Brian Lee Crowley

Globe and Mail columns

  • For Real Picture on Unemployment, Pay Heed to Job Vacancy Rate April 18, 2013

    In today’s Globe and Mail, I write that preoccupation with unemployment rate as a barometer of economic health is both outdated and blinding Canadians to a greater economic threat – rising job vacancies.

    For Real Picture on Unemployment, Pay Heed to Job Vacancy Rate

    Brian Lee Crowley, Special to The Globe and Mail, Published Wednesday, Apr. 17 2013

    The king is dead. Long live the king – of statistics that is.

    For the past 50 years, the king of economic statistics, the one awaited each month with bated breath by finance ministers, central bank governors, pundits and the general public alike, was the unemployment rate. A rising rate was political poison, a falling one grounds for governmental preening.But those still focused on the unemployment rate as the prime barometer of the health of the Canadian economy and the prospects of individual workers probably still call recorded music “tapes” and are stubbornly waiting for the slide-rule industry to recover from its slump.

    Today the statistic whose entrails we should be earnestly scrutinizing each month is the job vacancy rate. The success or failure in bringing down this crucial economic barometer will matter more than any other single measure in understanding whether we have the policy mix right.

    The reason for this revolution in statistical significance is not hard to spot: Canada had the largest baby-boom generation relative to base population in the Western world, 50 per cent larger than the next closest, that of the United States.

    As a result of this tsunami of workers, the Canadian labour force grew more than 200 per cent over the past 50 years. The chief economic challenge was where to put all these workers. We did pretty well, all things considered, in getting them into work, but the numbers were so overwhelming that even in the face of strong employment growth, we still ended up with big unemployment numbers. How quickly people forget that in the 1980s, Canada went through an entire decade where unemployment was never less than double digits. Even in the trough of the recent recession we avoided that fate.

    But that speaks to how radically the retreat of the boomers is reshaping the economy. Over the next 50 years we can expect the number of workers to rise by a relatively paltry 11 per cent as the boomer bulge moves into retirement.

    Consider, for example, that if past recessions are anything to go by, at this stage of the recovery Canada should still be struggling with double-digit unemployment and lagging the U.S. job market recovery.

    Instead, Canada was the first major Western industrial economy to recover all the jobs lost in the recession, and remains streets ahead of the U.S. The headline unemployment rates are misleading because Washington measures unemployment better than Canada does. If Canada used the U.S. measure, the unemployment rate would fall to around 6.3 per cent. Bear in mind that the U.S. Federal Reserve has said it will start to raise interest rates when U.S. unemployment falls to 6.5 per cent. Canada has already passed that milestone, with a higher share of its population working than any other Group of Seven country.

    Canadian statistics are further distorted because of two narrow groups, young people and immigrants, whose unemployment greatly exceeds the national rate. If they are excluded, the national rate is in the low 5-per-cent range. In other words, the problem is not on the demand side; there is ample demand for labour. Canada no longer needs general stimulus to soak up unemployment; it needs targeted programs to help pull a few outlier groups into the economic mainstream.

    Also, the jobs that have been created are not of the “fries-with-that” drudgery of popular lore. Since the recession, the vast bulk of new employment in Canada has been in full-time above-average-wage work. Because of the boomer ebb tide this is no accident or unrepresentative moment. This is the new normal. Labour markets are tightening across the country, explaining the largely unremarked 3-per-cent rise in real wages in the past year, near the peak experienced during the pre-recession resource boom, and business groups constantly single out labour shortages as a huge headache.

    Which brings us to the job vacancy rate. Little noticed in the recent federal budget was Ottawa’s estimate that the number of jobs going unfilled is several times higher it was just a few years ago and is rising fast. In other words, the low level of unemployment is increasingly matched by rising job vacancies.

    That is a red-hot labour market, with Canada’s economic prospects held back because employers cannot find the right workers with the right skills to help the economy create the greatest wealth for Canadians. Memo to policy makers: Unemployment isn’t the problem. Squeeze the vacancy rate if you want to make Canadians better off.

