Surrey-White Rock MLA Gordon Hogg earned his PhD at SFU studying how to create better public policies

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White Rock politician seeks to improve public policies

June 09, 2016
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Throughout his 40 years of elected office, Gordon Hogg has seen the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to creating public policy. But he says as citizens become isolated and disconnected in an increasingly complex society, the matter of creating successful policy is more challenging than ever.

It’s an issue that drove the MLA for Surrey-White Rock back to school, completing his PhD at SFU in the process. On Thursday June 9 he’ll receive his degree, and at 70, is the oldest member of SFU’s 2016 spring convocation class.

For his thesis, Creating Public Policy in a Complex Society: The Context, the Processes, the Decisions, Hogg examined nearly 100 global studies on public policy development.

“Having participated on many committees and in policy debates, I was intrigued by the failure of traditional, rational decision-making approaches to find agreement,” says Hogg. He explored a “behavioural” approach to policy development—one that is informed by current research in neuroscience and the brain’s use of social contexts in decision-making.

His investigation led him to propose that an “intersectoral” approach, involving greater collaboration and coordination among parties on issues, should be considered a standard model for developing and implementing policy.

“It became clear that such a model, creating a more coordinated, interdisciplinary approach, could not only lead to better decision-making and policies, but a greater sense of citizen involvement,” he says. “ Having a political voice has been shown to be an integral factor in affecting one’s quality of life.”

  Hogg went back to the classroom (he completed his masters degree at Antioch University several years before) after a few stints of guest lecturing in SFU’s educational leadership program, and after addressing the issue as a conference speaker. He made time for his studies around his political commitments.

A former youth probation officer and youth custody centre warden, he went on to become involved in civic politics and spent 20 years on White Rock city council, including a decade as mayor, before turning to provincial politics in 1997. He is now serving in his 19th year as an MLA.

Effective policy-making will continue to be a passion for Hogg, who has served in numerous cabinet posts and last year was appointed Parliamentary secretary for youth sport. He says he’ll use his academic experience to inform his work as an MLA and his participation in national and local organizations.