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Advising for impact: lessons from the Rae review on the use of special-purpose advisory commissions.


Ontario's recent Postsecondary Review (Rae review), led by former premier Bob Rae, was dramatically more successful than any of the nine previous reviews of special-purpose advisory commissions on postsecondary education conducted in Ontario in the last thirty-five years. The purpose of this paper is to identify the Rae review's success factors and to speculate on the lessons to be drawn for future special-purpose policy advisory commissions.

The detailed policy measures recommended by the Rae review have been comprehensively analysed in this journal by David M. Cameron. As Mr. Cameron notes, the Rae review appeared after a decade when "a growing chorus of voices" reflected on the longer-term consequences of declining provincial support for postsecondary education. (1)

We would assess success in terms of the extent to which a commission's recommendations are implemented in a timely way. (2) Mr. Rae tabled his final report on 7 February 2005. On 11 May 2005, the Ontario finance minister tabled a budget that featured "the McGuinty government's Reaching Higher plan for higher education in Ontario." Although the government deferred its decision on tuition policy until the completion of further consultations with stakeholders, the Reaching Higher plan closely followed the Rae recommendations in most areas, including student assistance, operational funding, graduate education, apprenticeship and training, and the creation of a Higher Education Quality Council. It committed double-digit annual expenditure increases to the sector in a budget that saw the expenditures of fifteen ministries cut or held to below inflation. In its impact on public policy, the commission process must be judged a resounding success.

We suggest that success for special-purpose advisory commissions is dependent on environmental variables (such as the state of the economy, the fiscal situation and the political cycle), process variables (such as reporting relationships, characteristics of the commissioners and the approach taken by stakeholders) and the political acuity with which the commission develops a set of recommendations that can command broad public support.

For the purpose of this paper, a special-purpose advisory commission can be considered to be any time-limited independent body created by government in order to provide advice to government. In Ontario, such bodies have been called task forces, commissions, committees and advisory panels. Sometimes these bodies are created by cabinet order, but the more common practice in recent years has been to appoint them by authority of the minister. The Rae review was technically a mandate given to a single person, called the advisor to the premier and the minister of training, colleges and universities, with a seven-person advisory panel to advise the advisor.

Since the 1970s, governments from all three parties in Ontario have established external commissions to advise on ways to bridge the gap between the government's tepid funding for postsecondary education and its ambitions for a high level of student accessibility. Various commissions have recommended stronger planning and coordination, higher government grants, higher or deregulated tuition fees, or--in the extreme--the closure of several universities if this were necessary so that adequate funding could be supplied to the others. Beginning in the 1980s, this picture was complicated by a growing recognition of the contribution of university research to economic development, leading to recommendations that universities with large sponsored research programs should receive enhanced funding or should be permitted to reduce their student enrolments without losing funding. Several reports in the late 1980s and 1990s drew attention to the efficiencies that might be possible if students could transfer more easily from college to university, or vice versa. Other reports pondered how to improve the governance of the postsecondary education system, either through greater centralization or a more vigorous role for boards of governors. The Ontario Council on University Affairs investigated whether teaching and research should be funded separately, allowing government to control the volume of each at each university.

While governments adopted selected advice from some of these reports, their overall response suggests that, from a government perspective, these reports supplied the wrong answers. Governments were not prepared to turn away qualified students or to permit the price of a postsecondary education to rise to what they believed were discouraging levels. Nor were they prepared to face the consequences of designating some universities as second-tier institutions or of imposing a new relationship between colleges and universifies. Failing better solutions, governments from the 1970s to the mid-1990s settled for the approach of allowing per-student funding to decline or drift and--especially after the recession of 1990-91 brought deficits to unprecedented levels--using higher tuition to substitute for reduced government grants.