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  • The Globe and Mail: Ottawa needs more tough love with the provinces March 21, 2013

    Today is budget day. A perfect day to recall what used to be a bedrock principle of Canadian federalism. That principle? Ottawa should not tax Canadians and give that money to the provinces to spend. Read my latest Globe and Mail column below.

    Ottawa needs more tough love with the provinces

    By Brian Lee Crowley, The Globe and Mail, March 21, 2013

    Thursday is budget day. A perfect day to recall what used to be a bedrock principle of Canadian federalism that, alas, started to be forgotten around 1960 and by the 1970s had been completely turned on its head, at great cost to taxpayers and the federation.

    That principle? Ottawa should not tax Canadians and give that money to the provinces to spend.

    Because those who do not know their history are condemned to repeat it, this claim will appear preposterous. Hasn’t it always been the role of Ottawa to use transfers to entice provinces into programs those narrow-minded provincials might not otherwise embrace?

    No. The greatest Liberal prime minister, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, said in 1887: “It is an entirely false principle according to which one government collects revenues and another government spends them. This must always lead to extravagance.” His successor and longest-serving PM in Canadian history, Mackenzie King, argued that “it [is] a pernicious principle to have one government collect taxes and another government spend them.”

    Laurier? King? To many Canadians I might as well be talking about Pericles or Confucius. But the advisability of Ottawa giving money to the provinces is just as live an issue today as it was then. And most importantly, the evidence shows these dead white guys were right.

    Take the example of the Chrétien-Martin fiscal reforms of the 1990s. One of the cornerstones of those reforms was to cut transfers to the provinces. The cuts’ opponents, led chiefly by the provinces themselves (fancy that!), have succeeded through the Great Lie technique in convincing many that such “downloading” was a disaster never to be repeated.

    The current government, wishing to distinguish itself from its predecessor, has taken up the cry of no cuts to provincial transfers, despite the fact that Ottawa is trying to balance its budget and its own policy means that the roughly $67-billion worth of transfers cannot make a contribution to eliminating the deficit.

    That’s too bad because downloading gets a bad rap, and was actually highly constructive. Take one example. Under the old dispensation, Ottawa gave money to the provinces for social welfare. Unfortunately, the conditions Ottawa attached to the money contributed to a badly-designed system that saw the number of Canadians on welfare rise during recessions, but never fall during upturns. It was an up escalator, not a roller coaster.

    By the time Paul Martin was taking an axe to the deficit, about one in every 10 Canadians was on welfare. Then he said two things to the provinces. First, you’re getting less money from us. Second, we’re giving you more freedom. You now make the welfare rules.

    Turns out that one of the unintended consequences was to unleash a wave of provincial experimentation with welfare reform, because now the provinces knew they couldn’t look to Ottawa to underwrite costly systems that trapped millions on benefits. The result: The number of welfare recipients fell by half while the number of people living in poverty declined by 40 per cent, as they re-entered the work force and thus were able to climb the ladder of prosperity.

    Paul Martin thus inadvertently proved Laurier and King right. Democracy works best when the government that gets the pleasure of spending should also face the pain of the corresponding taxation. Among other things, it makes them anxious to get full value for every dollar spent.

    And if welfare reform is anything to go by, we won’t get real health care reform, for instance, until Ottawa cuts its transfers and frees the provinces to experiment in that field too, making provincial politicians face the full consequences of their unsustainable policy choices.

    Fortunately, if media reports are correct, Ottawa may take one positive step today, reclaiming the nearly $2-billion it has been giving the provinces for worker training and apprenticeships. While I remain skeptical that it will happen, I would be delighted if reports are true that federal vouchers given directly to workers will take their place. Laurier and King would have approved.

