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Queen's University

Elective Courses

Students may take at least six optional courses, typically one in the fall term, three in the winter and two in the spring. Students may choose to take optional courses offered by the School of Policy Studies or related graduate courses offered by other academic departments or professional schools at Queen's University.

MPA students have the option to write a Master's Research Project (MPA-898).  Guidelines for this research-based analysis of a particular policy or management issue, conducted under the supervision of an academic advisor, are available here.

Elective courses vary from year to year. A list of summer electives is normally available in early winter; a list of fall/winter electives is normally available in the late spring. The current (complete list of possible course offerings is listed here .

EPID-803 Public Health and Policy in the Canadian Health System (limited space)

This survey course will provide an overview of the health, health service, and policy context in which epidemiologic and health service methods are applied. Secondly, it is intended to provide a brief introduction to selected research areas available for more in depth study through elective courses. Topics include: public health and health determinants; health services and the health care system; health economics and cost evaluations; and health policy and policy analysis.

EPID-807 Introduction to Health Economics (limited space)

This course is designed to provide students with an introduction to economic concepts and analysis relevant to health, health care, and health care systems. Topics include: health as an economic variable; health production models; uncertainty in health and its effects; the behaviour and influence of various participants (health care providers, patients, government) on health care utilization and health status. No prior economic background is required, although students must have basic quantitative skills.

MPA 812 - Law and Public Policy (Offered in 2014/15)

It is essential for policy professionals (whether within government or in the broader public sector) to have a working knowledge of legal principles and legal reasoning. In this course, we will review the fundamental elements of the Canadian legal system, and then explore case law showing how legal instruments can be used to implement policy choices. We will also review examples where law can restrict available policy choices.

MPA 813 - How Governments Decide (Not offered in 2014/15)

Successful government depends upon the smooth meshing of the political and bureaucratic dimensions of the state. This course examines how different governments organize, staff and operate their executive management systems. A second theme is to highlight the necessity of global comparison to gain knowledge through reference to different public policies and processes.

MPA 814 - Federalism (Not offered in 2014/15)

This course examines how policy making and the substance of policy are affected by federalism. Attention focuses on patterns of interaction among governments, and between governments and organized interests in Canada, and in other federal or quasi-federal systems. A major subject is how such patterns of interaction are affected by the structure of political institutions, the allocation of powers, and fiscal considerations.

MPA 820 - Principles of Management (Not offered in 2014/15)

This course addresses the implementation or execution of policy by developing an understanding of the concepts and skills required for effective leadership and management in public organizations.

MPA 827 - Financial Management in Canada's Public Sector (Offered in 2014/15)

An examination of the principles of financial management applicable to the public sector, including an introduction to budgeting, financial planning, capital and current expenditure forecasting and program costing.

MPA 831 - Economics of National Security 

This course consists of the economic analysis of national security issues, including defence.  The main objective of the course is to enable students to understand the economic processes that underlie, in conjunction with political interactions, various security resource allocation decisions, from budget-making to procurement to expenditures at the basic unit level.  Moreover, various organizational issues in security (various domestic and global security measures from policing, intelligence and anti-terrorism to peacekeeping, food and health security measures) will be addressed.

MPA 832 - Issues in Defence Management and Policy

This course is a survey seminar for non-specialists interested in the public administration of the formulation of defence policy in Canada. The principal aim of the seminar is to examine the main areas of defence management and policy with a view to building a foundation for further studies in the field. The course examines key topics and issues that shape the formulation and administration of defence policy and the direction of Canada's Armed Forces. The seminar will address several related topics including the history of defence policy; ideas concerning the central direction of defence policy and armed forces in Canada; functional areas of defence budgeting; human resource management; force development and capital procurement; armed forces and society; civil-military relations; and current operations of the Canadian Armed Forces.

MPA 836 - Health and Public Policy in Canada (Offered in 2014/15)

This course introduces students to the social, economic and political forces that shape health policy, and the institutions that are responsible for its design and implementation. The course also surveys some of the major current issues in the field.

