Doug McArthur: A Lifetime Contribution to Public Policy

By: Nancy Olewiler

Professor Doug McArthur retired in August 2021 after a long and illustrious career shaping public policy locally, nationally, and internationally.

Doug McArthur was one of the founding professors of the School of Public Policy in 2003 and served as its Director from 2014 to 2017. His long and successful service in senior positions in government has guided the School in innumerable ways with his extensive knowledge, perspectives, and passion for evidence-based and pragmatically focused public policy. Doug was crucial to the early and continued success of our program, developing a strong and enduring curriculum along with the opportunity for students to engage directly with policy makers through involvement in his own research and policy work. His passion for grounding analysis with application has enabled our students to become influential contributors to public policy in their careers.

Doug developed our two-course sequence in ‘Power, Politics, and Public Policy” and emphasized the vital importance of Indigenous policy in his classes and the program, creating our Indigenous Policy course in 2005. He provided guidance over all aspects of the program, led the highly successful external review of the School in 2016, and always reminded us to “anticipate, plan, manage” in our strategic deliberations and policy roles. His supervision of many Capstone projects enabled countless students to develop their analytical skills, and work on vital policy issues in Canada and abroad. Doug’s interest in development of democratic governance led him to Kabul one year to provide guidance to the Afghan government. We feared for his life especially when he relayed that he and colleagues were dodging attacks at their hotels and running for cover. When he reached the relative safety of Pakistan, we were relieved and tried to convince him his expertise was greatly needed at home.

In 2018, Doug received the highly prestigious Lieutenant Governor’s Silver Medal for Excellence in Public Service, recognizing his outstanding contributions to policy and public administration. The award ceremony in Victoria was attended by past and present provincial ministers, Doug’s colleagues in government, academia, former students, friends, and family. The tributes covered his 40-plus years of public service and scholarship with his many roles in government, academic work, and lifelong commitment to working on behalf on Indigenous people and their communities. See SFU News feature

Early in his career, Doug was elected a MLA in Saskatchewan and served as Minister of Education. Before and after his political service, he was deputy minister in two Saskatchewan ministries, in the Yukon, in BC for Aboriginal Affairs, and from 1992 to 1998 served as Deputy Minister to the Premier. In BC, Doug was responsible for negotiating the creation of the BC Treaty Commission and led strategy for renewal of the forest sector that provided for resolution of land use conflicts during the late 1990s, including the 1996 softwood lumber agreement.

Doug was lead fiscal negotiator and principal advisor with the Tsawwassen First Nation and instrumental in not only supporting their treaty in 2007 but in the creation of their Constitution Act of 2009. Through his mentorship, a number of MPP students and graduates worked for Tsawwassen First Nation in the development of these ground-breaking events. Retirement from his SFU role hasn’t slowed Doug’s commitment to and work with First Nations on treaty development and furthering the paths to reconciliation.

We thank Doug whole heartedly for the many ways he contributed to the School and his dedication to students, public service and public policy. Our lively discussions with retired colleagues are greatly missed by faculty and staff.