    They would also not have been surprised to learn that the provinces waste a lot of that money today. Provinces refuse to release the existing audits of how the money is spent and what it achieves. If they reflected credit on the provinces’ stewardship, they would be on the front page of every newspaper in the country.

    Traditionally, federal governments come to power defending the provinces’ virtues against Ottawa’s depredations. But they govern most successfully when they shed those illusions and speak for Canada. We’re about to find out if the Tories have reached that critical turning point.

    Brian Lee Crowley is the managing director of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, an independent non-partisan public policy think tank in Ottawa:

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  • The Globe and Mail: EI for seasonal workers is a corrosive economic policy March 7, 2013

    There is no justification, in logic or in economics, for seasonal EI, and the dogged pursuit of this policy flies in the face of the interests of Canada and people who become trapped in the cycle of working seasonally and then receiving EI benefits while unemployed. Read my latest Globe and Mail column on this topic below.


    EI for seasonal workers is a corrosive economic policy

    By Brian Lee Crowley, The Globe and Mail, March 7, 2013

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper, spurred on by his eastern caucus, has been defending his government’s reforms to employment insurance, most recently in a press conference in Rivière-du-Loup, Que. Front and centre has been the reassurance that EI will continue to be available to seasonal workers.

    That’s a pity, because there is no justification, in logic or in economics, for seasonal EI, and the dogged pursuit of this policy flies in the face of the interests of Canada and people who become trapped in the cycle of working seasonally and then receiving EI benefits while unemployed. Some day a politician will have the guts to say so, but apparently not today.

    Why should employment insurance be unavailable for seasonal work?

    Start by thinking about how insurance works. Real insurance lies at the intersection of two ideas. The first is risk sharing. Everyone faces the risk of injury, accident, fire, flood and death, but no one knows for sure whether these terrible things will happen. To combat this risk-plus-uncertainty combination, people pool their resources, paying an annual premium that is used to compensate those who suffer a loss.

    Being insured, however, changes people’s behaviour, and therein lies a problem. A classic example: In the absence of insurance, no normal person sets fire to his home or business. But if you are insured and really need the money, you might be tempted to torch your premises and pocket the cash. Similarly no one would build his house on the banks of a river that flooded every year unless he could get flood insurance that passes the cost on to others. This problem is known as moral hazard.

    Moral hazard is why there are insurance policy exclusions, deductibles, co-payments, fraud investigators and the like. Insurers use them to reduce the temptation to use insurance to pass the cost of your decisions and behaviour to all other policy holders. Insurance is where risk pooling meets moral hazard.

    Now apply this thinking to your job. Everyone faces the unpredictable risk of an economic downturn or the failure of their employer’s business. These are factors beyond our control. It makes sense, therefore, for all employees to band together to insure each other against this universal risk.

    By using a government-created program, we can make everyone contribute, including employers, keeping costs low and coverage broad.

    But seasonal work is fundamentally different: The loss of your job is not an unpredictable event beyond your control. On the contrary, in seasonal work there is no “risk” whatsoever: You face an absolute certainty that every year you will be laid off and face a long period without work.

    Predictably, this creates moral hazard problems. EI becomes a subsidy to seasonal work for both employers and their staff; for workers, it often becomes a reliable part of their annual income.

    In the absence of an employment insurance program, seasonal employers would have to pay their workers enough to make them stick around from one season to the next. Maybe the business couldn’t bear that burden, but why force companies that cannot find the full-time workers they need, to subsidize seasonal employers that otherwise would be out of business? And if you subsidize something, you get more of it; we subsidize seasonal work and unemployment and get more of both.

    In short, it is an incredibly inefficient and badly designed form of workfare – a token bout of seasonal work in return for months of tax-financed idleness. But seasonal workers on EI do not consider themselves unemployed, and I have a decade’s experience as a Nova Scotia restaurant owner trying to hire them to prove it.