This pattern continued in the two reviews of the Ontario postsecondary system that immediately preceded the Rae review. The 1995 election brought a Progressive Conservative government whose platform called for higher tuition fees, lower government grants, and an income-contingent student loan program, but that otherwise set out few markers for postsecondary education policy. To fill the void, the government established the Advisory Panel on Future Directions for Postsecondary Education, chaired by David C. Smith, principal emeritus of Queen's University. During the seven-month period prior to the panel's appointment, the government's mandate for the panel was significantly diluted. The initial description of the panel's role spoke of "long-term fundamental restructuring" and "rationalizing of programs," (4) but the actual direction given to the panel dropped this language in favour of a more open-ended mandate. (5) The panel's final report urged the government to pursue excellence in postsecondary education. It argued that the existing structure of the system was sound, and recommended substantially higher government funding, deregulation of tuition fees, and enhanced assistance for low-income students. For a government intent on eliminating a substantial deficit while reducing taxes, this advice was generally unwelcome and was only partially implemented.

Four years later, facing the need to plan a massive expansion of the postsecondary system to accommodate projected demand, the Progressive Conservative government appointed another commission, with a slightly more pointed mandate to find ways to "ensure that public funds were used to provide the highest quality of education for students," including options for sharing services among institutions and increasing administrative efficiencies. (6) The Investing in Students Task Force, chaired by Jalynn Bennett, a former university board chair, was given a scant four months to investigate these issues. The task force found a large humber of best practices and estimated that potential efficiencies could save as much as $88 million annually, provided that the government established an incentive fund of $400 million over five years. Unwilling to create such a fund or to intrude on institutions' internal management, the government largely left it to universities and colleges to adopt these best practices as they saw fit.

In terms of the proposed measure of success, none of the previous commissions had their recommendations substantially acted upon in a timely way. Some were simply ahead of their time. Despite the considerable efforts and great wisdom contained in many of the reports, none were successful based on the criterion set out in this paper.

Environmental variables

The political conditions for the Rae review were propitious. Premier Dalton McGuinty did not appoint Mr. Rae in order to "shelve" the problem. He recognized the status quo to be a very unsatisfactory option. The final years of the Harris and Eves governments were a period of tumultuous growth in postsecondary education in Ontario. Reforms to secondary education produced a "double cohort" of high school graduates, with the largest wave of students entering the postsecondary system in September 2003. University enrolments that year were 27 percent higher than three years earlier, and college enrolments were 10 percent higher--a pace of growth much faster than earlier projected. While university and college administrations, faculty, and staff worked with government officials to make sure there was a place for every qualified student, the rapid expansion, coming after large reductions in government funding in the mid-1990s, left a postsecondary system that was seriously overstretched.

Mr. McGuinty's Liberals had run for office on a platform of reversing what they described as an undermining of and underinvestment in public institutions during the Harris and Eves governments. McGuinty declared that his government would be prepared to increase investment for public purposes if such investment would demonstrably produce results. In opposition, the party had criticized the Harris government for allowing tuition to rise significantly faster than inflation, and its election platform included a promise to freeze tuition for two years, while compensating institutions for lost income. In discussions with university representatives before the election, McGuinty had emphasized his intention to conduct a comprehensive review of postsecondary education within his government's first two years to determine the best way to put postsecondary education onto a sustainable footing. Once in office, his finance minister, Gregory Sorbara, a former minister of colleges and universities, often expressed his desire to move to a more investment-oriented expenditure plan, noting that education was an obvious area of underinvestment.

The environmental variable that posed the greatest challenge to the review was the fiscal condition of the province. The premier and finance minister had been widely criticized for being overly optimistic about the state of government finances during the election and for imposing health premiums in their first budget--a move that was called a promise-breaking tax increase. Since it was obvious that any meaningful improvement in the postsecondary system would require increased government expenditures, the fiscal condition could be a show-stopper. It meant that increased funding for postsecondary education would have to come at the expense of cutbacks in other government ministries.

Another set of environmental variables might be called stakeholder conditions. The four stakeholder groups with the longest tradition of mounting concerted advocacy positions--the universities, colleges, faculty associations, and student unions--each made a significant effort to set aside historical differences in the interest of the postsecondary education system as a whole. While their visions were not identical, the stakeholder conditions suggested that new government initiatives for postsecondary education would be welcomed without internecine disputes.

