October 31 marked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s nomination of six non-partisan Senators to fill vacancies in the Senate for Ontario, including U of T Professor Tony Dean.
A former public servant, Dean currently teaches at the School of Public Policy and Governance. He describes his independence from partisan politics as occupying “rich territory of the middle ground,” and that this independence was most likely a determinant in his nomination to the senate. Previous Canadian governments frequently appointed Senators along partisan lines.
“I certainly didn’t see the likelihood of being nominated for senate, there’s just no doubt about it,” Dean told The Varsity. “It’s something I would have never imagined.”
On Trudeau’s initiatives to appoint non-partisan Senators, Dean forewarns Canadians that, “change is difficult in big, complex, long-standing institutions,” and will inevitably create friction. However, Dean recognizes the importance of infusing independent Senators into Canada’s chamber of ‘sober second thought’ and notes that despite any impending collisions, “the interests of people in an organization, before you arrive there, are valid. There’s nothing right or wrong about it.”
Dean plans to harness his experience working in public service. “I think citizens need to know that not everything is political and that there are people working in public service organizations in government who’s job it is to…think about the broader public interest,” he said.
Dean left school at age fifteen whilst living in England and chose to take up an apprenticeship in the industrial sector. At twenty-five, Dean moved to Canada with a mindset devoid of political intent — he was to complete his Masters in Sociology at McMaster University.
His footings were established during his time in the Ontario Ministry of Labour as a policy advisor, where he tackled issues of legislation and collective bargaining regulation. This journey of two decades would culminate with his appointment to Head of Public Service, a role which made him responsible for 65,000 employees.
“I could not have imagined the possibility of the career trajectory I would have in this country,” said Dean.
Dean advises students wishing to develop similar momentum to follow their passions and seize as many opportunities as possible. In situations where one feels stuck in work that feels out of place and unfulfilled, he believes that one should continue working long enough to learn something about that particular field, and then use that new-found knowledge while in pursuit of looking for another job – one that provides the right managerial style and environment to breed personal success.
“I was thrown into the deep end… into kind of some of sink or swim situations, in which I felt that I was being asked to do a job that was way over my head. But then I kinda thought, I’m going to swim hard. I want to keep my head above the surface. That was my trajectory, that combination of finding work.”