Check out our catalogue of smart conversations with the people driving policy discussion in Canada — and find out why they're all WithOut Normal Knowledge

An astronaut. A hockey super-star. A star economist. Business leaders and a billionaire. In the first season of PPF’s new policy podcast, WONK, we heard from 22 remarkable guests.

The common theme: All of them are people bringing smart thinking to the policy discussion in Canada and they are, as we like to say, WithOut Normal Knowledge. (That’s why we call it WONK.)

Catch up on all the Season One episodes now for smart insights and great conversations around the big issues of the day.

Episode 22: The green energy bet

John Risley is best known for his by-the-bootstraps creation of global seafood giant Clearwater — and for orchestrating its sale to a coalition of First Nations. The self-made billionaire’s next big project is as chairman of World Energy GH2, which plans to build a massive green hydrogen project on Newfoundland’s west coast. He talks to host Edward Greenspon about why the project could be revolutionary, what keeps him anchored in Atlantic Canada and why he went to “wind farm academy.” Listen to the episode.

Episode 21: Economic truth-teller

Trevor Tombe’s views on the intersection of policy and economics are in high demand because, well, his cool empirical perspective makes them so compelling. The University of Calgary economics professor talks to host Edward Greenspon about why the now-operational Trans Mountain pipeline isn’t the boondoggle critics think, why Canada’s economy lags the U.S. and why he’s only the second most famous economist from Maple Ridge, B.C. Listen to the episode.

Episode 20: The ‘fascinating economist’

As chief economist at the Royal Bank of Canada for the past 23 years, Craig Wright has offered essential insight through booms and busts, from the great financial crisis to the pandemic. Everyone from CEOs to prime ministers, to news reporters have relied on his prognostications. When he retires in June, he’ll relinquish his title as longest-serving big bank economist. He talks to host Edward Greenspon about what’s changed over his career and where Canada needs to do better. Listen to the episode.

Episode 19: Indigenous game changer

Tucked into this year’s federal budget document was something a little out of the ordinary — and of great consequence: Indigenous Loan Guarantees. The program has the potential to open massive energy and resource developments that will benefit both Canada and Indigenous communities. Mark Podlasly is the chief sustainability officer of the First Nations Major Projects Coalition, which has championed the program. He joins host Edward Greenspon to explain how it puts Indigenous communities on a whole new path. Listen to the episode.

Episode 18: Solving the productivity crisis

Canada’s lagging productivity has become what the Bank of Canada calls a national ‘emergency’. The OECD’s incoming chief economist, Álvaro Santos Pereira, a dual citizen of Portugal and Canada, is one of the foremost experts on the subject. He talks to host Edward Greenspon about why Canada lags behind other countries, the opportunities it’s missing, and why he’s optimistic Canadians will rise to the challenge. Listen to the episode.

Episode 17: The energy trilemma

Scott Balfour is the CEO of Emera, the owner of Nova Scotia Power and a major player in energy in the United States. He is central to the efforts to wean Canada off carbon and build a clean electricity system — all at a time when demand for power is soaring. He talks to host Edward Greenspon about investments, promising technologies and the so-called ‘energy trilemma.’ Listen to the episode.

Episode 16: Big city problems

Halifax Mayor Michael Savage has led the city for an impressive 12-year run. When he became mayor, the big worry was Halifax’s declining and aging population. Today the city has one of the fastest growth rates in the country. This growth has also brought big city challenges – from housing and homelessness to immigration settlement and the need to harden infrastructure. Mayor Savage joins WONK host Edward Greenspon to talk about Halifax’s growing pains, and the long and winding road to municipal success. Listen to the episode.

Episode 15: How to win the Olympics

David Shoemaker is the CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee, the organization tasked with promoting Olympic values and helping get Canadian athletes onto the podium. He talks to host Edward Greenspon about why he expects big things in Paris, the challenge of making sport safer in Canada, and the delicate balance of international competition in a time of war. Listen to the episode.

Episode 14: What Canada really wants from immigration

Canada is perhaps the most successful immigration nation in the world. But its system is showing some cracks, as immigration is twinned in the public mind with housing shortages and high rental costs. Rupa Banerjee, Canada Research Chair in Economic inclusion, Employment and Entrepreneurship of Canada’s Immigrants at Toronto Metropolitan University, talks to host Edward Greenspon about what Canada’s getting wrong and why it’s unfair to blame foreign students for housing woes. Listen to the episode.

Episode 13: Issues with the Online Harms Bill

The longest-serving Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, and the first woman to hold the position, weighs in on the good and the bad of the federal government’s long-awaited online harms bill. She talks to host Edward Greenspon about anti-hate laws, freedom of expression and why some provisions in the new bill will likely end up before the courts. Listen to the episode.

Episode 12: The rise of big Indigenous business

JP Gladu is one of Canada’s visionary leaders in the national dialogue around Indigenous ownership in the economy. For eight years he was president and CEO of the influential Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business. He now sits on the board of Calgary-based Suncor Energy. And he leads Mokwateh, a bridge-building consultancy. Gladu joins host Edward Greenspon to talk about the rise of Indigenous business, getting the government to say ‘yes’, and overcoming fear and ignorance of Indigenous ownership. Listen to the episode.

