Public policies influence and shape our daily lives. They provide the framework of rules, programs, and processes which govern the way we live together in society. Most of us, however, are unfamiliar the process by which those policies are constructed, who makes them, and why they exist as they do. Understanding the public policy process is critical to informed, engaged citizenship within a democracy. Such understanding empowers citizens to directly engage in shaping our society, and holding public institutions accountable to the people they serve.

This course introduces students to the public policy-making process and the institutions involved. We take a critical perspective, identifying how power is embedded in and exercised throughout that process. We focus on how actors compete to define problems - and thus policy agendas - through the construction and dissemination of discourses. We learn how to analyze those discourses to reveal underlying assumptions about how society works and should work, whose problem definitions are accepted, and whose are not. Finally, we examine the complex processes of policy design within governments, the unique political context that shapes Canadian policy development, what and how evidence is used to justify policy, and the power relations evident in the final policy product.

We will work through these various elements using three policy case studies: 1) who should pay for post-secondary education; 2) the legalization of marijuana; and 3) the crisis of climate change.

This course will introduce students to journalistic storytelling through an intensive program of writing instruction and workshops. Students will learn to write and edit in a journalistic style, conduct research and write news and feature stories.