Surrey-White Rock MLA Gordon Hogg greets SFU president Andrew Petter to receive his doctorate degree during Thursday’s convocation ceremony.

Skirmishes at legislature inspire MLA Gordon Hogg to earn PhD

Hogg receives his doctorate degree from Simon Fraser University after being challenged by ‘very smart people’

There are now two Dr. Hoggs well-known to residents of the Semiahmoo Peninsula.

The first, of course, is the late Allan Hogg – one of the area’s pioneer physicians for whom a building at Peace Arch Hospital is named.

The second is his son, longtime Surrey-White Rock MLA Gordon Hogg, who received his PhD last week at Simon Fraser University.

Hogg completed his research project – and defended it for more than two hours against “very smart people challenging you with difficult questions” – at the end of December, and in February received a letter from the school’s board of governors letting him know he passed.

“Then it was just walking across the stage and getting that piece of paper that happened Thursday,” Hogg told Peace Arch News.

Hogg’s thesis was titled Creating Public Policy in a Complex Society: The Context, the Processes, the Decisions, and during the research – which took the better part of five years – the veteran politician pored over more than 100 case studies on public policy, while also interviewing many of his legislature colleagues.

The crux of the project, he said, was to try and discover how people – be they politicians or regular citizens – think and make decisions.

“My interest actually grew out of sitting around the legislature and hearing people argue, saying ‘Here is all the evidence and here is what it means,’ and then seeing another person… have a different interpretation,” Hogg explained.

“Basically, it’s (a study of) how do we know what we know, and why do we do what we do?”

Hogg also suggested there is a “growing abyss” between the elected and the electorate over the past number of decades, and much of his research focused on how government decisions isolate some citizens.

“How can people become more engaged? How do we create public policy with people instead of for them?” asked Hogg, whose decades in politics include 20 years on White Rock council, including 10 as mayor.

Since taking his first course at SFU in 2010 – he’d come home from Victoria Thursday in time for his Friday-morning class – Hogg said he has often used the provincial legislature’s two-minute members statement to deliver speeches or ask questions related to his often obscure research project.

“I’ve said this to a few people already, but (Surrey-Whalley NDP MLA) Bruce Ralston asked me once, ‘Are you using this time to give us your entire dissertation over five years?” Hogg laughed.

“I got everything from laughter to ‘What did you mean by that?’

“I gave one speech about Humpty Dumpty that got all kinds of great response. I think I got a couple of emails just today – from people on both sides of the house – saying congratulations and letting me know how much they enjoyed the little speeches.”

In the future, Hogg said he’d consider turning his dissertation into a book, and also expressed interest in perhaps teaching once he retires from politics. As a result of his PhD thesis being accepted, he was named an adjunct professor at SFU.

“I guess it means the university thinks you have some talents of value, and you could teach if you wish, so that’s nice,” he said.

“I think it’s something I’d be interested in – maybe teaching first-year students. I’d like to get people thinking about decision-making and our democratic process.”

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