Matthew Johnson

Alumnus - Class of 2012
Matthew Johnson
Current position: Executive Director (Strategic Partnerships & Innovation), WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation
Co-op work experience: Project Analyst, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs; Economic Development Consultant, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs 
Academic background: Political Science, Wilfrid Laurier University
Matthew comes from a community of less than 500 people, acknowledging that this propelled him to establish relationships on a community level. After graduating from Wilfrid Laurier University, he realized his passion for community policy work. Matthew has received a Deputy Minister’s Award for Innovation from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food (OMAF) and the Ministry of Rural Affairs (MRA). Read more about his award on our news page

Why did you choose Waterloo’s Master of Public Service program?

The MPS program allowed me to build on the theoretical knowledge gained from my undergraduate degree and provided me with the practical skills necessary to succeed in the workplace. The multi-disciplinary approach to classes and projects, as well as the diverse backgrounds of students in the program helped me to think outside of the box which is imperative for innovative public sector work. 

Tell us about your current position working for Canadian Tire Jumpstart? 

Jumpstart Charities is the charitable arm of the Canadian Tire Corporation and as a registered charity it is part of the not-for-profit sector. As the Community Programming and Operations Analyst I work with municipal, provincial and the federal government to manage program delivery to over 3,100 Community Partners across Canada.
I love my job because it takes my passion for community policy and pairs it with my education and background in government. I work with the Federal government via Sport Canada to deliver funded sport programs to children in financial need. Additionally I work with the Provincial governments, such as the Province of Manitoba, to develop an outdoor recreation/equipment kit for youth in remote communities. 
Some of the most rewarding work has been partnering with municipalities in Canada to coordinate Jumpstart Games in their communities; a day when tens of thousands of kids can get out into their community and just play – this is what truly makes my job special.
This month Minister of Health, Rona Ambrose, Minister of State (Sport), Bal Gosal, and Minister of Finance, Joe Oliver, will be celebrating Red Ball Month at the Jumpstart Games. 

How did the MPS program including your co-op experiences prepare you for a career working for a not-for-profit organization?

There are a number of similarities between my current job and working in the public sector. The transferrable skills learned through courses like project management, economics and public policy allow me to add value to our current projects and programs. Soft skills like leadership and communication help me confidentially make recommendations to our senior board and present at conferences for provincial and national sport organizations. 
During my co-op work terms at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, I advocated on behalf of businesses quite regularly without actually having worked for a large private company. Transitioning to Jumpstart allowed me to maintain my interest in community development while also obtaining a completely different point of view regarding what businesses really need. I can now anticipate government action when we are preparing funding applications and prepare for questions we may receive when presenting final reports.  

What has been your most exciting experience working in the public service?

Traveling to Parliament Hill to celebrate the launch of the Parasport Jumpstart Fund. The day was a great opportunity to meet with Senators and MPs and discuss emerging policy issues around sport and youth development. It was amazing to see how Jumpstart impacts youth and para-athletes in Canada and how many MPs are willing to support the organization. The cherry on top was receiving an e-mail from MP and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, asking me to provide her with an engagement opportunity in her riding.     

What have you learned about yourself as a result of the program and your career?

The more I say “yes” to opportunities, the more opportunities seem to multiply. Now that I have completed the MPS program I feel more confident to tackle these opportunities and go out and create new ones for myself.  

What are your favourite MPS moments? 

Hands down the relationships and friendships that were made from the long nights in Leddy, the early mornings in Hagey and afternoon lunches at the Grad House. We were such a small group in the first year that it was impossible not to build a relationship with everyone in the program. It’s great to keep in touch and when we meet in person it is always easy to pick up right where we left off. 

What advice do you have for someone interested in taking the MPS program?

I suggest that prospective students go and see the program. When I returned to campus after my co-op placement and saw the dedicated program space, study rooms and classrooms I was absolutely floored – I knew this program was unique. There really isn’t anything like it and I know that the program staff, students and alumni would definitely drop anything to show you around.