PolicyForward is a future-oriented speaker series that brings industry, policy, and research thought leaders together to discuss the intersections of policy, technology and innovation.

Past PolicyForward Events

In Partnership with the Max Bell School of Public Policy

March 31, 2021

A recent spate of high-profile incidents, including the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, have brought to light the threats to democracy posed by our digital landscape.

The rise of mis- and dis-information, the deepening of political polarization, and the amplification of extremist content and incitements to violence, have spurred governments around the world to explore legislative action to regulate online platforms and the internet more broadly.

Canada is certainly not exempt from the harms inflicted by the digital ecosystem. But should our government intervene? Or is addressing those harms a job best left to the market and civil society?

What are some possible approaches or frameworks, and how can we ensure that freedoms are protected? What is at risk in outsourcing the governance of key democratic processes to a handful of largely U.S. based companies?

Moderated by Centre for Media, Technology and Democracy Director, and Beaverbrook Chair in Media, Ethics and Communications at the Max Bell School, Taylor Owen, this event brought The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin (P.C., C.C.), former Chief Justice of Canada, in conversation with leading Canadian journalist Andrew Coyne to discuss whether the government should regulate the internet.

  • The Right Honourable Beverly McLachlin, former Chief Justice of Canada
  • Andrew Coyne, the Globe and Mail
  • Taylor Owen, Centre for Media, Technology and Democracy, Max Bell School of Public Policy

In Partnership with the Johnson Shoyama School of Public Policy

November 5, 2020

No US election in recent memory has had greater implications for Canada, the world, and the US itself. The November 3 vote unfolded in the midst of a global pandemic, a staggering economy, and civil unrest. At stake was whether the US continues down a road of economic nationalism and withdrawal from international institutions, or returns to a role as an engaged global leader. A panel of experts explored the results and what they meant for Canada.

  • Marshall Auerback, Levy Institute, Bard College
  • Cheryl A Camillo, Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy and North American Observatory on Health Systems and Policies
  • Lori Hausegger, Boise State University


October 16 ,2019

It would be hard to overstate how important petroleum products have become to our global society and economy. From the middle of the nineteenth century to today, the remarkable growth in the production and use of petroleum have made it the most important commodity on the planet.

The evidence is clear that in order to effectively respond to climate change, we must transition away from the combustion of petroleum and the carbon emissions entailed by its use. The scale of this challenge is unprecedented. Roughly 40% of global final consumption of energy comes from oil. It it staggering to imagine just how much – in terms of technology, infrastructure, leadership, capital flows, and regulatory regimes – will have to change in the transition that lies ahead.

But transition we must. And nowhere in Canada is the challenge of transition felt more directly than in Alberta. As Canada’s largest producer of oil and gas, the Alberta energy industry accounts for roughly one-quarter of the province’s GDP. In order for Canada to meets its emission reduction goals, Alberta must play a pivotal role.

On October 16th, Max Bell Foundation will present a panel of three experts in Calgary to discuss how the transition to a clean energy economy can be met. We’ll tackle head-on the questions of what technologies, leadership, and public policies we’ll need to make the energy transition in a way that will position Alberta and Canada for prosperity in a carbon constrained world.

  • Curtis Berlinguette, University of British Columbia
  • Chad Park, The Natural Step Canada
  • Martha Hall Findlay, Canada West Foundation


October 23, 2018

Universal health care is highly valued by Canadians. For many, it’s woven into our national identity, signaling our core values and distinguishing us from our American neighbours. Our politicians know that even talking about change to healthcare is a risky proposition.

But we’re on the cusp of potentially enormous change. Advances in artificial intelligence, robotics, genomics, and additive manufacturing are disrupting medical science, and are shifting the ways healthcare is delivered. Imagine getting a diagnosis from a computer, receiving pharmaceuticals tailored to your genetic make up, and having a robot surgically implant into you a 3-D printed kidney.

Can our current healthcare system adapt to such fundamental change? Will Canada’s medical research community be able to compete with others – both in fundamental science and bringing innovations to market? How will we afford universal access to the kind of medical care that emerges from these technological advances? And how will we regulate it all?

  • Tim Murphy, Alberta Innovates
  • Alan Bernstein, CIFAR


December 6, 2017

Worries about changes brought on by advancing technologies have been part of our culture at least since Frankenstein was published in 1818. Two hundred years on, the worries have a renewed urgency, as the effects seem much more tangible and imminent. Today we face the challenges of advances like driverless cars, 3D-printed surgical implants, advanced manufacturing robots, and the use of artificial intelligence in domains like medical diagnostics, investing, and legal services.

What will such technologies mean for the lives of ordinary Canadians? What will happen to our jobs, our assets, and our collective ability to prepare for and cope with a society undergoing such significant change? How should we prepare – as individuals, as businesses, and as citizens? And what should public policy makers be focussed on to help position the country for the future that’s coming into view?

In December, 2017, Max Bell Foundation hosted a discussion entitled Automation, Artificial Intelligence, and Work in Canada: Implications for Policy. Elyse Allen, President and CEO of GE Canada and VP of GE, and Paul Boothe, Managing Director of Trillium Network for Advanced Manufacturing and former federal and provincial deputy minister, discussed the ways in which Canadians can expect the face of work to change over the coming years.

  • Elyse Allen, GE Canada and GE
  • Paul Boothe, Trillium Network for Advanced Manufacturing