Walter Gordon Symposium 2015

IMPORTANT: Please note venue change on Thursday, March 26 at 8pm: The new venue is Great Hall of St. Paul’s Anglican Church at 227 Bloor Street East. 

The Walter Gordon Symposium is a joint collaboration between students from SPPG and Massey College.


Confronting Complexity: Better Ways of Addressing our Toughest Policy Problems

This year’s Walter Gordon Symposium on Public Policy explores how Canadians, through their institutions, collectively deal with complexity.

For more information on the panels and speakers, or to register for any of these events, please click here.

What is Complexity?
Complexity is the reason that the best course of action differs from the immediately obvious one. Complexity produces counterintuitive outcomes and unanticipated consequences. Developing the best policy to address a complex problem usually requires consultation, evidence gathering, expert analysis, political deliberation, skilled communication and effective implementation. Given the political pressure to opt for populist and simple solutions in the face of policy issues, effectively addressing complexity is a constant challenge.

To explore this theme, the Symposium will feature four panels on related public policy topics, an opening discussion on the history of complexity on the Canadian policymaking process and a keynote event that will consider how science and evidence-based policymaking may help Canadians deal with complexity in the future. An address introducing the conference and its theme will also be delivered by Stephen Toope.

Please see the descriptions for each of the events below. When registering, select tickets only for the events you plan to attend. You may attend as many panels as you wish.


Ticket Option #1
Date: Wednesday March 25th

Title: Symposium Introduction and Panel: Complexity & the Media
Date: Wednesday March 25th
Time: 2:15-4:00pm
Location: Upper Library, Massey College

This panel will examine the role of the media and communications in navigating and framing complex issues for the Canadian public. It will highlight successful examples of bringing complex issues to the public’s attention and facilitating action, and it will address the challenges in confronting complexity. This event also includes the Symposium’s opening address, which will be delivered by Stephen Toope.

Opening Address:

  • Stephen Toope, Director of the Munk School of Global Affairs and former President of the University of British Columbia.


  • John Cruikshank, President of Star Media Group
  • Anna Maria Tremonti, radio and television journalist and host of CBC’s The Current
  • David Walmsley, Editor-in-Chief of The Globe and Mail
  • Sylvia Bashevkin (moderator), Professor of Political Science, University of Toronto

Ticket Option #2
Date: Wednesday March 25th
Title: Panel: Non Profits & the Private Sector
Time: 4:30-6:00pm
Location: Upper Library, Massey College

This panel will consider the role that organizations outside of government institutions play in negotiating complex issues in Canadian society. The panel will focus on examples of public leadership originating in the private and nonprofit sectors. The aim is to address the core question: How can private and non-profit organizations influence public policy?


  • Jon Davis, Director of The Strand Group, the Policy Institute at King’s College London
  • Hilary Pearson, President of Philanthropic Foundations Canada
  • Joeri van den Steenhoven, Director of the MaRS Solutions Lab
  • Pat Bradley (moderator), Ontario Arts Council Theatre, Major Organizations & Compass Officer; Instructor at the Schulich School of Business

Ticket Option #3
Date: Wednesday March 25th
Title: Adressing Complexity: (What) Has Canada Learned?
Time: 7:30pm – 9:00pm
Location: Upper Library, Massey College

SPPG Director Professor Mark Stabile, and University of Ottawa Professor Kevin Page will engage in a discussion on complexity in the Canadian policy making process. They will explore how it has shaped the actions and decisions taken by our institutions in the past decades, and the lessons we have learned from it.


  • Kevin Page, Professor, University of Ottawa and former Parliamentary Budget Officer of Canada
  • Mark Stabile, Professor and Director, School of Public Policy and Governance, University of Toronto

Ticket Option #4

Date: Thursday March 26th
Title: Panel: Complexity and Governance in Canada
Time: 2:30pm-4:00pm
Location: Upper Library, Massey College

This panel will examine how the dynamics of governance and federalism in Canada allow policy makers to address complexity in Canadian society.


  • Shelley Jamieson, former Ontario Secretary of Cabinet and Head of the Ontario Public Service
  • Antonia Maioni, Professor of Political Science and Policy Studies, McGill University
    Third panelist TBD
  • David Miller (moderator), CEO of World Wildlife Fund Canada and former mayor of Toronto

Ticket Option #5

Date: Thursday March 26th
Title: Panel: Are International Institutions Dead?
Time: 4:30pm-6:00pm
Location: Upper Library, Massey College

This panel will bring together a group of experts to discuss whether international institutions are effective in dealing with Canadian international relations problems related to international trade and national security.

  • Michael Bell, Senior Fellow at the Norman Patterson School of International Affairs and former Canadian Ambassador to Egypt, Jordan and Israel
  • Pierre Marc Johnson, Chief Quebec CETA negotiator and former premier of Quebec
  • Janice Stein, Former Director of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto
  • Fen Osler Hampson (moderator), International relations expert and Director of the Global Security Program at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI)

Thursday March 26th: Keynote Event
Ticket Option #6
Date: Thursday March 26th
Title: Looking Forward at Complexity: The Role of Science and Evidence-Based Policymaking
Time: 8:00pm – 9:30pm
Location: Isabel Bader Theatre, 93 Charles Street West, Toronto
Great Hall of St. Paul’s Anglican Church at 227 Bloor Street East 

Massey College Master Hugh Segal will engage with renowned Canadian scientist David Naylor and Julie Payette in a discussion on the future of evidence-based policy as a tool to help Canada deal with the complexity that characterizes its toughest challenges. The speakers will draw from their own unique experience and share their reflections on the role science can have in shaping creative and successful responses when of facing complex and multidimensional problems, and engage with the audience as the floor opens for a Q&A period.


  • David Naylor, Professor of Medicine and President Emeritus, University of Toronto
  • Julie Payette, Chief Operating Officer, Montreal Science Centre
  • Hugh Segal (moderator), Master of Massey College

Any questions? Please email the Walter Gordon Symposium Organizing Committee at

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