MPA 837 - Management in Healthcare (Not offered in 2014/15)

This course has two central purposes. The first is to provide students with a foundation of core organization and management theories. The second is to provide students with the opportunity to apply these theories toward addressing key challenges facing the current health care industry.

MPA 838 - Economic Analysis of Health Policy 

This course is designed to provide students with an introduction to economic concepts and analysis relevant to health, health care and health care systems.

MPA 839 - Social Policy (Offered in 2014/15)

This course examines the historical development of the welfare state in Canada in comparison with other western nations. It focuses on the major social security programs and their recent restructuring in response to demographic, economic and political changes at the national and international levels.

MPA 840 - Economic of Social Policy (Offered in 2014/15)

The course is a non-technical examination of the economics of social policy in Canada. There is little or no graphical analysis – rather the course uses narrative discussions of economic concepts of market failure, incentives, efficiency and equity, among others, to examine the forces that shape Canadian social policy and to examine how policy design affects the outcomes associated with given policies. We begin with a discussion of the main elements of policy analysis and how economic analysis contributes to it. A major theme of the course is that social policy must reflect the economic, demographic and social conditions of the time – to put our discussions in context we review major economic changes over the past 40 years to track the evolution of debts and deficits, trends in international competitiveness and changes in the nature of work, as well as demographic trends and other social changes that might affect the ability of our social programs to deliver on their objectives. We discuss the measurement of poverty and examine trends and vulnerabilities of certain societal groups to it. A similar discussion occurs with respect to income inequality. The latter part of the course looks in depth at three policy areas: the retirement income system, employment insurance, and a broad set of income support programs. Here we look at the structure of policy and how design features create problems of inequity, inefficiency and create the wrong kinds of incentives.

Students will be required to complete two pieces of work. First, a policy paper, maximum 20 pages, that offers an economic examination of a social policy issue. The topic will be agreed between student and instructor. There will also be presentations by students on social policy topics not covered otherwise. These will include topics in education, post-secondary education, gender differences in labour markets, childcare, etc. I will really not know exactly how this works until enrolment numbers are available.

MPA 843 - Trade and Public Policy (Offered in 2014/15)

This course offers an introduction to the public policy issues associated with international trade, with particular reference to the role of the World Trade Organization (WTO) as a key institution in global governance. Commercial exchanges across borders affect most domains of daily life and public policy in the era of globalization. Trade affects our lives at home, and our relations with people far away. Part of the interdisciplinary MPA program, which aims to prepare students to provide policy advice in diverse policy domains, this course supplements what students learn in both the economics and governance core courses.

MPA 847 - Environmental Policy  (Not offered in 2014/15)

This course surveys the factors that influence the actions of major institutions, such as governments, industry and public interest groups, with respect to environmental issues. It looks for broad designations of competing approaches, such as command and control versus incentive-based instruments, to such tasks as the setting of standards, regulation and compliance, management of risks and the realization of effective public participation. It also attempts to look behind the pragmatic policy formulations to identify the fundamental values that shape attitudes toward environmental issues.

MPA 848 - Immigration Policy in Canada (Offered in 2014/15)

This course examines the factors contributing to the development of immigration policy in Canada, the changing trends in immigration in Canada, the impact of immigration and refugee movements on public policies and programs, jurisdictional issues and the role of nongovernmental organizations.

MPA 851 - Public Policy and the Third Sector (Offered in 2014/15)

This course examines the diverse nature of the nonprofit sector, its expanding role in policymaking and service delivery, and the evolving relationship among government, nonprofit organizations and the corporate sectors. Key issues include accountability and governance, leadership, law and liability, ethics and values, and policy influence.

MPA 852 - Stakeholder Management  (Offered in 2014/15)

This course is designed to familiarize students with various forms of political participation and representation in Canada. In particular, we will examine practical approaches and tools for fostering citizen and group involvement in policy decision-making within the context of larger conceptual questions about democracy, representation and citizenship.

