims to create ‘unmatched’ bilingual resource to contribute to public policy

Photo by Mico Mazza

 

CANADA WILL SEE its first school of government at the University of Ottawa as early as 2015, according to plans led by university president Allan Rock.

The new school will aim to create a “national, non-partisan, and independent” bilingual resource that will contribute to Canada’s public policy debates.

“Our intention is that the school will occupy a unique place in the Canadian academic firmament, contributing to both teaching and scholarship in ways that will be unmatched,” said Rock.

Rock, a former Liberal cabinet minister under the Jean Chrétien government, said the U of O is the perfect environment for an institution devoted to policy research on governance, citing the university’s location in the nation’s capital, its bilingualism, and its strong pre-existing ties with the federal government.

He said the U of O is also endowed with an ideal faculty to undertake such a project, but nonetheless plans to seek out additional top talent.

“By gathering together and consolidating the relevant talents that already reside in our various faculties and their departments, we will give profile and prominence to the outstanding scholars and practitioners who are already here, as well as adding to them through international recruitment,” Rock wrote in an email to the Ottawa Citizen.

Rock received a presentation on the operations of the prestigious John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., to help refine plans for the U of O’s new school.

The university also announced recently that it had named Kevin Page, Canada’s former federal parliamentary budget officer, to a three-year posting as the Jean-Luc Pepin Research Chair on Canadian Government.

However, the Association of Professors of the University of Ottawa (APUO) has been hesitant about the program. In a letter to Rock dated March 4, APUO president Christian Rouillard said not enough details had been provided and the plan seemed “opaque” as it stood to date.

“This project remains a mystery to most members of our university community,” he wrote.

Rouillard addressed a number of the union’s concerns as he questioned the new school’s mission and mandate, how it will provide new teaching and research opportunities for faculty, whether the school of government will have its own faculty, and how it will affect other faculties.

“As is usually the case in situations like this, rumours, hearsay, and misinformations have unfortunately been filling the void,” he continued.

Rock responded by saying the project is still in the planning stages and that all professors would be consulted on details as they emerge.

Marcel Mérette, dean of the faculty of social sciences, said the university doesn’t have a budget on the new school just yet.

“Obviously, this is an important issue, but before having a real number, we want to do our homework, so we are looking at the different factors behind that,” he said.

The university hopes to have students enrolled in the new school for September 2015.