Fall 2020 - POL 854 G100

Conflict and Controversy in Public Policy (5)

Class Number: 8204

Delivery Method: Remote


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 1:00 PM – 4:20 PM



This course provides students an opportunity to examine the complex role of ideas/ideals in the formulation, implementation, and evaluation of public policy. Too often, fundamental contention that characterizes many policy processes goes unexamined. The substance of this contention is usually normative, having to do with political, social, economic, and environmental values. How are these conflicts and controversies articulated? How are they resolved? How are they best understood? How are they best analyzed? The overarching objectives of this course include enabling students to understand the disciplinary issues, and address the practical concerns, that are associated with research in and analysis of public policy characterized by conflict and controversy.


This course discusses how government policies are formulated (designed) and implemented (put into practice). Students will apply theoretical perspectives to understand how policy problems are articulated, how solutions to them are derived and assessed and how they can be delivered on the ground. The course looks in detail at the range of instruments available to governments in implementing their programmes, the strengths and weaknesses of different tools, and issues related to how tools are combined in policy portfolios or mixes. Classes will also cover the nature of the actors involved in formulation and design activities, how they are organized, the knowledge they utilize and the techniques they employ in providing advice to decision-makers. Lessons from various jurisdictions and policy sectors about best practices and principles of design are examined with a specific focus on lessons derived from Canadian cases and experiences. 


  • Presentations on class readings 20%
  • Participation in seminar discussions 20%
  • Research Paper Outline 5%
  • Research Paper Class Presentation 15%
  • Final research paper 40%



Howlett, Michael. Designing Public Policies: Principles and Instruments. New York: Routledge, Second Edition 2019.

Howlett, Michael, and Ishani Mukherjee. Routledge Handbook of Policy Design. New York: Routledge 2018.


Howlett, Michael, and Ishani Mukherjee. Handbook of Policy Formulation. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2017.

Howlett, Michael, Adam Wellstead, and Jonathan Craft, eds. Policy Work in Canada: Professional Practices and Analytical Capacities. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2017.

Wu, Xun, M. Ramesh, Michael Howlett, and Scott Fritzen. The Public Policy Primer: Managing Public Policy. London: Routledge, Second Edition 2017.

Graduate Studies Notes:

Important dates and deadlines for graduate students are found here: http://www.sfu.ca/dean-gradstudies/current/important_dates/guidelines.html. The deadline to drop a course with a 100% refund is the end of week 2. The deadline to drop with no notation on your transcript is the end of week 3.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in fall 2020 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).