MPA 853 - The Nonprofit Sector and Population Health (Not offered in 2014/15)

This course focuses on selected topics relating to public policy and the third sector.   The content may vary from year to year.

MPA 855 - Approaches to Global Governance (Not offered in 2014/15)

An exploration of the theory and practice of global governance, tracing the emergence of the concept in modern international relations, the academic and public-policy debates to which it has given rise, and its application in the design and work of selected international institutions.

MPA 857 - Public Policy in China

This course presents students with a introduction to terms and dialogue used in current policy debates in China.  It will provide students with a general introduction to Mandarin Chinese and focus on terms that are often used in debates and dialogues with officials.  Students will also be taught the interpretation of certain expressions and phrases that politicians in China commonly use and in what contexts should they be employed. (Delivered at Fudan University, China, to participants in the SPS-Fudan interchange program.)  

MPA 858 - Dynamics of Chinese Economy

This course is broadly concerned with the political economy of the economic reform in China.  It will also provide students with a general introduction to the Chinese history, geography, culture and pre-reform economic system.  With this background in place students will learn lessons from recent Chinese experience concerning privatization and the reform of the state-owned enterprises, dual economy and reforms in rural and financial sectors, impacts of deregulation and reforming of state monopolies.  Finally, students will discuss globalization and the current challenges facing the Chinese economy. (Delivered at Fudan University, China, to participants in the SPS-Fudan interchange program.)

MPA 859 - Indigenous Law and Public Policy

This introductory course will follow an inquiry-based approach where students will be required to research and prepare a paper using primary and secondary historical sources.  There will also be a book review and a course blog.  This course will examine the relationship between colonization, public policy and the law. Our focus will be the impact that these relationships have had historically and in the present on Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples alike in different regions of Canada.  We will survey cases, public policy, treaties and contemporary alternative practices of rights claiming.  We will also explore methodological issues as they pertain to ways in which information is recorded and gathered, who is excluded and included in these processes, the ways in which theory informs practice and the ways in which narrative intersects with knowledge production.  The major themes surveyed in this course will include: gender, race, sexuality and the Indian Act; Reconciliation, Restitution and Resurgence; and sources of law and governance.

MPA 860 - Reconciling Indigenous Policy

As Canada’s “two founding nations” myth is slowly being exposed and the contributions of Aboriginal peoples are being recognized, Canada’s public policy framework which ostensibly respects Aboriginal peoples is crumbling.  Canadians are learning that their history is rife with mass human rights violations, broken treaties and promises, and policy foundations best summed up by Duncan Campbell Scott when he said “I want to get rid of the Indian problem.… Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic and there is no Indian question…”

Yet, the “Indian Question” is alive and well.  It is difficult to imagine any major development project, new legislation or major public policy happening  in Canada that does not involve Aboriginal peoples.  Internationally, Canada’s reputation has suffered because of its handling of Aboriginal issues. 

Canada is the first, “First World” country to set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to examine one of the darkest chapters of its history, the Indian Residential School Era, and to help us imagine a brighter future.  The challenge for policy makers, legislators and Aboriginal leaders is to act in a manner consistent with the principles and values inherent in the word Reconciliation. Through readings, class discussions and guest speakers, students will have the opportunity to better understand why we are in an Era of Reconciliation and explore public policy options regarding the Aboriginal agenda.

MPA 861 - Governance in First Nations (Not offered in 2014/15)


MPA 864 - Policy and Development in Africa

This practical, interactive seminar is aimed at would-be policy advisers and practitioners who will be concerned with governance and security and development as graduate students, or in later positions with civil society, business or government. The seminar will focus on immediate examples from African countries to offer an understanding of broadly defined governance and development issues and responses – from peace, security, government,  trade and investment, through "real people" concerns of democratic rule of law, poverty alleviation, education, gender, health, land and the environment

MPA 866 - Ethics in Public Service (Not offered in 2014/15)

This course will review the academic literature on ethics in public service, examine some recent examples of apparent ethical lapses in the public sector, and consider ways of dealing with ethical and values-based conflicts. 

