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The Master of Political Management

at Carleton University By Christopher Dornan

sity degree programs in Public Administration that pro- duce people who go on to become deputy ministers of the Crown, crucial advisers to the ministers they serve. But a cabinet minister is not advised only by the per- manent public service.

In Canada,

as we know, we have well-established univer-

He or she will take political

counsel from a chief of staff who will also contribute to the complex calculus by which the performance, policies and priorities of the ministry will be determined and evaluated.

Who trains the senior political staff to their ministers, the people who sit across the table from the DMs and ADMs? What university program prepares them for their responsibilities and equips them with the skills essential to those responsibilities? There is no such course of study at any university in

Canada. So it was with some fanfare that Carleton Uni- versity announced in May 2010 that it was committed to establishing a select graduate degree precisely for the purpose of educating students intent on making careers in the political arena, and that Calgary businessman Clay- ton H. Riddell had agreed to support the initiative with a pledge of $15 million, the single largest in the history of the university. The proposed Master of Political Management is pa- tently consistent with the traditions of Carleton University and especially appropriate to its Faculty of Public Affairs, whose signature academic units include the first Journal- ism school in the country and the first school of Public Administration. It is a degree that will take full advantage of Carleton’s location in the nation’s capital and strengthen the university’s connection to the political grid. However, mounting such a degree – taking it from

proposal to reality – shares something in common itself with a political campaign. Constituencies both inside and outside the university must be persuaded of its worth, its benefit and its design. The process by which a new university degree is ap-

proved is convoluted and arduous. Just internally, the Mas- ter of Political Management went through some six sepa- rate committees of evaluation – from an initial feasibility committee to the Programs and Planning Committee of

12 Campaigns & Elections | Canadian Edition

the Faculty of Graduate Studies, to the Academic Pro- grams, Planning and Initiative Committee, to the Financial Planning Group, etc. – before it received the endorsement of the university Senate. Beyond that, the dossiers proposing the degree had to be considered by an Appraisals Committee of the provin- cial education authorities, the Ontario Council on Gradu- ate Studies, which selected two external consultants to pay a site visit and deliver a report on the university’s readiness to mount a high-quality degree. (As I write, this is where we currently stand. The con-

sultants’ report has been deposited and will be considered by the OCGS sub-committee at its next meeting in early December, the recommendation of which may not be of- ficial until the greater meeting of OCGS in January, 2011.) The good thing about that many checks and balances is that an idea can’t help but get a thorough airing and a good going-over. Its proponents and its skeptics have to have it out. While many experienced hands in the political trenches

saw the degree as something long overdue, there was initial skepticism in some quarters simply about the subject mat- ter. Was the university proposing to teach students how to manipulate public opinion, spin journalists, and connive their way to political power? Would it not be a course in the techniques of dishonesty? That complaint was rela- tively easily answered. (It is equivalent to the charge that a graduate degree in Journalism simply drills its students in how to render sensationalistic, superficial accounts of complicated events, and a Master of Public Administra- tion is an advanced degree in the application of red tape and unhelpfulness.) More troublesome for some was the pedigree of the proposal.

Although the idea for something like this degree had been kicking around at Carleton for years, it had never taken root because the program would be too expensive to mount. The cost of the faculty to staff it would far outstrip the revenue generated from student enrolment. The impetus in this case came from an overture to

the university from Preston Manning, who could tes- tify from experience as to the need for and benefit of such a degree, and who offered to lend his name in the search for benefactors who would also realize the last-

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