Surrey-White Rock MLA Gordie Hogg graduates from SFU at age 70

“I think it’s more about endurance than intelligence,” said the oldest member of the spring 2016 SFU convocation class jokingly.

  • Jun. 10, 2016 1:00 p.m.

Surrey MLA Gordie Hogg before receiving his PhD at SFU's convocation ceremony in Burnaby on June 9.

By Rob Shaw

VICTORIA — For almost 40 years Gordie Hogg has sat at council tables, in cabinet offices and on the floor of the legislature, where as a politician he crafted policies and passed laws. It’s a rancorous, partisan and often dysfunctional world where it’s rare to find agreement on issues — despite the best attempts by well-meaning legislators.

The failure of traditional decision-making in public policy prompted an almost five-year research project by Hogg and led the Surrey-White Rock Liberal MLA to receive his PhD Thursday at Simon Fraser University.

At 70 years old, he’s the oldest member of the spring 2016 SFU convocation class.

“I think it’s more about endurance than intelligence,” he joked. The doctorate required five years of work that Hogg fit on top of his full-time duties as an MLA, his run for re-election in 2013 and his most recent appointment by Premier Christy Clark as parliamentary secretary for youth sport.

It started years ago with some guest lecturing at SFU, after which colleagues suggested he enter the PhD program.

“I said no, I’m too old and not terribly interested.”

But eventually Hogg — a former cabinet minister in mining and child welfare portfolios — was convinced to pitch a special arrangements doctorate in public policy.

His thesis became Creating Public Policy in a Complex Society: The Context, the Processes, the Decisions, for which Hogg reviewed almost 100 studies on public policy development.

Hogg said he studied how people make decisions and develop thoughts, the economic models now used for social decision-making, and conducted interviews with 15 MLAs. He explored the fallacy that simply providing the public or politicians more information will lead to consensus on an issue, how confirmation bias is built into interpreting evidence, and why sometimes good ideas can be dismissed when they come from one person or party but fast-tracked when the same idea is reiterated by a different person.

“I guess the conclusions are about context, about recognizing the rapidity of change and where we are in that, recognizing how we can more effectively engage the people,” he said.

Politicians live in a “soft spot — we never get close enough to an issue to really understand it,” said Hogg, and ministers are sometimes worried about too much costly public consultation because it seems like delegating authority.

He chronicled his experience on the public record, slyly using the daily two-minute members statements available to all MLAs to stand in the legislature and deliver sometimes bewildering speeches on obscure research and dense policy issues. “(NDP MLA) Bruce Ralston said to me, ‘Are you using your two-minute statements to give us your dissertation over five years?’ ”

“For me, it’s been a great experience,” said Hogg. “It’s been one that’s complimented and made me a better representative for the people — certainly being able to be at Simon Fraser and hear all these conceptual theoretical understandings (about policy making at the legislature) and then to say, ‘Well actually, in the world I live in, it doesn’t happen that way.’ ”

It’s been “bridging the practical and theoretical,” he added.

Whether the PhD marks the end of Hogg’s career in politics — which started on White Rock council in the 1970s — remains to be seen. He said he’s “50-50″ on whether he’ll run for re-election in 2017, having also been appointed an adjunct professor at SFU and warming to the idea of teaching first-year university students.

“My interest is to continue to look at the things I’ve been looking at,” said Hogg. “I’m sure five years from now I’ll probably see all of this differently than I see it today.”

CLICK HERE for more stories from Vancouver Sun


Just Posted

White Rock rail forum leads to renewed calls for relocation

Upgrading safety is not enough say local politicians

McCallum says Surrey LRT communication plan close to election is ‘perceived interference’

McCallum ‘gravely concerned’ Surrey and TransLink will violate election financing rules, but city says all rules will be followed

White Rock’s Johnston Road to re-open on schedule: city

One lane in each direction expected to open by Friday at 7 p.m.

Two Surrey volleyballers set to play for Team Canada

Brianna Beamish and Kiera Van Ryk in Japan for FIVB World Championships

VIDEO: Neighbours fear impact of B.C. tent city residents

Greater Victoria residents opposed to campers voice concerns at provincial campground

Tornado touches down in Ottawa and Gatineau, Que.

Environment Canada says cars and homes have been damaged by severe thunderstorms and high wind gusts

B.C. premier apologizes for removal of 1950s totem pole at Canada-U.S. border

First Nations say pole was raised at Peace Arch but removed to make way for tourism centre

An unexpected sight: Bear spotted eating another bear in central B.C.

Cheslatta Carrier Nation Chief finds bear eating another bear’s carcass

Free vet clinic caters to pets of homeless, low income people

The first such clinic in Langley will take place later this month.

RCMP confirm death of missing BC teen Jessica Patrick

No details on cause were given. Case is under criminal investigation and police are asking for tips.

Extradition hearing set for Lower Mainland developer accused of fraud

Mark Chandler will go before the B.C. Court of Appeals early next year.

CUTENESS OVERLOAD: 2 sea otters hold hands at the Vancouver Aquarium

Holding hands is a common – and adorable – way for otters to stay safe in the water

B.C. teen with autism a talented guitarist

Farley Mifsud is gaining fans with every performance

Most Read