Alumni, Public Policy

Alumni Profile: Jon Robinson, Public Policy

January 29, 2018

From the Spring Issue of Public Policy @ SFU Magazine...

Jon Robinson
MPP Grad year: 2011

# of years in current position:  6 months
Job title and organization:  Director, Priorities and Accountability, Office of the Premier, Province of British Columbia



Tell me a bit about the path you took after graduating from the MPP program.

After graduating from MPP an opportunity arose to work with the BC NDP caucus as a Research and Communications Officer. Working with the BC NDP caucus matched my values and policy interests so it was a natural fit. I was responsible for policy analysis and development, research and communications, and advising elected representatives on a wide range of provincial issues. Working in Opposition is exciting but demanding because we need to cover the entire range of provincial issues with very limited staff and resources – it is really baptism by fire.

In 2016, I took on a larger role with caucus as the staff person responsible for policy and platform development for the 2017 election campaign. Working closely with the Leader, Chief of Staff, and Platform Committee I helped put together the policy and costing details of the 2017 election platform. During the campaign, I acted as the Policy and Platform Coordinator and was responsible for all policy content coming out of the central campaign. I was involved in many key political decisions – it was a very exciting time that I will never forget. Post- campaign I led the policy transition team and helped write Ministerial mandate letters and put together the 100-day plan for the new government. I started my new job in the Premier’s Office after the swearing-in ceremony on July 18, 2017.

What are some of the highlights of your professional career so far?  Most rewarding and most challenging parts?

Being part of the BC NDP team that formed the new government in July has been my career highlight so far. Working in Opposition is often a tough and thankless job – you work incredibly hard, keep the government accountable, sometimes you force change, but it often goes unnoticed. So to see my friend John Horgan become Premier and to watch his great leadership over the first 6 months of the new government has been very rewarding. The past year has been a wild ride – both rewarding and challenging. There have been countless long hours. I helped craft a winning election platform that was bold and progressive. I got to witness firsthand the closest election in BC history, and the innovative and historic agreement with the BC Greens. I was part of the government transition team. And I started a new job in the Premier’s Office in Victoria – all while having a baby boy who just turned one! He is really the best part. If I thought my life was busy a year ago, I had no idea what was ahead.

On July 18, 2017 you started a new job with the Premier's Office in Victoria.  What's involved in this role?

I am a Director in the Priorities and Accountability branch of the Premier’s Office. We are a small unit reporting to the Deputy Minister to the Premier and Head of the Public Service, Don Wright. Our mandate is to work with Ministers, their staff, the public service, the Chief of Staff’s office, and GCPE to ensure the government’s key initiatives are well designed, delivered in a timely manner, and meet the commitments government made to British Columbians.

The focus of the office is on core government campaign commitments (like childcare and housing), particularly when planning and delivery reaches across Ministries and organizations. We work with the larger Premier’s Office to review upcoming items for cabinet working groups, committees, Cabinet and Treasury Board to assist in coordinating and achieving government’s priority goals. We are a new unit that did not exist under the previous administration, so there is a learning curve, and I am excited for growth in the new year ahead.

What have been your first priorities as Director, Priorities and Accountability?

My two main files are childcare and housing, which are two of government’s top priorities. It is really exciting to work on these files because we can really make a big difference in the lives of British Columbians with policy change. The Premier set up cabinet working groups for both childcare and housing. I have been working closely with everyone involved to ensure that cabinet submissions are well designed and meet the goals of government. Both files are complex, ambitious, and have wide-ranging impacts on people. It is a great honour to help drive these important issues forward and I am so enthusiastic for the upcoming budget in February. Everyone involved has been doing a fantastic job.

You've recently moved to Victoria - what's been the biggest adjustment?

To be honest, this has been difficult. We have a one year old, so leaving our friends and community in Vancouver was tough and a big adjustment for my family. My wife also finished her maternity leave and started a new job in January, so we are adjusting to the new reality of childcare. It has been a wild year. However, Victoria is beautiful and we are settling in nicely to our new home. People keep telling me it rains less here, but I don’t believe them yet.

Do you feel that the MPP program (coursework, etc) gave you a particular advantage in the type of work you do? In what ways has it helped you?

Yes, the MPP program was fantastic and has helped me significantly. First, I think the program does an excellent job in training future public servants to take wide-ranging and complex public policy issues and distill them to the essential parts for decision makers. This has been the biggest factor for me in working closely with politicians and crafting an election platform. Decision makers need to be able to assess clear and concise information, and understand the fundamental trade-offs at play to be able to make informed decisions. Further, the policy must be communicated effectively and clearly. The greatest policy idea in the world is worthless if it cannot be communicated effectively to the public.

The MPP program taught me these valuable lessons that have helped me succeed in my work. I also think the MPP program has amazing instructors who teach real-world experience in politics and public service, which is invaluable. I would specifically like to thank Nancy, Doug, and John for everything they taught me.

What's the best piece of career advice you've received?

Special Advisor to the Premier, and the BC NDP 2017 campaign manager Bob Dewar, said to me recently: “Just look at what can change in a year. Stay focused.” He was referring (of course) to the last year in BC politics, but it’s true for most careers. Even if it seems everyone is counting you out, stay focused and stay positive and keeping working towards the goal line. This is especially true when working towards progressive change, social justice, and trying to make the world a better place – there will be a lot of naysayers, but always keep up the good fight.

In what ways do you stay connected with MPP grads from your cohort? 

Not as much as I’d like. Lots of people have moved to Ontario, and elsewhere, to pursue exciting careers. I stay connected on Facebook and its nice to see what people are up to. I encourage any MPPs reading this in Victoria to reach out – it would be great to connect.