Joining the Order
Dalhousie's Peter Aucoin named to the Order of Canada
By Marilyn Smulders - January 3, 2008
It’s been a secret Peter Aucoin has been keeping to himself for a couple of months. Sixty-one appointees to the Order of Canada were told of their appointments back in October and asked to keep mum until the Governor General of Canada Michaëlle Jean made the official announcement.
Which she finally did last week. The Governor General honored the recipients of the Order of Canada — “People from every walk of life that build the nation with their passion and creativity” — during her end-of-year message to the nation.
“It was kind of difficult (to keep secret),” acknowledges Dr. Aucoin, a Dalhousie professor appointed jointly in Political Science and Public Administration. “I did tell my wife.”
Dr. Aucoin was named as a Member of the Order of Canada. Other names on the prestigious list include Phoenix Suns’ star Steve Nash of Victoria, Olympic speedskater Clara Hughes of Winnipeg, band leader Paul Shaffer of Thunder Bay and arts administrator Jeffrey Spalding of Jeddore, N.S. Mr. Spalding, the former director and chief curator of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, has recently taken up a job at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary.
According to the citation, Dr. Aucoin is being honored for “his contributions as a leading political scientist and advisor to government bodies, specializing in the areas of public administration and political governance.”
Dr. Aucoin has been a faculty member at Dalhousie University since 1970. In a career that has straddled both political science and public administration, he has served as Director of the School of Public Administration from 1985 to 1990 and as Chair of the Department of Political Science from 1992 to 1995. His scholarly achievements have been recognized by Dalhousie in his appointment as a McCulloch Professor in Political Science (1993-2003), and, since 2003, as Eric Dennis Memorial Professor of Government and Political Science.
He is a passionate, caring teacher, recognized with the Dalhousie University Alumni Association Award for Teaching Excellence in 2006. In January, he’ll teach both an introductory level political science class (POLI 1020) and an advanced seminar in Canadian Politics (POLI 5204).
“I try to convince students that I’m learning as well. And that learning can be enjoyable even though it’s hard work,” says Dr. Aucoin. “You have to show enthusiasm, and I do that. Anyway, my students tell me that comes through.”
As well as his duties at Dalhousie, Dr. Aucoin has acted as a respected advisor to government, in this country and also in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. In 2000, he served as a member of the British Government’s Peer Review Team for the review of the Cabinet Office’s modernization program. In Canada, he has served in numerous capacities, notably as the research director on the Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing for the federal government from 1990-1992 and as a lead expert witness in several constitutional cases dealing with election and referendum law, three of which were decided in the Supreme Court of Canada.
He is particularly proud of his work on the Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing.
“I think it’s stood the test of time. It’s constantly being used and referenced in court cases,” he says. The report led to several reforms in regards to election law and campaign finances.
He adds his work on advisory committees and royal commissions informs his teaching back in the classroom.
“My work brings me into the world of government and that benefits both my research and my teaching. I try not to give away government confidences in class, but there are many examples to share. I think students find that it enriches their understanding.”