I have taught in multiple programs: Western University’s undergraduate and graduate Political Science programs; Western’s graduate Local Government Program, which trains current and future local public administration practitioners; the City Studies program at the University of Toronto’s Scarborough Campus; and the graduate Program in Planning at the University Toronto’s St. George downtown campus.
Students pursue higher education for a variety of reasons. Some are excited by a particular subject or enjoy learning for its own sake. Others see a university education as a ticket to future employment. Still others lack strong motivations and interests, having come to university because they are expected to or because they do not yet have a clear sense of their future life path. My role as an educator is to reach all three groups by creating a challenging classroom environment, inspiring interest in and critical engagement with new ideas, and demonstrating the relevance of theoretical and historical material to the real world of life and work through collective discussion and experiential learning. This is especially important in the context of the increasing ethnic and linguistic diversity of our students. Fostering a participatory and equitable classroom environment enables the empowerment of student voices by building discussions off of their diverse perspectives and life experiences.
Graduate political science
Urban Political Economy (2018, 2020)
What is power? Who has power? How is it acquired? How is its use enabled or constrained? This course takes up these questions in the urban context by surveying classic and contemporary theories of urban political economy. The first half of the course examines different perspectives on the acquisition and exercise of power in the city. The second half of the course shifts perspective to consider the power of the city—is there, in an increasingly borderless world, such thing as an autonomous local politics, or must urban political economy come to mean something else? As these ideas have developed in relation to one another through time, the flow is chronological. As this is graduate course designed to support graduate students, especially at the doctoral level, students will use the terrain of urban political economy research to discuss and debate the methodological dilemmas all political scientists face as they have studied the acquisition and use of power—dilemmas they will face as they write theses, dissertations, and research papers.
Graduate public administration
Research Design and Methods in Public Administration (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020)
Public administrators in local government produce “research” all the time. They routinely evaluate the effectiveness of public policies and processes, learn about experiences of policy client groups, and compare performance across jurisdictions. They also consume research by consultants, other public administrators, and academics. This is an intensive, interactive, and experiential crash course on the process of designing, conducting, and presenting original qualitative and quantitative research on public administration and policy. The emphasis is on practical applications and skills development in support of completing the Major Research Paper as part of the MPA program’s curriculum. At the same time, it focuses on developing skills that can be brought back into students’ professional work environments. The class alternates between conceptual discussion and applied group exercises.
The Policy Process in Local Government (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021)
This course examines the scope and potential of Canadian municipal policymaking. We begin by examining the structural and institutional constraints on local policymaking before moving on to matters of process: how policy problems are identified, where solutions come from, how the public is engaged, and how policies are implemented and evaluated. These issues are explored through case studies.
Undergraduate political science
Future Policy Lab: Canada at 200 (2020, 2021)
Foresight is an emerging approach to policy practice for thinking about the future. With the COVID crisis as the starting point, but taking a longer historical view, students in this fourth-year undergraduate course learn and apply foresight techniques to understand what Canada might be like in 2067, the country’s bicentennial. Students identify Canada’s future domestic and foreign policy challenges and work out proposals for how to prepare for them. Themes include demographic change, including longer lifespans and immigration trends; shifting regional patterns of population and economic growth; urbanization; economic change, including automation and trade; reconciliation with Indigenous peoples; public finance; and climate change. Throughout, students consider the political implications of these changes. The course’s team-based capstone project is a detailed cabinet submission and support documents for the federal government, which is presented to invited guests at the end of the course. A highlight of the course is an exercise on the political of demographic change that uses a web application – The Maximum Canada Forecaster 2016–2066 – created by me and my colleague Dave Armstrong.