For reasons described in detail elsewhere, (7) the universities in Ontario have a better developed tradition of acting in concert, through the Council of Ontario Universities (COU), than universities in most other North American jurisdictions. COU'S advocacy approach with the McGuinty government had been based on the presumption of shared goals. At this point in its forty-three-year history the council could be expected to develop a reasonably coherent position and maintain it throughout the review period, despite the intense competition among Ontario's eighteen universities for students, faculty, and government funding. In the event, COU organized a set of campus coordinators to ensure coherence in the advocacy efforts at the individual campus level. During the Rae review, almost every member of the provincial parliament was visited by a university president, as was nearly every editorial board and service club. Individual universities supplemented these efforts. For example, the University of Toronto organized a two-day conference on public universities that included senior researchers and administrators from across Ontario and beyond, and that was attended by Mr. Rae and several of his staff. (8)

The equivalent to COU in the college sector is the Association of Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology of Ontario (ACAATO), representing Ontario's twenty-four colleges. Having recently enhanced its policy capacity, the association was well positioned to advance its members' collective interests during the Rae review. Based on fresh research, ACAATO adopted positions on a wide range of issues (including access, school-college linkages, applied research, apprenticeship, and accountability) that brought together the interests of a diverse set of institutions. Local advocacy was undertaken at every college. The association redirected a substantial portion of its communications budget to raise public awareness about the issues in the review through print media ads.

University students in Ontario are represented by two groups--the traditionally left-leaning Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario (CFS-O) and the more moderate Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA). About half of Ontario's undergraduate, students are represented by each, while CFS-O represents the majority of graduate students. (9) Most college students are represented by the Ontario College Student Alliance (OCSA), a group more ideologically attuned with OUSA. CFS-O positioned itself during the review as a watchdog against higher tuition and student debt. Both OUSA and OCSA have historically supported higher funding for postsecondary education tied to improvements in the quality of students' education, and both were prepared to devote resources to developing comprehensive policy positions, raising awareness of the Rae review on campus, and meeting directly with elected representatives and officials.

University faculty members are represented by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA), while full-time college faculty are members of the ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU). Both organizations prepared substantial policy briefs that brought together the views of a politically diverse membership. Each has been a long-standing advocate for improving educational quality through smaller classes and improved faculty-student ratios. Mr. Rae's upfront advocacy for greater investments in education meant that this position was more likely to find favour in the Rae review than it had in previous years.

The political and fiscal conditions in late 2004 led the government of Ontario to take public its concerns about the provincial distribution of federal spending, summarized in the province's calculation of a "$23 billion gap" between what the federal government collected in revenue in Ontario and what it spent there. In their speeches, a prime example used by the premier and finance minister to illustrate the consequences was one of the most popular assertions put forth by the stakeholder groups: that per-student funding in the province was lower than almost any other province. For the first time in memory, the postsecondary stakeholders and the government were using the same statistic in making the case for greater provincial spending in the sector.

In summary, the political and stakeholder conditions were more favourable in 2004 than in the periods when most of the previous reviews were commissioned. The fiscal conditions, however, were substantially worse than the government anticipated when it took office. The fact that the Rae review prevailed in the face of this environmental variable is testimony to the skill with which the process was designed and the recommendations were formulated.

Process variables

One of the principal design variables in setting up a special-purpose commission is to whom the commission will report. The most common options are "to the government" or "to the minister." In the Rae review, a different option was chosen: Bob Rae was to be an advisor to the premier and the minister. The inclusion of the premier as the recipient of the advice immediately signalled a degree of pre-commitment by the government to take the commission seriously.

A second variable is the relationship between the lead person on the commission and the rest of the members. The Rae review was unusual in having a single advisor and an advisory panel. In adopting this model, the government deliberately established the expectation that the report would provide personal advice, without an all-embracing research program or a conscious effort to broker compromises among disparate commissioners. The panel brought a range of perspectives--notably from the college system, and also from individuals familiar with postsecondary education for francophone, aboriginal and minority students--that broadened and strengthened the work of the review while leaving Mr. Rae the flexibility to offer his best personal advice. (10)

A third variable is the personal experience, energy, and skill of the commissioner(s). In this instance Mr. Rae was uniquely well positioned to do the review. In our interviews, we found that his conduct of the review was universally admired. Advisory panel member Don Drummond, who, as a senior bank executive and former associate deputy minister of finance in the federal government, has worked with many diligent and intelligent people, said that he has never seen anyone work so hard as Rae did in the review, that he had a steel-trap policy mind, and that one hour into each of the twenty-one different consultative roundtables, he would be able to address each of the fifty-odd participants by name. (11)

Another important process variable is the duration of the review. One of the distinguishing features of the Rae review was its short duration. (12) Once the consultations got underway in October 2004, it was only four months until the final report was tabled. This deadline was explicitly chosen with a view to action by the government in the spring 2005 budget. It enabled Rae to keep the media and public attention on the issue and to maintain the review's profile in the government decision-making process.

