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

October 19, 2023

The National Housing Accord released an excellent report in August 2023 called A Multi-Sector Approach to Ending Canada’s Rental Housing Crisis. The report, which you can find here, opens with a Foreword that summarizes the issue:

Canada’s housing crisis is worsening dramatically. Millions of people – particularly those with the lowest incomes – are facing rapidly rising housing costs, driven significantly by an extreme lack of supply of the right types of rental housing. This is driving a wave of new homelessness, eating up increasing percentages of workers’ incomes and causing untold stress and suffering. The Government of Canada has set a range of ambitious targets to realize the Right to Housing, address housing affordability and end homelessness, but we are currently sliding backwards.

Meanwhile many new market-based rental projects are stalled as a result of dramatically increased interest rates, high government taxes fees and charges, insurance premiums, and higher production input costs.

This comes within the context of record population growth. Population growth and immigration are essential to our country’s economic and cultural prosperity, but our housing system is failing people who have a right to housing, no matter how long they have been here.

On October 19, 2023, Max Bell Foundation hosted a panel presentation in Vancouver called Shelter and the Storm: Canada’s Housing Crisis. Moderated by Andrea Reimer, panelists Jill Atkey and Mike Moffat tackled this complex problem head on.

Getting to solutions requires understanding the root causes of the problem. The panelists named several, including sharp declines in government funding and tax incentives for non-market rental housing, policies oriented to reducing urban sprawl, municipal zoning that favours single family dwellings, significantly increased immigration, and monetary policy that has fuelled an already tight housing market. Adding to the challenge is that these policies have generally been enacted in isolation, without regard to how they would interact in ways that contribute to an inadequate supply of affordable rental housing stock.

The resulting affordability crisis is having ripple effects across the economy, with the worst impacts felt by those with the fewest resources.

What should be done? Our superb presenters discussed a number of potential solutions, discarding some as impractical, and identifying others that have real promise. Click the link below to watch the presentation and hear what they had to say.

To watch the full event click here.

February 16, 2023

Indigenous entrepreneurs continue to drive economic prosperity for their own communities and for the country. They are doing so in the context of increasing recognition and legal affirmations of the rights of Indigenous communities. How can this growing prosperity be supported and accelerated? Building from the core of self-determination, what capacity building, institutional innovation, governance frameworks, and financing arrangements can best enable the success of the Indigenous economy?

On February 16, the Foundation co-hosted an event with the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Regina on the future of the Indigenous economy in Canada and the enabling conditions for an accelerated and successful economic prosperity.

The Future of the Indigenous Economy showcased a panel of three experts representing the non-profit sector and Indigenous communities and businesses. Ken Coates, Tabatha Bull, and Chief Cadmus Delorme shared their perspectives on what it takes to build and maintain success in Indigenous economies.

The panel explored ways for reimagining the Canadian economy and fostering indigenous businesses to advance economic prosperity in light of the growth and resilience of Indigenous entrepreneurship, especially on remote reserves with no high-speed internet coverage. Nurturing those businesses is happening, but not at the desired pace, calling for significant efforts and interventions from public policy advisors to accelerate big changes and impact.

The panel highlighted remarkable achievements and successes in indigenous economic development, such as the growth of a multinational coffeehouse and restaurant chain on the Cowessess property and prominent developments and opportunities in agriculture and renewable energy. Issues at the interface of land, access to capital, and social capital were explored, as well as considerations around lessons learnt from failures, supportive institutions, the location of the enterprise, and indigenous leadership, all of which can influence the success of indigenous businesses. The panel also addressed the unique challenges and opportunities for the economic transition, shedding light on the imperative role of advocacy as a key guiding principle.

Finally, insights on accelerating the future of indigenous economy were offered. Proposed solutions included a focus on the governance of business to inform sound decision-making; supporting emerging and ambitious institutions that are gaining traction; creating grants for indigenous entrepreneurs; investments in a government-wide indigenous entrepreneurship strategy and in the training of indigenous people in executive leadership positions; and a federal indigenous equity fund to support indigenous partnerships.