    Now put this folly in the context of Canada’s burgeoning labour and skill shortages. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall rightly complains that he has to fly over high-unemployment regions of Eastern Canada on his way to Ireland to recruit workers for his booming economy. Workers fly to the oil patch from communities in every part of the country, including Newfoundland, yet Alberta alone says it is short more than 100,000 workers. As for productivity, the average worker in Alberta produces almost $50 in value per hour worked; in PEI it’s $31, and seasonal workers on EI are paid not to produce even that for months of the year.

    Seasonal benefits should be phased out, humanely but firmly, because seasonal workers do not pass the insurance test. They are asking all workers and employers to subsidize their choice of a life that pays poorly and squanders their productive capacity at a time when the country is crying out for workers and improved productivity.

    There oughta be a law. Oh wait, there is. Just the wrong one.

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  • New Globe and Mail column: Military procurement is about protection not politics February 21, 2013

    The way we buy equipment for our military is badly broken and Ottawa’s latest report on how to fix it proposes making it even worse. Read my new regular column for The Globe and Mail below.


    Military procurement is about protection not politics

    By Brian Lee Crowley, The Globe and Mail, February 21, 2013

    The way we buy equipment for our military is badly broken. Ottawa’s latest report on how to fix it proposes making it even worse.

    Getting this right matters enormously, and not just because Ottawa proposes spending $250-billion on military kit over the next two decades. Eye-popping numbers like that are bound to catch the attention of those who would like a share of the action. If this money were for some political slush fund masquerading as economic or industrial development, you might be justified in shrugging your shoulders and asking, What else is new? Wasteful spending in Ottawa is hardly unknown.

    Equipping our military, however, is a fundamentally different proposition, because the people who may be called on to use the equipment will be endangering life and limb for their country. Substandard or unsuitable equipment doesn’t just moulder in a warehouse, a monument to government inefficiency. In military procurement, fanciful and wasteful industrial strategies today sow the seeds of humiliation, defeat, and dead and wounded troops tomorrow.

    Yet while the stakes are uniquely high, Canada’s ability to buy new military equipment isn’t just bad; it approaches low farce. The Ottawa Citizen reported recently that the average major military equipment purchase now takes a record 199 months, or more than 16 years. Leaving aside costly delays and cancellations, the technological effervescence of the defence world means that what you wanted 16 years ago is obsolete when you take delivery.

    Our present imbroglio can be traced chiefly to our politicians’ inability to curb their desire to meddle for political gain. Seeing all these billions being spent, there is a tendency to want to award some of it to your friends, actual or potential. This is usually accompanied by some pious humbug about “regional development” or “technological innovation,” but these fig leaves are both tiny and transparent and therefore hide little.

    Instead of buying the latest equipment off the shelf from highly competent international suppliers with big economies of scale, too often we spend more than we need to build capacity from scratch, and then find we have no way of sustaining that capacity once our little defence project is done.

    Anyone who has ever looked at defence procurement issues has heard all about how Canada lost a golden opportunity to have a globally competitive defence aerospace industry when the Diefenbaker government shut down the Avro Arrow fighter plane program in the late 1950s. The reality is that decision probably saved us from the usual costly extravaganza with government backing a good (but not great) Canadian technology at a time when the world was crowded with design bureaus producing similar aircraft.

    The alternative strategy – one that has served our country well – has been to get Canadian companies access to the huge U.S. defence procurement industry essentially on an equal footing with American companies, allowing us to specialize in components of defence systems where we excel and are cost-competitive.

    Think of this as the Canadarm strategy. Canada is too small to have its own extensive space program, but we can be a supplier of sophisticated and complex components (like the space shuttle’s mechanical arm) to the Americans, as we do in so many other fields. Canadarm beats the Avro Arrow strategy hands down.