On the conduct of media relations, Mr. Rae's objectives were clear from the outset. He believed that there was inadequate public awareness of the challenge of quality in higher education, and that every opportunity should be taken to enhance the public's understanding of the issue. He therefore designed the consultation process to garner media exposure, he spoke at many public gatherings, and he was highly accessible to the media. He encouraged all the stakeholders to increase their outreach to the public. In response, COU mounted its largest-ever public advertising campaign, with materials illustrating the absolute and comparative condition of Ontario's universities and encouraging Ontarians to participate in the Rae consultation process. ACAATO took similar initiatives, placing advertisements on the bus shelters surrounding the Ontario legislative buildings and in major Ontario newspapers.

Another variable is the approach to stakeholder consultations. In the Rae review, these were conducted in a very comprehensive and engaged manner. Rae displayed a former premier's skill in conducting a reasoned dialogue, even when the initially antagonistic members of the CFS-O began the first few meetings attempting to shout down other participants. The university and college presidents were virtually unanimous in believing that Mr. Rae "got it," having met with them individually and in groups several times in the course of the review. Initial wariness among university faculty representatives about Mr. Rae's perceived bias in favour of higher tuition and income-contingent student loans was managed through a two-pronged strategy: OCUFA participated fully in the Rae review process and, at the same time, represented its views directly to government decision-makers while the review was underway. Rae also held seventeen townhall meetings in fifteen communities, each attracting several hundred people. By the end of the consultation process, no one could reasonably say that they had not had an opportunity to make their case and engage in a discussion of it with the review team.

Key decisions were made with respect to the staff to the commission and the extent of the research. The Rae review employed a relatively small staff of fifteen, many seconded from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, with responsibilities for policy, consultations, and communications. The staff was headed by a policy assistant deputy minister from the Cabinet Office and a policy director from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, both of whom had Mr. Rae's confidence when he was premier. Consistent with the model of a short-term and highly focused advisory review, research studies were commissioned selectively to fill in knowledge gaps that were deemed important to the review's recommendations. (13)

The final and extremely important variable is the degree of ongoing interaction between the commission and the government. Again, the Rae review was unusual in this regard. Mr. Rae made it clear to all who would listen that he had no interest in writing a report that the government could not see its way clear to act upon. He therefore kept in close and constant touch with the premier's office and the premier himself, as well as with the minister of training, colleges and universities and the minister of finance, and their public service and political staff. (14)

Political acuity in recommendations

While an advisory commission's success is dependent on environmental and process factors, it is also dependent on the commission's ability to formulate recommendations that can command broad support from those directly affected and from the public as a whole. The expansive mandate given to the Rae review touched on many issues that have proved sensitive in the past, notably tuition fees, student aid, the balance between government regulation and institutional autonomy, the cost-effectiveness of the postsecondary system, and the relationships between universities and colleges. Mr. Rae's decisions about how to handle these issues provide some lessons of general applicability.

Focus on priorities that have a strong base in public opinion

The strongest and most enduring tenet of postsecondary education policy in Ontario, as in so many North American jurisdictions, is that there should be a place in postsecondary education for every qualified and willing student. The final report of the Rae review (the Rae report) recognized the centrality of access as the basis of public support for postsecondary education. It urged the government to adopt specific targets for enrolment, retention, and completion, and to build strategies to meet them.

The principle of high accessibility has been affirmed by every government since the 1950s and enjoys high levels of public support. (15) Yet policy development has often taken this principle for granted. Some reports on postsecondary education since the 1960s have neglected accessibility in favour of other concerns. Mr. Rae reminded governments--and stakeholders--that high and growing levels of accessibility are the basis for strong public support for postsecondary education.

