I was officially elected President of CAPPA on June 1, 2020, at a time when Canada and the world had been in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic for nearly one hundred days. While I was certainly honoured to have been chosen to lead the association, I was also very much aware of the challenges this extraordinary situation would present for CAPPA itself, and for all of our members.
Unfortunately one of the first casualties of the pandemic was the annual CAPPA conference scheduled to take place in early June in London, Ontario as part of the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences. As a result, an exciting line-up of papers, speakers and seminars had to be postponed, and the hard work of conference organizers, led by Joe Lyons of Western, was temporarily undermined. However I am confident that next year’s conference will proceed as planned, with an even more impressive set of speakers and papers.
In the meantime, I have been constantly impressed by the excellent team of Executive and Board members with whom I have been privileged to work. Their willingness to view this unprecedented challenge as an opportunity for CAPPA to regroup, revise and expand its activities, in order to better serve our membership, partners and the broader policy community, has been truly inspiring.
As my immediate predecessor Andrea Rounce noted in her welcome address, we are all members of CAPPA because we care about the practice, research and teaching of public administration and public policy. In these trying times, when all levels of government in Canada and around the world are faced with a plethora of competing claims and difficult decisions that must be made in an atmosphere of ongoing urgency, the study of public administration could hardly be more relevant. The enormity of the crisis necessitates a whole-of-government response rarely seen since the Second World War, if ever. Issues such as trust in government, public sector ethics and organizational change, as well as federal-provincial relations, accountability and fiscal management, will undoubtedly prove to be of even greater significance as governments at all levels attempt to navigate the various challenges. Similarly, the move to emergency distance instruction, on the part of almost all universities and institutions of postsecondary education in Canada, has made the teaching of public administration and public policy far more challenging.
CAPPA has already responded to these new and emerging realities with a number of positive initiatives, such as the extremely successful and well-received one-day E-seminar on “Teaching public policy and public administration in Times of COVID-19” co-sponsored by CAPPA and organized by members Isabelle Caron (Dalhousie), Jean-Francois Savard (l’ENAP), Kathy Brock (Queens) and Rob Shepherd ( Carleton). Similarly this year the criteria for the annual DeCelles award for excellence in teaching have been adjusted to recognize the individual who is deemed by his or her peers to have shown the most innovation and made the greatest impact on students under these difficult new conditions. In addition our annual Case Competition for graduate students, to be hosted by the Johnson-Shoyama School of Public Policy in Regina in February 2021, will no doubt afford organizers with a wide range of options related to governmental responses to the pandemic.
At the same time I should note that CAPPA was already working on a number of ongoing projects that have taken on heightened importance during this crisis. A Governance Review Committee has been hard at work examining almost all aspects of CAPPA’s relationship with members, partners and associates and their report, anticipated by early fall, will serve as the template for a number of CAPPA activities designed to enhance our organization’s presence and relevance. Among the priorities I will be addressing are the deepening of our relationship with member programs, with counterparts such as NASPA, and with programs based on similar interests, such as IPAC, the Canada School of Public Service, and others. To this end I will be prioritizing an expanded accreditation process, support for further jointly sponsored webinars and e-conferences, and the enhancement of CAPPA’s capacity to serve as an information exchange repository.
I am convinced that CAPPA has an important role to play in the next two years, and I feel privileged to have been given the opportunity to assist in its evolution during these challenging times. I look forward to working with all of the CAPPA team and the broader public policy network during my time in office to make this association’s contribution as innovative and meaningful as possible