    Yet the newly-released Jenkins Report, the fruit of an Ottawa-commissioned inquiry into how to wring more value for the Canadian economy out of defence procurement, threatens to make the problem worse, not better. At present, defence purchases are at least nominally driven by the needs of the Canadian Forces and the capacity of the federal budget to pay the bill, with many contracts going to international suppliers. Ottawa then negotiates industrial spinoffs with the main contractors, which have incentives to find and employ competent Canadian companies that benefit from important transfers of technology and know-how.

    Jenkins wants military purchasing decisions to be driven by the desire to build up Canadian industry in a number of fields. This approach is virtually guaranteed to worsen delays, drive up costs and disappoint expectations because it injects yet more politics and bureaucracy into a process already corrupted by them.

    As for the notion that such defence protectionism promotes Canadian jobs and investment, we already face severe and worsening shortages of skilled labour. If we use tax dollars to divert workers away from genuine work to jobs that only exist because Canadian taxpayers are being made to overpay for internationally uncompetitive products, the most charitable thing that can be said is that we will be shooting ourselves in the combat boot.

    Brian Lee Crowley is the managing director of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, an independent non-partisan public policy think tank in Ottawa:

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  • The Globe and Mail: The way to break the Northern Gateway logjam: aboriginal equity January 3, 2013

    The way to break the logjam on Gateway is to turn it from an outsiders’ project resented by mistrustful first nations along the route into a full partnership between an industry with expertise and capital and newly empowered aboriginal people and governments. Read my latest op-ed co-authored by Ken Coates in The Globe and Mail below:


    The way to break the Northern Gateway logjam: aboriginal equity

    By Brian Lee Crowley and Ken Coates, The Globe and Mail, January 3, 2013

    The bitter debate over the Northern Gateway oil pipeline project shows Canadian policy-making at its worst.

    A piece of nationally significant infrastructure, the project is currently mired in a toxic mess, assailed by environmentalists, targeted by vote-hungry B.C. politicians and publicly challenged by many first nations. You could be forgiven for feeling a dreadful sense of déjà vu.

    In the 1970s, an ambitious plan was mooted for a natural gas pipeline down the Mackenzie Valley. Aboriginal people and environmentalists protested. Justice Thomas Berger was named to head an inquiry that galvanized opposition to the pipeline, recommending that it be delayed until aboriginal people were ready to participate fully.

    Eventually, companies created new aboriginal partnership models. Aboriginal communities and governments grew more familiar with the project and innovated by becoming equity partners. While some opposition remained, most in the region supported a pipeline that promised jobs for the North and revenue for aboriginal governments.

    But in an object lesson in the perishable nature of opportunity, by the time the project was finally approved, northern gas was no longer competitive with low-cost shale gas closer to markets. The opportunity now appears lost for a generation. If we don’t want the same to happen in our efforts to get Canadian oil to the West Coast, we need to learn the lessons of the Mackenzie Valley.

    For the Inuvialuit (Inuit of the Western Arctic) and the first nations of the Mackenzie Valley, the pipeline was an unprecedented opportunity. The combination of the pipeline, modern treaties and self-government held out the prospect of overcoming generations of paternalism and poverty. Equity investment in the pipeline, secure revenue and local jobs were precisely the solutions aboriginal people sought to their problems. Delay put paid to those opportunities for decades to come.

    A similar situation is unfolding along the Northern Gateway route. The opportunity is huge. As Justice Berger said in his inquiry’s final report, location is a natural resource. Northern British Columbia’s location matters because our oil is more valuable if we can get it to energy-hungry Asian markets. And Northern B.C. is the logical route to tidewater. But unless we respect and build on aboriginal aspirations, the fate of the Mackenzie Valley beckons.

    Numerous options are being floated: rail to the West Coast, a new railway through Yukon to Alaska, the reversal of existing pipelines to Eastern Canada and more. None are as timely, efficient or market sensitive as the Northern B.C. route. For those not viscerally opposed to oil and pipelines, Northern Gateway is the best answer.