Episode 11: Running the public service

John Hannaford is the Clerk of the Privy Council, the most senior job in the public service. It is really three jobs rolled into one: deputy minister to the Prime Minister, Secretary to the cabinet and head of the public service. The Privy Council that the clerk leads is the central nervous system of Canada’s governing setup. In this episode, Hannaford talks to host Edward Greenspon about the historic challenges facing the public service, the renewed focus on value and ethics and the importance of fearless advice. Listen to the episode.

Episode 10: How to build a news empire

Paul Wells is the dean of political reporting in Canada. For 30 years he wrote for national news outlets before recently launching his own little media empire. He has a buzzing Substack and podcast. His brand name is now, well, his name. He talks about his life in a fast-changing media landscape, the future of journalism, and why he stopped caring about being edgy. Listen to the podcast.

Episode 9: Why you shouldn’t fear AI

Shingai Manjengwa is the head of AI education at chainML, a research and development firm. She is also the founder of Fireside Analytics, a data science education company, and the former director of professional development at the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence. She’s even written a children’s book to teach data science to kids. She breaks down in simple terms how AI actually works, what kinds of challenges it presents and why we shouldn’t fear the future of AI. Listen to the episode.

Episode 8: Building a better (and smarter) health-care system 

Dr. Vivek Goel was an ace up Canada’s sleeve when the pandemic hit. He was on COVID-19’s Immunity Task Force and advised the national body for COVID-19 research. Goel, one of the top public health researchers in Canada and the President of the University of Waterloo, talks about the unrest in higher education institutions, the importance of health data and what a better pandemic response could have looked like. Listen to the episode.

Episode 7: A Liberal in Alberta

Anne McLellan is known as ‘Landslide Annie’ for her nail biting wins as a Liberal MP in Alberta. She served as Minister of Natural Resources, Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Minister of Public Safety, Minister of Health and deputy prime minister. Today, she’s a co-chair, along with former conservative cabinet minister Lisa Raitt, of the coalition for a Better Future. She opens up about working for Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, why Alberta is misunderstood and Canada’s lack of focus on long-term growth. Listen to the episode.

Episode 6: What LNG means for ther Haisla Nation

Chief Crystal Smith of the Haisla Nation Council is the guiding force behind a multi-billion-dollar LNG project on Haisla territory that is fast becoming a model for Indigenous-led and owned development. She talks about the dramatic changes occurring in her hometown of Kitamaat Village, overcoming environmental opposition to LNG and her hopes for the future. Listen to the episode.

Episode 5: The highs and lows of space exploration

Marc Garneau has led the Canadian Space Agency and served as ‘Capcom’ at NASA – that is, the voice of Houston on shuttle missions. He was also the first Canadian in space, and a federal cabinet minister. For his remarkable career(s), his name is etched in the history books, on two high schools and a postage stamp. Garneau talks to host Edward Greenspon about a life of no regrets, the highs and lows of astronaut life, and why he’s never asked Justin Trudeau about his exit from cabinet. Listen to the episode.

Episode 4: The urgent energy transition

Peter Nicholson has advised leaders of the OECD, major corporations and was instrumental in Canada’s deficit-busting 1995 budget. Today, the dean of public policy thinking in Canada has turned his efforts to the topic of wind power, and its potential to make Atlantic Canada the next great energy region. In this episode he talks to host Edward Greenspon about the urgent energy transition, why he ‘marches toward the sound of gunfire,’ and how he became mentor to a young Elon Musk. Listen to the episode.

Episode 3: Launching the Professional Women’s Hockey League 

Jayna Hefford is one of Canada’s most decorated Olympians, having won four straight gold medals. She’s also one of the top goal scorers ever to play the game of hockey. Now she’s turning her considerable talents to the Professional Women’s Hockey League, a six-team league of elite players that hits the ice on Jan. 1. She talks to host Edward Greenspon about inspiring a new generation players, working with Billie Jean King and what it takes to launch a brand new league. Listen to the episode.

Episode 2: The fight to save local news

For the past 10 years, Jeff Elgie has been steadily building a thriving and profitable local news business, Village Media, from his home base in Sault Ste Marie, Ont. In the process he has wound up at the centre of one of the most important debates of the digital news era: how to effectively sustain journalism without the kind of over-reach by government that could do more harm than good. Elgie talks to host Edward Greenspon about his opposition to Online News Act, what he thinks of the recent $100 million-agreement with Google and what motivates him to keep fighting for local news. Listen to the episode.

Episode 1: Tough times at the UN

Our inaugural episode features Bob Rae, ambassador and permanent representative of Canada to the United Nations. Rae talks to host Edward Greenspon about the Israel-Hamas war, Canada’s diplomatic role behind the scenes, the emotional toll of life at the UN at a time of war and instability, and why his father looms large in his work today. Listen to the episode.

Follow WONK wherever you listen to podcasts and stay tuned for Season Two and more great conversations, starting this fall.