Meet Andrea Reimer, SPPGA’s First Policy Practitioner Fellow

Andrea ReimerAndrea Reimer is the first Policy Practitioner Fellow to join UBC’s School of Public Policy and Global Affairs. Andrea was elected to four terms in municipal government including a term on the Vancouver School Board and three terms on Vancouver City Councillor.

On City Council, Andrea held a variety of roles including the first ever permanent Deputy Mayor, Chair of Planning, Transportation and Environment (2008-2014), Chair of Policy and Strategic Priorities (2015 – 2018), and liaison to over a dozen committees ranging from Renters Advisory Committee to the Mayor’s Working Group on Immigration. She also served a decade as a Director at Metro Vancouver Regional District, served nationally as Vice Chair of the Green Municipal Fund and represented the world’s local governments at the United Nations second Environment Assembly (UNEA 2).

We sat down with Andrea to ask her a few questions about her career and her engagement with the UBC community as a SPPGA Fellow.

SPPGA: What are you most proud of in your career?

I’m proud of leading the creation of a 10-year action plan and overseeing implementation of the internationally recognized program to be the Greenest City in the world by 2020. During this time, Vancouver became the first major city in the Americas to commit to a timeline for transition to100% renewable energy. I was also fortunate to be part of spearheading nationally significant efforts on reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

I am most proud of being elected into office in the first place. It’s still rare to see someone with my background in public office, but when I got elected the first time 18 years ago, it was pretty much impossible. It definitely wasn’t a solo achievement but I am proud to not just have made it across the line but also be able to successfully enact and implement so many innovative policy responses to critical issues.

SPPGA: What are you most looking forward to engaging in as a SPPGA Policy Practitioner Fellow?

Student and Community Engagement

There is so much potential for collaboration and partnership with SPPGA across faculties, schools and with the broader community to help support students and the community in making their policy dreams a reality. A recent panel discussion with three women with senior positions at Consulates in Vancouver, which spoke to the challenges of micro-aggressions that women face in the workplace, is a great example of where the Fellowship can act as a bridge between community resources and the students, and ultimately give students greater insights.

I’m helping to create and support some cool projects including a municipal policy engagement program called the Democracy Lab in collaboration with the Centre for Community Engaged Learning at UBC. I’m also developing a “Democracy in a Day” pilot that would connect UBC, students and the community with the tools they need to effective issue-based policy development.

Finally, I think one of the big opportunities of the Fellowship is having a structure that allows for informal connections with faculty and students. Being able to be a resource through things like an “Ask Me Anything” initiative provides moments of intellectual collision that can develop in ways that more formal structures cannot accommodate.

Strategic Engagement at SPPGA

I’m looking forward to helping to expand the work of the Institute of Future Legislators, hosted by the Centre for the Study of Democratic Institutions, so that participants from a wider range of backgrounds are able to access it. I’m also part of developing specific outreach and content for and about Indigenous peoples.

I’m currently helping to recruit another SPPGA Policy Practitioner Fellow and establish a framework for the continuation of the Fellowship. My Loeb Fellowship at Harvard University was a godsend when I left office and helped me have the resources (including time) that I needed to be able to consolidate what I’d learned and share it effectively with others. Being able to have a Fellowship like this at UBC would be a big boost for policy making capacity in Canada.

The key to transformative change is effective partnerships between elected officials, civil servants and the community: UBC’s School of Public Policy and Global Affairs (SPPGA) is a natural place to build this capacity.

Teaching and Learning in the Master of Public Policy and Global Affairs (MPPGA) Program

I am so excited for this aspect of the Fellowship! It’s rewarding to work with the MPPGA students and community advocates to support their learning and to help them meet their policy goals more quickly.

When I was in public office, I often saw that the main driver of the disconnects that sowed division between the public, advocates and even staff and elected officials usually started with simple and avoidable misunderstandings. Being able to develop the curriculum on Power and Practice at Harvard, bring it home to students at UBC last fall and now expand the ethos of it further through the Fellowship is cathartic.

The climate emergency, climbing income inequality, the democratic recession we are in: all of these urgent issues demand excellence in policy-making. The Fellowship gives me the opportunity to marry what I’ve learned from three decades in policy advocacy and policy making with the excellent grounding the MPPGA students are receiving through SPPGA. My keen hope is that it allows them to tackle these challenges more directly and effectively.

I’m also really excited to be able to continue to support the work I started at the City of Vancouver on meeting the climate emergency by supporting the Global Policy Project (GP2) students on their domestic project with the City of Vancouver’s Planning, Urban Design and Sustainability Department.

SPPGA: Thank you Andrea!