Link new priorities to priorities that already have strong support

Yet the Rae report is much more than a recommitment to the status quo. He addressed directly the problem of improving quality in higher education--a factor has been nearly invisible in the Ontario government's postsecondary education policies. Debates between governments and postsecondary institutions have often presented quality as an alternative to access: for a fixed quantum of money, one can have more quality and less access, or vice versa. Mr. Rae argued that access and quality are not alternatives, but in fact go hand in hand. (16) Access is not mere attendance; access is benefiting from postsecondary education by being fully engaged in one's learning and continuing on to graduation. Engagement--in the form of class sizes that encourage discussion and involvement, student interaction with faculty, challenging assignments and the like--is the key to making access a reality for large numbers of students. By linking a sorely needed principle, educational quality, to the well-established principle of access, Mr. Rae laid the foundation for governments and postsecondary institutions to work together in measuring and improving quality.

Fix what is conspicuously broken first

Many advisory reports over the past three decades have recommended a major rethinking of student financial assistance. While the Rae report expressed support for a form of income-contingent student assistance program, it recognized two large holes in the current program that warranted immediate fixing. First, the maximum amounts available under the current program were frozen for more than a decade, falling far behind inflation and the rising cost of tuition. Second, the cancellation of up-front grants for low-income students created a stiff barrier to access for students from debt-averse families. Based on the report's recommendations, the provincial government addressed both of these problems in the May 2005 budget.

These initiatives began to restore the historic promise of successive governments to provide access to every qualified student--a promise that was stretched, if not broken outright, in the cost-cutting of the 1990s. Keeping this promise was an essential first step to re-establishing the credibility of the government's commitment to student aid, without which any further efforts at reform would be unlikely to succeed.

Entrench positive change

Inevitably, many of these recommendations could only be achieved incrementally. This raised the question of how to make them less vulnerable to future changes in the province's fiscal situation or political direction. The report's solution was to recommend the creation of a Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario, charged with coordinating research on higher education, working with the sector and the government to establish targets for improvement, and reporting on outcomes. Rae believed that institutionalizing such a council, with a distinctive role that does not duplicate what the ministry or the institutions are now doing, provides an opportunity to entrench the report's policy directions in a way that will lead to lasting results.

Create opportunities for every stakeholder

Earlier commissions on postsecondary education in Ontario often called for governments to replace their "one size fits all" approach with policies that would support institutions in their desire to adopt distinctive missions. In practice, only one type of differentiation has received substantial financial recognition in recent years--namely, success in attracting sponsored research. The Rae report encouraged the provincial government to broaden the menu of opportunities for postsecondary institutions, with funding fled to each. For colleges, the report urged greater funding to train more skilled workers and apprentices. For universities, the report noted the need to create more spaces for graduate students, as well as to continue to expand research and innovation. For all postsecondary institutions, the report drew attention to opportunities to respond more fully to the half of the population that does not currently attend postsecondary education, with special consideration of the needs of first-generation students, aboriginal students, francophone students, low-income groups, some racial minorities, and adult learners. It also noted the increased demand from Ontario students to study abroad and the opportunities to encourage more international students to come to Ontario.

For students, the Rae review offered innovative approaches to managing the issues of tuition and debt, while also broadening the agenda to include ways of improving the quality of educational experience for all students. Faculty associations' call for measures to reduce class sizes and create opportunities for small-group and individualized instruction also found a place in this agenda. By making quality a more central part of the public agenda for postsecondary education, Mr. Rae found common ground where all constituencies in postsecondary education have a direct stake.

Lessons for future use of special-purpose advisory commissions

This account of the Rae review supports the premise that the success of a special-purpose advisory commission depends on environmental variables, process variables, and the commission's political acuity in developing recommendations that can command stakeholder and public support. In particular, the review benefited from political conditions that favoured stronger investments in postsecondary education, even at a time when the fiscal situation made new investments difficult to undertake. The report also benefited from a stakeholder community that was able to put aside most internal differences for the sake of a perceived common good. Within this environment, the review successfully created a highly focused process that involved extensive consultation, the support of experienced and expert panel members, and frequent interaction with those who would be called upon to support and implement the recommendations. The review developed recommendations that were sensitive to long-standing patterns of public opinion, articulated new public goals, recognized the important role to be played by each major stakeholder, and proposed new institutions that could entrench positive change in the long term.