MPA 867 - Canadian Cultural Policy 

This course will identify conceptual issues in Canadian cultural policies, as well as institutional responses by public and private bodies. The focus will be on pan- Canadian policies adopted by the federal government. There will also be references to provincial and municipal initiatives, notably (but not exclusively) in Quebec. Culture will be examined in the broad sense of political goals which are often described as ‘enabling Canadian voices to tell Canadian stories, strengthening the ties that bind a diverse country’. 

MPA 869 - International Development Policy (offered in 2014/15)

This practical, interactive seminar is aimed at would-be policy advisers and practitioners who will be concerned with governance and security and development as graduate students, or in later positions with civil society, business or government. The seminar will focus on immediate examples from emerging market countries to offer an understanding of broadly defined governance and development issues and responses – from peace, security, government, trade and investment, through “real people” concerns of democratic rule of law, poverty alleviation, education, gender, health, land and the environment.

Participants are invited to look in depth at actual experience with specific issues to grasp what Canadian, donor and developing country interests, pressures, people and objectives mould the successes and failures of development initiatives. The goal is to understand through group discussion and consideration of the opinions of prominent development professionals, what does need to be done to improve on current governance and development outcomes.

MPA 870 - Public Policy Issues in Africa

Summer interchange

MPA 871 - Approaches to Policy Development

This course begins with a paradigm that provides integration of all aspects of policy development into a cohesive framework. For example, it brings together diverse aspects of policy development such as social and economic policy objectives, social/economic/environmental tools, federal/provincial interaction, taxation/spending, certainty/uncertainty into drawing desirable approaches to policy formulation.

It will review aspects of this policy formulation by looking at individual policy components in the overall context in three parts: what is theory; what is actual practice; where are the gaps?  Finally it offers an opportunity for students to provide suggestions for a change in actual policy. 

MPA 872 - Science, Risk & Public Policy (Not offered in 2014/15)

In the course, we will examine how scientific evidence is used in government decision-making. Students will learn how to assess scientific evidence, and apply risk frameworks and precautionary approaches to policy problems. Students will also have an opportunity to develop core skills in communicating, analysing and synthesizing material. 

MPA 873 - Government Budgeting: Politics and Process

The essence of government budgeting is how the political executive decides whogets how muchto do what– the process by which limited funds are allocated to turn policy ideas into implementation action. But the political executive does not budget in isolation; budgetary process outcomes are also affected by central budget agency dynamics, Parliament’s role in granting spending approval and how the government is held to account for its spending. 

The objective of this course is to shed some light on these inter-related processes and the budgetary politics that shape the way key players behave. The course material will focus primarily on the federal government (and thus on budgeting in a Westminster-based parliamentary system), but provincial budgetary processes are very similar and the case study is based on a provincial government. Although the course will touch on revenue generation, it is neither a tax policy nor an economic policy course. Neither does it require quantitative skills beyond basic arithmetic. 

Classes will be a mixture of instructor presentations, in-class exercises and student led discussions. One or two guest-speakers are proposed but that will be confirmed before classes start. Grades will be based on one individual assignment and a case study to be completed in groups. 

MPA 874 - Public Sector Reform (Not offered in 2014/15)

The aim of this course is to examine the path of public service reform between two crises -- a crisis of governability in Canada and the other advanced democracies in the 1970s, and a second crisis that began with the panics of 2007-2008. The period between those two crises was one in which ideas about the structure of government changed in fundamental ways. This course will begin with a brief discussion of the character of the first crisis, and the schools of thought that influenced the response to that crisis. The largest part of the course will examine various reform initiatives within the public sector that were undertaken in an effort to respond to that crisis, with the aim of understanding the long-term impact of those initiatives.  The final part of the course will briefly consider how ideas about the structure of government have changed as a result of the current governance crisis. 