    Without first nations’ willing participation, however, it’s extremely unlikely to succeed. That’s not a bad thing. First nations are deeply concerned about environmental risks; their engagement will help ensure the highest standards of safety, security and emergency responsiveness. They also know only too well that properly managed resource developments, including pipelines, offer the best solution to the employment and governance challenges they face. First nations have a judicially and politically recognized voice now in resource development, and they’re using it with increasing effectiveness.

    The recent indication by the Haisla, on whose traditional territory the pipeline terminus would be built, that they’re open to discussions is emblematic of the cautiously entrepreneurial yet environmentally sensitive approach that first nations are now taking. Enbridge and governments are facing tough bargainers all along the Gateway route, as they should. But what’s needed now is to find the right way to make aboriginal people full participants in development from the outset, not an interest group to be placated once plans have been made.

    The way to break the logjam on Gateway, therefore, is to turn it from an outsiders’ project resented by mistrustful first nations along the route into a full partnership between an industry with expertise and capital and newly empowered aboriginal people and governments. An aboriginal energy corridor across Northern B.C., for example, could be the conduit for all forms of energy seeking to flow across B.C. to Asian markets, and majority aboriginal ownership would give first nations the confidence, authority and incentives to embrace responsible development. Best of all, such a powerful equity position removes the seller’s remorse that too often afflicts aboriginal agreement to resource development: As owners, they would participate fully in all the value created by their involvement and consent.

    The Mackenzie Valley pipeline’s proponents had the right model: aboriginal equity and full participation by indigenous groups along the corridor. That project was delayed too long, and a vital opportunity was lost. Pipelines vital to Canada’s ambition of being a world energy superpower are a fitting place to recognize that aboriginal people have arrived as a natural resource superpower in their own right within Canada. This is the shape of the resource industry in Canada’s future.

    Brian Lee Crowley and Ken Coates are co-leaders of the Aboriginal Canada and the Natural Resource Economy project at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, an Ottawa-based public policy think tank.

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  • Why trade is in Canada’s interest April 27, 2012

    Canada and the European Union (EU) are deep in negotiations on a trade agreement (CETA) that would link our two economies. Today is also the day that the friends of CETA have fanned out across the country to tell the story of the agreement and why Canada should want an agreement on free trade with the largest trading bloc in the world. Jason Langrish (ED of the Canada Europe Roundtable for Business) and I  kick off the festivities in today’s Globe and Mail in an op-ed laying out the case why free trade is in the national interest, including free trade with Europe.

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  • The Globe and Mail: We’ll keep working past 65, and we’ll like it January 31, 2012

    January 31, 2012 – In today’s Globe and Mail, I discuss why raising the qualifying age for Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement is the right thing to do. The full column is below:

    We’ll keep working past 65, and we’ll like it

    By Brian Lee Crowley, The Globe and Mail, January 31, 2012

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper has renewed a perennial debate about when Canadians should expect to retire. Mr. Harper reportedly has in mind changes to the Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement that would raise eligibility for these benefits from 65 to 67.

    Much of the reaction has focused on how such changes would affect public finances and the Canadian economy, essentially asking whether the benefits of reducing the cost of old-age income programs, plus the increased labour supply, justifies making older Canadians “worse off.”

    But that approaches such changes exactly backward.

    Such reforms, far from taking something away from seniors, are a tiny step in reversing decades of bad policy that has marginalized older Canadians, damaged their health and harmed their morale. Raising the age of eligibility is emphatically not a matter of imposing costs on seniors in order to benefit the rest of the population. It is an exceptionally pro-seniors policy to reduce the incentives to stop working at 65.

    There was a time when 65 and retirement were closely linked for a compelling reason. A life of labour had left the average worker depleted. A few short years of decline was all they could expect before death. A Canadian male born in 1966, when the Canada Pension Plan was introduced, would only expect to live to age 68 or so. Today, it’s 79.

