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06 Apr

Alumni Features: Katie Millan

April 6, 2018

SPPG’s series featuring MPP alumni caught up with almuna Katie Millan, Senior Policy Advisor for the Government of Ontario.


Katie Millan

Katie Millan (MPP Class of 2014) is a Senior Policy Advisor for the Government of Ontario. Katie is a Cadario scholar, and while at SPPG she led the 2014 Ford+SPPG Conference, which explored policy issues and opportunities related to Big Data. Katie was also on SPPG’s inaugural IPAC-CAPPA case competition team, and has fond memories of winning first place in 2014, in a sudden-death high-stakes mock briefing. Currently working at the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, Katie is exploring options to transform health care services in provincial correctional institutions. When she’s not problem solving – she’s tap dancing, and spends time volunteering as a mentor to members of the Ontario Student Trustee Association, and new SPPG graduates.

What was your path to working for the Ontario Public Service?

If you wanted to go way back, my path to working for government started when I was a Legislative Page at Queen’s Park – which is probably why I still love Question Period, even with all of the heckling.

While completing my undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto, I also worked part time as an Intern for my local MPP while he was the Minister of the Environment, Minister of Consumer Services, and the Attorney General. I learned invaluable lessons about Ontario’s political context, and picked up some practical things like briefing skills, and how to navigate stakeholder interests.

All of these experiences led me to SPPG, my summer internship at the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs – Cabinet Office, and to my current role as a Senior Policy Advisor.

What’s your favourite thing about working for the Government?

There are two things that I really value about working for the province: the variety of policy files, and the complexity of the policy development process.

I’ve worked on policy issues as diverse as adult education and the labour market, increasing access to mental health services, and improving health care services for incarcerated individuals.

I’ve also supported the strategic positioning for Ontario’s leadership at meetings of Canada’s Premiers, and First Ministers’ Meetings, which include the Prime Minister. This is policy work, but draws on a different set of skills than drafting instructions for legislation, or more traditional policy and data analysis.

Good public policy needs the right mix of evidence, stakeholder engagement, political will, a compelling narrative, and timing. If you can line that up, find funding, and stick-handle your way through changes in direction – you have the opportunity to make a real impact on people’s lives. It’s not always easy, but it’s definitely worth it.

How does your work use and build on the skills that you learned at SPPG?

When I first started in government, one of my projects involved working with our stats team to analyse a set of OECD data for Ontario. I had some policy questions in mind, but had to go through the whole data set and try to identify indicators that would help us answer our questions.

I leaned heavily on what I learned at SPPG, in this case, the ability to communicate in ‘stats-language’ with the rest of our team. Eventually, we found a story in the evidence that helped inform decision-making in the Ministry.

This is just one example, but SPPG provides students with a framework for problem-solving, and equips students with the ability to work across all aspects of policy development, from scoping data requests all the way through to implementation.

In retrospect, what parts of your experience at SPPG do you think were the most valuable?

My answer to this isn’t very surprising, but the most valuable part of my experience at SPPG was getting to know a really amazing group of people.

My classmates have turned in to colleagues and friends, and SPPG alumni are influencing policy decisions at every level of government, and making an impact in communities across the country –it’s amazing! I continue to draw on their experience, insights and friendship as I navigate my own career post-SPPG, and I always look forward to hearing about the innovative policy work and issues being tackled by SPPG graduates.

What advice would you give current or prospective students to make the most of their time at SPPG?

I would encourage any current or prospective students to jump right into the learning opportunities that happen outside of the classroom, within the SPPG community.

There are incredible student-run initiatives at the school, where you can test-drive what you’ve learned in class in a different environment – whether it’s working with a non-profit organization through the Public Good Initiative, writing an opinion piece for the PPGR, or competing in a case competition.

The school also does a great job at bringing in some of the world’s brightest policy minds for guest lectures and engaging speaker-series – go to these too, even if you have a stats test the next day, trust me!