This experience offers lessons for governments, stakeholders and future commissions. For governments, the Rae review offers a model of how to use an advisory commission to shape an ambitious agenda that commands broad support. (We distinguish this from the use of commissions to remove contentious issues from the public agenda.) Governments appointing commissions should have a general idea in advance of what the commission is likely to recommend and whether the government is prepared to devote the political, financial, and administrative resources to implement the recommendations. If it is not, then the commission's proposed mandate should be revised or the merit of the commission approach should be reconsidered.

The commission model provides a vehicle for governments that wish to reinvigorate policy development after a long period in which policy branches fell victim to fiscal retrenchment and the pressure to emphasize management over policy. While commissions are not a substitute for in-house policy capacity, they can build support for new policy directions and sketch out a range of possibilities for future policy development. (17)

For stakeholder groups, the outcome of the review suggests some of the benefits of finding common positions among the various stakeholder groups, emphasizing the issues on which all stakeholders can make common cause, and devoting resources to communicating those positions to a broad public. Governments are more likely to invest in areas where the benefit to the public will not be overshadowed by disputes among stakeholders. For future commissions, the review suggests that offering formally independent advice is not inconsistent with keeping in close contact with decisionmakers, seeking expert opinion, listening to stakeholders, and being sensitive to dominant public values.


The authors acknowledge with thanks interviews with Gerald Butts, policy secretary, Office of the Premier (7 June 2005), Scott Courtice, executive director, Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (7 June 2005), Don Drummond, senior vice president and chief economist, TD Bank Financial Group (11 June 2005), David L. Lindsay, president, Association of Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology of Ontario (15 June 2005), Henry Mandelbaum, executive director, Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (20 June 2005), Leah Myers, executive director, Ontario Postsecondary Review (13 June 2005), Adam Spence, former executive director, Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (22 June 2005), and Helmut Zisser, director of policy, Ontario Postsecondary Review (13 June 2005). They are also grateful for comments from Stephen Clarkson, Allan Tupper, and two anonymous reviewers.

(1) David M. Cameron, "Ontario's Rae Report: Investing in Growth," CANADIAN PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION 48, no. 2 (Summer 2005), pp. 280-87.

(2) In adopting this definition, we do not deny that some commissions that had little short-term impact proved to be influential in the long term. On the use of commissions to shape new policy paradigms, see Jane Jenson, "Commissioning ideas: Representation and royal commissions," in Susan D. Phillips, ed., How Ottawa Spends 1994-95: Making Change (Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1994), pp. 39-70; and Neil Bradford, Commissioning Ideas: Canadian National Policy Innovation in Comparative Perspective (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1998).

(3) Commission on Post-secondary Education in Ontario, The Learning Society (Toronto: Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities, 1972) [Wright Commission report]; Committee on the Future Role of Universities in Ontario, Report (Toronto: Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities, 1981) [Fisher report]; Commission on the Future Development of the Universities of Ontario, Report (Toronto: Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities, 1984) [Bovey Commission report]; Vision 2000 Steering Committee, Vision 2000: Quality and Opportunity: A Review of the Mandate of Ontario's Colleges (Toronto: Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities, 1990); Task Force on University Accountability, University Accountability: A Strengthened Framework (Toronto: Ontario Ministry of Education and Training, 1993) [Broadhurst report]; Task Force on Advanced Training, No Dead Ends (Toronto: Ontario Ministry of Education and Training, 1993) [Pitman report]; Ontario Council on University Affairs, "Resource Allocation for Ontario Universities," 22nd Annual Report (Toronto: OCUA, 1996), pp. 69-146.

(4) Letter from John C. Snobelen to university board chairs and presidents, 30 November 1995.

(5) Advisory Panel on Future Directions for Postsecondary Education, Excellence, Accessibility, Responsibility: Report of the Advisory Panel on Future Directions for Postsecondary Education (Toronto: Ontario Ministry of Education and Training, December 1996), p. i.