    Age 65 and the moment when one can no longer reasonably be expected to work have long since parted company. We live longer and are in better health. Much of the work in our increasingly service-based economy is not physically taxing. Many conditions associated with aging can be controlled by medication or corrected by surgery, with new breakthroughs daily. It is only a modest exaggeration when some say that 60 is the new 40.

    Age 65 is no longer the exhausted tail end of life. And the research is eloquent about how central work is to the lives of those able to engage in it, including those over 65. For many, idyllic pictures of early and prolonged retirement without work are, in fact, not that attractive. Why? Because working is and has always been bound up with human fulfilment, with being productive, useful to others and responsible for oneself.

    That’s why most people, not just a majority, but around 90 per cent of them, express great attachment to their work, independently of income, education, social class and whether they work for private companies, not-for-profits or the public sector. In both Canada and the United States, the vast majority of people tell pollsters they would continue working even if they no longer needed to, including if they won the lottery.

    More than four-fifths of Canadians say they would like to continue to work even if they had enough money to retire. And nearly half of Canadians of working age already expect to work beyond the age of 65, and not just for economic reasons, according to a survey done for one financial institution: “Nearly all of those who expect to work beyond age 65 cite one or more lifestyle reasons, including remaining mentally active, enjoyment of their jobs and the interaction with their co-workers.” In other words, future retirees are coming more and more to realize that work (although not necessarily any particular job, a distinction many people seem to have difficulty grasping), is closely related to happiness.

    Put this together with the evidence that older people live longer, healthier and happier when they continue to work and you have a compelling case that our dogged insistence on 65 as the age to encourage retirement has been a cruel policy that has created increasing unhappiness and ill-health for older Canadians. Encouraging retirement at 65 has pushed these costs onto seniors for the benefit of our younger population looking for work. Benefit eligibility at 67 is, therefore, far too timid a reform. A pro-seniors policy would be far more ambitious, looking at 70 or even 72. Even then Canadians would enjoy a longer period of work-free retirement than in 1966.

    Canada must, of course, continue to look after those incapable of working, whatever their age. Changes must be phased to allow for adjustment in retirement planning. Retirement must stop being a radical overnight transformation and become a long slow transition, from full time to part time, balancing work and leisure and matching effort to capacity. And we should use some of the savings from reform to improve retirement conditions for those who do reach the age and state of health where work is no longer possible.

    Sure, such changes will help public finances and ease the looming labour shortages that darken our economic future. But those are just side benefits. The chief beneficiaries will be older Canadians themselves.

    Brian Lee Crowley is managing director of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, an independent non-partisan public policy think tank in Ottawa.

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  • My Big Idea for the election April 28, 2011

    During the campaign, and until the election on May 2, the Globe and Mail is examining issues the federal parties should be talking about. This week’s series is on democracy and engagement.  On Friday April 29th, the Globe and Mail will print the  “Big Ideas” contributed by its readers.  Watch for my contribution in this article.   Click here to learn more about the series.

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  • An oped in the Globe and Mail about business taxes April 8, 2011

    Jason Clemens and I have an oped in today’s Globe and Mail about business taxes in relation to the federal election and the country’s future economic prospects.

    Reducing corporate income tax to make Canada more internationally competitive and improve the internal incentives for investment, a policy introduced during the Chrétien-Martin era and extended by the Conservatives, is becoming a key issue in the election. The late U.S. senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said that everyone is entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts. Given the importance of business taxes to the election and the country’s future economic prospects, it’s worth considering some facts.

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  • The best PM we’ll never have February 14, 2010

    Here is the full text of my review of Frank McKenna: Beyond Politics, which appeared in the Globe and Mail on February 11. Contrary to his critics, I believe that McKenna was a pivotal figure in New Brunswick’s political history, and also that he showed, in his brief time in that office, that he would have been one of the most influential ambassadors ever for Canada in Washington DC. And by the way, my proposed head for this review had nothing to do with the best PM we’ll never have. My suggestion was “Leave this Man Alone”.

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Brian Lee Crowley