MPA 875 - Normative Issues in Policy Analysis

This course will introduce students to some of the basic normative categories, arguments, and tools that are essential for addressing questions of public policy.  Normative questions are those that concern whether actions, characters, or states of the world are right or wrong—or, in less absolute cases, better or worse than possible alternatives.   All  policy questions are normative in a sense: to recommend something means to state that it is “better” than some alternative.  A significant degree of political and policy disagreement stems from different assumptions and aspirations concerning different normative values.  This course aims to help students of public policy become conversant on normative issues (political concepts like justice, democracy and freedom) and be capable of applying and evaluating these concepts and values to decision-making in diverse areas of policy (e.g. environmental policy, healthcare, punishment, etc.).  Exposure to diverse normative ideas and traditions can help foster a variety of social virtues—such as understanding, fairness in evaluating the arguments of others, insights into persons and problems—and critical reasoning.  These are valuable skills which will be an asset in any sector of public policy decision-making. 

MPA 877 - Energy Policy

This course is designed to review the broad interconnection between global economic growth, energy resource supply, geopolitical energy security, climate change and the development of energy policy in North America; review the technologies and economics of electricity production, transmission, distribution and consumption/conservation; review current policy issues in Ontario’s electricity policy, particularly in respect of the use of oil, coal, natural gas, renewable and nuclear energy as well as conservation; and maximize the interaction with practicing policy advisers on current energy issues and policy options. 

MPA 879 - Indigenous Governance 

This course will examine some of the history of policy-making in Canada with respect to First Nations governance. This will include an examination of the Indian Act, historical and modern treaties, the Charlottetown Accord and recent legislative tools aimed at good governance. We will also examine some examples of First Nations governance that existed prior to “contact” and continue to exist today. The course will also examine some policy and governance issues that highlight difficulties in federal, provincial and First Nation approaches to governance. We will explore some of the policy and governance issues that have come to the forefront as a result of recent court cases and government legislation.

It will explore some best practices regarding governance in First Nations and in Tribes in the Unites States and Canada. This will include examining management tools that can help enhance good governance. These tools include a management framework, financial management, leadership tools including negotiating, conflict resolution and leading a team. 

MPA 880 - Canadian Foreign Policy

This course looks at foreign policy from a practitioner’s perspective. The course addresses what foreign policy is, why it matters to Canadians, how it is made and the international context in which it is pursued. It highlights the growing inter-connectedness of domestic and international policies. Through lectures and case studies, students will explore the dynamics of the foreign policy process, learn how to assess international developments and issues, and develop skills to provide foreign policy advice.

MPA 881 - Government Communications

This course is meant to provide an introduction to the complex and often controversial world of government communications. In many ways strategic communications are at the core of modern government as it copes with the stresses and speed of an interconnected global society. Increasingly, and sometimes counter-productively, communications considerations drive priorities and decision- making as governments struggle to connect with citizens and electors and to win permission for and acceptance of policies and programs. There is often dynamic tension between the communications objectives and responsibilities of the professional civil service and the political requirements of the governments it serves. 

MPA 882 - Comparative Social Policy

This course examines the major contours of social and economic policy during the last
few decades in rich nations, with a focus on the USA, the UK, Canada, France, and Sweden. Some topics include economic policy, health care, the expansion of higher education, housing and urban planning, family policy, income inequality, globalization, interest group activity, trust, redistribution, and taxation. MPA 882 may be of interest to those seeking a comparative perspective on the main challenges facing Canada in an age of rising trade, growing income inequality, health care inflation and an aging population. We will examine the roots of contemporary problems and success stories alike. 

MPA 883 - International Economic Policy

This seminar-style, policy-oriented course will cover the economic, political, social, environmental, and institutional aspects of international economics. It will offer an analytic, but not technical, approach to the issues, beginning with an analysis of globalization, then examining international trade, investment and innovation, reviewing the principal issues relating to economic development, followed by an overview of the international financial system, and concluding with an analysis of the on-going global financial and economic crisis and shifting global power and accompanying governance issues. 

