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About the Prize

The Balsillie Prize is awarded annually for a book of nonfiction that advances and influences policy debates on a wide range of social, political, economic, or cultural topics relevant to Canadians. The prize celebrates excellence in quality of thought and style and underlines the important role books play in advancing public discourse and bringing new ideas to Canadian policymakers.

The selected books will combine new insights with impressive research, offering thought-provoking contributions to debates on issues that impact both public consciousness and Canadian policymakers. The prize especially values bold works that bring public policy issues to the general reading public.

Sponsorship of this prize is part of a $3 million commitment to supporting our nation's literature by Canadian businessman and philanthropist Jim Balsillie.

2022 Winner

John Lorinc

Dream States: Smart Cities, Technology, and the Pursuit of Urban Utopias

Coach House Books

Jury Citation

“John Lorinc invites readers to consider how technology – specifically smart city tech – fits into the overall city-building equation. For him, smart cities are not a shiny new invention, but a continuation of an aspirational and historical trajectory toward ‘utopia.’ He argues that the pursuit of utopia must not be naively extracted from the political, socio-economic, spatial, physical, cultural layers that compose a city. Rather, drawing upon cases from around the world, he offers a framework for thinking about the future of urban living. Lorinc compels readers to consider the future of cities not only in the post-pandemic period, but also amid an accelerating and worsening climate crisis.”

2022 Finalists


A jury composed of Samantha Nutt, Taki Sarantakis, and Scott Young read 53 titles submitted by 31 publishers.

2022 Jury Statement

“We have had the pleasure to once again read the breadth and depth of Canadian public policy writing. Our task is quite simple: to shine a light on the very best policy books published in the past year, and to celebrate the authors behind them. The true challenge of our task is not in reading so many excellent books, but in choosing those that represent the pinnacle of the vocation. Nevertheless, we are honoured to present this year’s shortlist of five outstanding books. Each of them takes a public policy issue and presents a compelling argument for consideration. They are all written to prompt fierce debate and thought-provoking dialogue and will neither gather dust on bookshelves nor populate one’s Zoom backgrounds. It is our hope that they will be widely read, not only by students and practitioners of public policy, but the wider Canadian public too. 

There is no question that the calibre of public policy writing in this country is simply outstanding. However, it is also apparent that the opportunity to write a well-researched and rigorous book is most often accorded to those with the time, capacity, wherewithal, and privilege to do so. As jurors, we think that more can and should be done to broaden the Canadian public policy discourse to include voices from a wider array of perspectives. We do not lack for diverse public policy experience nor expertise in this country, but that diversity is not always immediately evident in the books that are published. Diversity, as a core Canadian strength, deserves to be better reflected in these debates. Indeed, we believe the public policy discourse in Canada would only be strengthened by it. The free and unfettered exchange of ideas is a tide that lifts all boats and our country will be better for it.”

2022 Balsillie Prize for Public Policy

About prize sponsor Jim Balsillie

Jim Balsillie is the former chairman and co-CEO of Research In Motion (BlackBerry), a technology company he scaled from an idea to $20 billion in sales globally. His long-standing interest in and support of public policy initiatives in Canada include serving as an advisor to Canada School of Public Policy, creating and funding the Centre for International Governance Innovation, the Balsillie School of International Affairs, the Arctic Research Foundation, the Centre for Digital Rights, and the CIO Strategy Council. He was the private sector representative on the UN Secretary General’s High Panel for Sustainability. He is a member of the Board of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Advisory Board of the Stockholm Resilience Centre. His awards include: Mobile World Congress Lifetime Achievement Award, Canadian Business Hall of Fame, Time Magazine’s World’s 100 Most Influential People, and three times Barron’s list of “World’s Top CEOs.”