Please note: All reports, project descriptions and news items are published only in the original language, unless a second-language text is supplied by the author.
21 April 2009
Ian Brodie comes for tea with the Scholars
By Sauvé Scholars 2008-2009
Political scientist, professor and former Chief of Staff to Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Ian Brodie joined the firm of Hill & Knowlton as Senior Counsel in December 2008 and is still deeply immersed in Ottawa’s political scene. He nonetheless maintains his ties to the academic community as an associate professor of political science at the University of Western Ontario. He was also appointed Visiting Scholar for the winter term at the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, where he has taught a very popular course on Current Challenges in Public Policy that Marie-Marguerite attended. As he demonstrated in his meeting with the Scholars, he has the gift of sharing his knowledge and experience and his students are indeed fortunate.
Mr. Brodie treated the Scholars to a highly engaging and wide-ranging discussion on international issues facing Canada from now through 2010, offering not only a rare insider’s perspective on the workings of Canadian politics and more particularly the Prime Minister’s Office, but also a broad view of Canada’s role as a middle power in international affairs. Commenting wryly on the proliferation of international summits and meetings that the Prime Minister must attend, Mr. Brodie said that one of his greatest surprises when the Conservative government took office was the amount of time (roughly 20%) devoted to the international agenda, whereas the Party’s focus had been almost exclusively on the domestic agenda.
He pointed out that 2010 will be a key year for Canada as host of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, followed by the G8 Summit in Ontario and the (not yet confirmed but probable) meeting of the three NAFTA leaders. Although the Olympics are principally a sporting event, the number of world leaders who come for the Opening and/or Closing Ceremonies offers an unequalled opportunity for informal one-on-one meetings with the Prime Minister which can lead to consensus-building on important policy matters. The meetings of the G8 – whose expansion was championed by former Prime Minister, Paul Martin, giving birth to the L20 – today include much wider participation through outreach to the so-called BRICs and other developing economies, along with various regional interest groupings. The NAFTA leaders’ annual meeting, initiated in 2005 by President George W. Bush, is an opportunity for the North American leaders to develop common approaches to North American issues that are not treated in any other context.
The critical issue common to all of these meetings – aside from global financial crisis – is the environment and the need to include developing economies in any solution of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. The developing economies argue that the rich nations having achieved their status without regard for the environmental damage that was caused in the process are now requiring others to put a brake on their own development in order to help to clean up the mess. Working towards a Global Treaty on Climate Change will require equitable solutions that recognize the elementary fact that all emissions, no matter from where, contribute to the problem, and that unless all nations join in a global effort to reduce emissions, the objective will not be met. Mr. Brodie illustrated his point by citing the reluctance of the previous U.S. administration to address environmental issues as a major roadblock to Canadian initiatives.
Mr. Brodie’s unique experience and perspective enable him to enliven the most serious policy issues with fascinating anecdotes that serve to bring the theoretical discussion to a practical and often entertaining level which enhances his audience’s ability to retain the theory long after the discussion is over.
When asked what were his goals at the age of the Scholars and what events or decisions had influenced his career, he replied that at the age of 30 he certainly never thought of being Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister; he was focused on being a university professor. He soon realized that he wanted to participate more actively in the political process and became deeply involved in the organization of the Conservative Party of Canada, eventually becoming Executive Director of the Party. What led to his becoming Chief of Staff was, he said, the fact that his wife was recruited by (the legendary) Tom Flanagan and he was “part of the package”. This reminded some of his audience of Antonia Maioni’s comment last fall that one of the most influential decisions in her life had been to get married – leading some to wonder whether who and when you marry might have more impact on your life than academic or professional pursuits.
On that lighter note, the discussion concluded with a warm thank-you to Mr. Brodie and an open invitation to return in the fall to meet the new Scholars and prepare them for the annual trip to Ottawa.
More about Ian Brodie
Former PMO Chief of Staff to join McGill Institute for the Study of Canada
Exclusive Interview in McGill Tribune
Ian Brodie offers a candid case study in politics and policy
Ian Brodie Joins Hill & Knowlton Ottawa as Senior Counsel
Ian Brodie, BA’90 Chief of Staff to Prime Minister Stephen Harper (2006 to 2008)