2018 Ford+SPPG Conference: What the Tech? Unpacking the Challenges and Opportunities of Disruptive Technologies

The Ford+SPPG Conference is a collaborative student-led case competition held between the University of Toronto’s School of Public Policy and Governance, and the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. Both schools meet for a full-day case competition to pitch a policy proposal about a looming issue affecting both Canada and the United States. Previous conferences included “Immigration: Integration and Mobility in a Populist Era” and “Building Resilient Cities: Addressing Crisis and Ongoing Stress”.

This year’s conference was entitled “What the Tech? Unpacking the Challenges and Opportunities of Disruptive Technologies.” Students looked at how disruptive technologies were affecting either the transportation or education sectors, and what government should, or can, do to assist the transition.

Disruptive technologies is a buzzword in tech circles, and by this year it seems new start-ups and Silicon Valley companies hope to transform every industry imaginable. A disruptive technology is anything that displaces an established technology and shakes up the industry, or a ground-breaking product that creates a completely new industry. No matter the industry, disruptive technologies are a double-edged sword. Disruption usually means the new idea that provides services more efficiently and cheaper than ever before. But it usually comes at the cost of jobs as older skills and labour are pushed out of the job market for new technologies. The role of government remains uncertain in these shifts. Do governments have a responsibility to protect these industries, despite them being less efficient than the new tech? What is the best way for governments to protect jobs and well-being, without impacting economic growth?

Meghan Gervais is a Senior Advisor with the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Growth, Ministry of Research, Innovation, and Science on the Disruptive Technologies Unit, with a focus on clean technology. Her unit actively seeks out new disruptive technologies across Ontario and around the world. Her interests are focused on “whats next?” for innovation and potential social, economic and environmental implications by looking at future technologies. Meghan is very active in building intergovernmental collaborations to inform policy makers on what to watch out for in the future. Pushing the envelope , Meghan is a bug advocate for being ahead of potentially disruptive technologies to ensure that those impacted are prepared. [Interview at 4.00]

“The thing with government is that we are all doing our own thing, so it’s getting people together to talk about these problems and finding collective solutions. That is a big part of what we do”- Meghan Gervais, Senior Advisor with the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Growth, Ministry of Research, Innovation, and Science on the Disruptive Technologies Unit.

Sunil Johal is the Policy Director at the University of Toronto’s Mowat Centre. He leads the Centre’s research activities and teaches a variety of executive education courses. He is frequently invited to advise governments and international organizations about technology, regulatory, and policy issues. Previously he spent a decade in senior executive and policy roles with the Canadian and Ontario civil service. He holds degrees from the London School of Economics, Osgood Hall Law School and the University of Western Ontario. He is a regular commentator on policy issues for media outlets such as CBC, CTV, Globe and Mail, National Post, Toronto Star, and Maclean’s. [Interview at 26.00]

Alexandra Pileggi is a second year student at University of Toronto’s School of Public Policy and Governance. Prior to the MPP program, she had completed a Master’s in Sociology at the University of Guelph. She is currently the acting Co-Chair for the 2018 Ford+SPPG Conference after participating on the Ford+SPPG Executive Committee in 2017. [Interview at 35.00]

Scott Surphlis is a Master of Public Policy student at the University of Toronto’s School of Public Policy and Governance. He holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree in History and English Literature from Queen’s University. Most recently, he completed his internship at the Ontario Ministry of Finance. A passionate and proud politics nerd, his policy interests include exploring the complexities of intergovernmental affairs, financial regulations, national defence, and the intersection of law and policy. [Interview at 35.00]


Kevin Hempstead, Jean-Paul St.Rose, Junior Producer, Host
Macrina Smart, Senior Producer, Host
Jasper Paredes, Tony Yin, BTH Reporter, Host
Ian. T.D. Thomson
Technical Producer
Leanna Mora, Executive Producer

Music Credits
Not Dead 
by Fine Times
Computer Love
by Kraftwerk

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: