Mel Cappe and the Changing Face of Policy Creation

Mel Cappe, former Clerk of the Privy Council, was at the University of Ottawa on Monday to give a lecture on the supply and demand of ideas and how it can affect the policy-making process.

The lecture, presented by the Public Policy Forum, was the first in a series that will take place at universities across the country.

In his lecture, Cappe touched on the nature of the problems that public servants face when it comes to crafting policy in this day and age: namely, that the issues needing resolution are complex and have no obvious solutions. In past decades, policy was more about building railroads; now policy is about fighting terrorism and eliminating poverty.

As a result, there is greater need than ever to include different viewpoints in the policy sphere.

“We need evidence-based policy, not policy-driven ‘evidence’,” Cappe said, adding that decisions on policy cannot be made quickly – discussion and respectful challenge is needed first.

To make this happen, according to Cappe, the supply and demand of ideas must be in balance. Decisions must be made based on evidence and analysis, not on the ideologies that are brought into the policy sphere.

“If we hire more good people, or invest in the training of officials, we can shift down and out to the right supply of ideas,” Cappe suggested.

Have you experienced the challenges of policy making today? What do you think about his ideas? Let us know in the comments.

Amy Allen
Amy Allen is a staff writer with Canadian Government Executive magazine. You can connect with her at


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