MPA 884 - Project Management (Not offered in 2014/15)

This course provides a holistic, integrated approach to managing projects, exploring both technical and managerial challenges. It addresses the fundamental principles of project management, tools and techniques while providing a strategic perspective and demonstrating means to manage projects at the program and portfolio levels. These principles fully aligned with the industry standard Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), published by the worldwide Project Management Institute (PMI). 

MPA 885 - Canada and the Cyber Challenge

This course will explore the digitized world (the good, the bad and the ugly) in the Canadian context with a view to assessing the breath and scope of the cyber reality within Canada and the policy challenges it poses, with emphasis on the Federal Government. 

Computers and information systems have become a fundamental part of Canadian life. Day to day activities, commerce, and statecraft have gone digital. The associated information technology underpins nearly all aspects of today’s society. They enable much of our commercial and industrial activity, support our military and national security operations and are essential to everyday social activities. The interconnected networks, to include all levels of government, where billions of people are linked together to exchange ideas and services are known as cyberspace. A vast amount of data is constantly in motion and an astronomical quantity is being stored in cyberspace. Furthermore, owing to market incentives, innovation in functionality is outpacing innovation in security and neither the public nor the private sector has been successful at fully implementing existing best practices. Consequently, data is vulnerable be it in motion or at rest. The potential for malicious activity within cyberspace is endless. 

MPA 886 - Human Rights in Policy Design

Human rights principles affect all statutes and policies. This course introduces students to these principles and how to incorporate them into any policy or program being developed. The course also examines the risks and costs of not adopting a human rights lens to policy design by drawing on recent examples.

MPA 887 - Arctic and Northern Issues (Not offered in 2014/15)

The objectives of this course are to introduce students to the complex issues facing the Arctic and Northern Canada from both a Canadian and an international perspective, and to develop policy options for dealing with them. The course has been structured so that as many of the different stakeholder views as possible (but not all) will be presented, analyzed, and questioned. The topics covered in the course will range from an understanding of the rapid environmental change under way through to the geopolitical challenges which are emerging as the interest of non-Arctic nations in Arctic issues is enhanced. 

MPA 890 - Internship

This non-credit program allows students to combine their formal academic studies with on-the-job experience, normally through a four-month placement with a government department or other public sector organization. The internship is normally scheduled in the fall term, following a student's completion of three terms of academic study and open only to students registered in the MPA Full-time program.

MPA 894 - Professional Placement

Course description to be posted shortly

MPA 895 - Reforming Government Services

This course will study some of the persistent policy errors Governments make. They typically run fiscal policy in a pro-cyclical fashion, spending wildly in the good times and slamming on the brakes when deficits mount in bad times. They loosely define policy objectives and then introduce and operate programs that often pay little attention to effectiveness or efficiency. The policy focus is usually short term with little attention paid to investments that might offer substantial future returns. Such facets of policy will be addressed from the perspectives of: the historical record, explanations and solutions. The scope with be international and Canadian with the latter including federal, provincial and municipal. Among the policy areas studied will be: fiscal policy, monetary policy, health, education, social, labour market, environment, regulation and public service delivery. The course will draw upon but not be restricted to the report of the Commission on the Reform of Ontario Public Services (February 2012). 

MPA 896 - Policy Pro Bono (Not offered in 2014/15)

This course focuses on selected topics in public policy. The content may vary from year to year.

MPA 897 - Directed Reading

This course is designed for individual students with special interests that may not be satisfied through course offerings in a given year. It will normally be a directed reading course, under the close supervision of an assigned faculty member with expertise in the chosen subject field. Permission of the Graduate Coordinator required.

MPA 898 - Master's Research Project



School of Policy Studies, Robert Sutherland Hall
Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.3020