The Politics of Public Money (2016)
How governments tax and spend picks winners and losers and has profound social and economic impacts. With an emphasis on where the money comes from, this course examines Canadian federal, provincial, and local public finance in comparative perspective and explores its political and policy implications. The first part of the course introduces major concepts in taxation, expenditure, intergovernmental fiscal relations, and budgeting, and explores their political implications. The remainder of the course focuses on the fiscal dimensions of topical policy issues and dilemmas: the ageing society, income and wealth inequality, energy and environment policy, and the infrastructure deficit. Students do not need a background in economics, finance, or mathematics to take this course.
Power in the City (2017, 2018, 2019)
Most people now live in cities. As a result, political conflict is today profoundly (if not always obviously) urban in nature, taking place in cities and shaped by distinctly urban processes. This course will introduce students to leading theories of urban politics, which you will apply to compare urban political processes in Canada, the United States, and Western European countries. Our dual focus in this course is on (1) how national institutional differences structure urban politics and policy, and (2) exploring diverse perspectives on the sources and exercise of power in the city. In short: In urbanized societies, who governs? Who should govern? And how are we governed? Concepts and topics will be explored through examples. Throughout the course, students will also examine in detail aspects of urban governance and politics in a city of your choice.
Planning and Governing the Metropolis (2013, 2014)
The metropolitan area — also called the urban region or city-region — is now the dominant form of human settlement. Most of the world’s population now lives in cities, and most people now live in growing urban regions than spill across political boundaries. The question of how urban regions should be governed, and of how to plan their future growth, has been hotly debated for over a century with no resolution. This course provides an overview of these issues. We begin with a discussion of what we mean by “region,” why the regional scale (as distinct from the national, provincial, or local) is understood to be useful and necessary, and how we should think about governance and policymaking at the regional scale. We then survey the historical evolution and contemporary relevance of six leading perspectives on regional planning and governance. In the middle of the course, after reading week, we will have a two-week workshop on a major issue in regional planning: forecasting growth. The course concludes by looking at the prospects for regionalism, with a focus on Greater Toronto.
Developing and Redeveloping Toronto’s Suburbs (2015)
The late, great landscape critic J.B. Jackson once wrote that “landscape is history made visible.” This is the animating principle of this course. The goal of this course is to examine and interpret physical landscapes as planned and designed spaces. We will examine twentieth-century theories of suburban planning and urban design, and assess them through examination of historical planning documents and site visits. Topics will include the evolution and use of standards in the design of neighbourhoods, streets, shopping facilities, and employment lands; how suburban neighbourhoods were planned in the 1945–80 period; and new urban planning and design ideas that have emerged since the 1980s regarding the construction of new suburbs and the redevelopment of existing ones. Students will reflect on guided walking tours of two neighbourhoods: Don Mills (masterplanned in 1952) and Cornell (masterplanned in the early 2000s). Assignments introduce students to basic urban design concepts and methods. No prior training or skills are necessary to take this course. Students with GIS skills will have the option to apply them in assignments.
Toronto Election Lab (2014)
Students’ work will be anonymously reviewed by your peers and published on a public website. Voting is a basic right and responsibility of citizenship and elections are the cornerstone of political accountability in a democratic society. In principle, elections are the mechanism through which citizens choose their political leadership and communicate policy preferences. At their best, election campaigns are venues for public debate about matters of public policy. Elections, however, are also about the baser aspects of politics: fundraising, recruiting volunteers and voters, and the “ground game” of getting out the vote on election day. The October 27 City of Toronto election provides an opportunity to study an election campaign up close. We will discuss a variety of topics during the course, including how people make voting decisions, the recent history and geography of Toronto elections, how candidates “frame” issues and communicate with voters, barriers to the proportional representation of women and minority groups, opinion polling, and campaign financing. This course is intended to be a capstone course of the City Studies Major Program in which you will apply the research skills and concepts learned over the course of your degree. Class sessions are structured in seminar format and will introduce conceptual frameworks, problems, and core questions in campaign and election studies, with a focus on the 2014 City of Toronto election. Students will monitor and comment on aspects of the campaign as it unfolds, learn about the research process and research methods, and execute an original research project.