(6) Investing in Students Task Force, Portals and Pathways: A Review of Postsecondary Education in Ontario (Toronto: Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, February 2001), p. ix.

(7) Ian D. Clark, "Comments on 'The challenge of change: Canadian universities in the twenty-first century' by David M. Cameron," CANADIAN PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION 45, no. 3 (Fall 2000), pp. 410-21.

(8) In a remarkable illustration of how fast a university press can get a book to print, the proceedings were published a month after the conference as a book. See Frank Iacobucci and Carolyn Tuohy, eds., Taking Public Universities Seriously (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005).

(9) Undergraduate students at the University of Windsor are represented by both associations.

(10) The panel members were Leslie Church, a law student and former executive director of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance; Ian Davidson, chief of police in the City of Greater Sudbury; William G. Davis, former premier (1971-85) and minister responsible for the expansion of the universities and creation of the colleges in the 1960s; Don Drummond, senior vice-president and chief economist for the TD Bank Financial Group; Inez Elliston, an educator, researcher, writer, and consultant, now retired from the Ministry of Education and Training and the Scarborough Board of Education; Richard Johnston, former MPP and former president of Centennial College; and Huguette Labelle, chancellor of the University of Ottawa and a former deputy minister in the federal government. Mr. Rae's higher education background is largely in the university system, as a graduate of the University of Toronto and Oxford University, a former member of the University of Toronto's governing council and current chancellor of Wilfrid Laurier University.

(11) Don Drummond, personal communication, 11 June 2005.

(12) It should be noted that the two previous commissions, Smith and Bennett, were also commendably expeditious in their deliberations, producing their recommendations in well under a year.

(13) The review's total budget was $2.73 million. Of this amount, staff salaries accounted for 32 percent, public consultations for 25 percent, commissioned research for 12 percent, and publications for 9 percent. The balance was devoted to general operations and miscellaneous.

(14) Rae was in contact with the chief policy advisor in the premier's office twice a month from the time the review was set up until after the review was released and was being considered for the budget. He also met with the premier at least six times in the course of the review. Gerald Butts, personal communication, 7 June 2005.

(15) See David Trick, "Continuity, Retrenchment and Renewal: The Politics of Government-University Relations in Ontario, 1985-2002," (PhD dissertation, Department of Political Science, University of Toronto, 2005), pp. 79-82, 129-37, 165-83; and Ekos Research Associates Inc., Ontario Universities: Perceptions of Tuition and Funding (submitted to Council of Ontario Universities, October 2005), pp. 11-25.

(16) Bob Rae, Ontario: A Leader in Learning: Report and Recommendations (Toronto: Queen's Printer for Ontario, February 2005), p. 88.

(17) On the relationship between advisory commissions and internal policy capacity, see N. d'Ombrain, "Public Inquiries in Canada," CANADIAN PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION 40, no. 1 (Spring 1997), and Herman Bakvis, "Rebuilding Policy Capacity in the Era of the Fiscal Dividend: A Report from Canada," Governance 13, no. 1 (January 2000).

Ian Clark is president of the Council of Ontario Universities; David Trick is a consultant in higher education strategy and management, and the former assistant deputy minister of colleges and universities.
Table 1. Special-purpose Advisory Commissions on Postsecondary
Education in Ontario, 1972-2001 (3)

Chair Name Year

Douglas T. Wright Commission on Postsecondary Education 1972
 in Ontario
Harry K. Fisher Committee on the Future Role of 1981
 Universities in Ontario
Edmund C. Bovey Commission on the Future Development of 1984
 the Universities of Ontario
Steering Committee Vision 2000: A Review of the Mandate of 1990
 Ontario's Colleges
William Task Force on University Accountability 1993
H. Broadhurst
Walter Pitman Task Force on Advanced Training 1993
Joy Cohnstaedt Ontario Council on University Affairs 1995
 Resource Allocation Review
David C. Smith Advisory Panel on Future Directions for 1996
 Postsecondary Education
Jalynn Bennett Investing in Students Task Force 2001
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Title Annotation:Bob Rae
Author:Clark, Ian D.; Trick, David
Publication:Canadian Public Administration
Geographic Code:1CONT
Date:Jun 22, 2006
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