The panel concluded with a Q&A session. The event was attended by an in-person audience and was available online via livestream.

To watch the full event, click here.

January 10, 2023

The Agri-food system impacts the lives of every person, plant, animal, landscape, and water system around the world. The way we grow, process, transport, and eat food has become the driving force behind some of the biggest problems we collectively face. Agriculture is currently responsible for one third of all greenhouse gas emissions, is the primary driver of the biodiversity crisis, and uses a full 70% of all freshwaters. At the same time, food insecurity and malnutrition continue to be critical concerns in Canada and around the world.

From food security and food sovereignty to chronic disease, biodiversity, climate change, and water pollution, the next few decades will see massive changes in how we grow and consume food. As governments realize the huge potential of agricultural soils to draw down carbon, a bigger issue is emerging. Can the priorities of climate change be reconciled with the need for food security? As inflation and the rising cost of fuel drive food costs up, how do policy makers balance the needs of the planet with the needs of their populations? Is food security compatible with climate change mitigation plans? How do policy makers ensure that by solving one problem we aren’t creating another?

The first green revolution in agriculture created an enormous surplus of calories that generated the industrial food system we currently inhabit. What will the second green revolution look like?

On January 10, the Foundation hosted an event at the Winnipeg Art Gallery on the agri-food system’s responses to the competing priorities of food security and sustainability.

Are Food Security and Sustainability Compatible? showcased a panel of three experts representing the private, public, and non-profit sectors. Michael Mikulak, Demian Lawrenchuk and Jeanette Sivilay shared their perspectives on what it takes to build and maintain sustainable, local food systems in the changing contexts of food security and climate action.

The discussion explored several issues at the interface of food production, access and consumption- from the story of ‘modern agriculture’ as a result of our collective choices and the confluence of 1950s priorities (population growth, mass production of cheap food) with more recent ones (food sovereignty and food security, environmentally sustainable agriculture, diet-related diseases); to the story of the periphery and what sustainability looks like once basic human needs are satisfied through mass food production and delivery. The conversation highlighted the remarkable potential for traditional and Indigenous agricultural practices in creating vibrant local food systems, fostering economic development, and cultivating strong connections with the environment.

The panel addressed capturing the “missing middle” of agriculture in Manitoba and creating a food system that is more resilient to shocks as a means to bring food justice and climate justice into alignment. Proposed policy options can be drawn from promising practices happening in other jurisdictions that can be brought into a coherent framework that provides the right incentives, such as support and reducing barriers for small producers, guaranteed minimum income to access local and sustainable food, and promotion of local food procurement in public institutions (schools and hospitals).

The panel concluded with a reflection on the goal of food systems in face of current mass production in relation to trade and commodity export, while sharing collective wellbeing and fostering a harmonious relationship between human beings and their environment.

The event was attended by an in-person audience and was available online via livestream.

To watch the full event, click here.

May 10, 2022

Throughout 2022, Max Bell Foundation is celebrating its 50th anniversary by hosting a series of conversations about some of the thorniest policy problems in Canada today.

On May 10, the Foundation co-hosted an event with the Max Bell School of Public Policy at McGill on the investment and finance challenges of the net-zero energy transition.

Money for Nothing: Investment and Financial Policies to get to Net Zero showcased a panel of three experts representing the private, public, and research sectors. Rachel Samson, Paul Rochon, and Martha Hall Findlay shared their perspectives on how best to move Canada to a prosperous, net-zero future.

The discussion identified the central challenge and key players to drive this transition, the importance of investment realities in informing policies, and the challenge faced by the oil and gas sector in reducing GHG emissions. The panel discussed “sustainable finance” and public policy in influencing capital markets and identified several key challenges for policymakers. The conversation highlighted the need for multisectoral collaboration, a focus on certainty and incentives as key drivers of economic growth and decarbonization, and the potential of designing effective national actions within the complex international context.

The event was attended by an in-person audience at the McGill Faculty Club and Conference Centre and was available online via livestream.

To watch the full event, click here.


photo credits: © 2022 · Michael Abril


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