Brian Lee Crowley

Trans Mountain: the worst is not behind us, but ahead

Trans Mountain pipeline (TM) is surely one of the most talked-about issues of 2018. Here are three of my recent contributions to the debate:

First, on 18 April 2018 I wrote a ground-breaking piece for MLI’s Inside Policy magazine making the case that the greatest challenge to TM’s success is not the rather feeble court challenges offered by the government of BC, but rather the easily foreseeable broad campaign of civil disobedience that awaits the project once construction begins in the early autumn.

A shortened version of the IP piece appeared in the Sun newspapers on 23 April 2018.

Finally, on 25 May 2018 I did another Pod Bless Canada episode, this time with MLI Sr Fellow Dwight Newman on the legal situation of the TM project. Even though this was recorded just before the announcement of the federal purchase of TM from Kinder-Morgan, the discussion remains highly germane.

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MLI launches Pod Bless Canada — first 6 episodes

The Macdonald-Laurier Institute has launched a new series of podcasts entitled Pod Bless Canada. Each episode of roughly 30 minutes showcases a chat between an MLI representative and someone knowledgeable about a key issue of the day.  Here are links to the first six episodes:

On 2 Feb. 2018, Sean Speer and I talked debts, deficits and responsible public finances.

On 16 Feb. 2018 Shuvaloy Majumdar and I talked about the Canada-India relationship in the context of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s trip to India.

On 22 Feb. 2018 it was the turn of MLI Sr Fellow Ken Coates to join me to talk about the opportunities for Indigenous people in the natural resource economy.

On 6 March 2018 Sean Speer to discuss the nexus between business and political decision making in Canada.

On 20 March 2018 in one of my personal favourites, Canadian J. Michael Cole, a specialist on Taiwanese affairs, came in to discuss with me China, Taiwan, cross-strait relations, tensions in the Indo-Pacific and more.

Finally, another favourite: on 23 March 2018 Ryerson University history professor Patrice Dutil and I talked frankly about whether Canadians should feel ashamed about Canada’s past.

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Premiers once again fail internal trade test. When will Ottawa step up?

As I argue in my March 26th column for the Ottawa Citizen and other Postmedia papers, the Liberals have chosen internal trade liberalisation as the one issue where they see eye to eye with the Tories in looking to the provinces to tear down those barriers. Yet the premiers’ own self-imposed deadline of mid-March for an extensive new deal has come and gone without a peep from any of them. The truth is that the provinces are too busy protecting local interest groups to protect Canadians’ rights in this area. Ottawa alone has the authority and legitimacy to do it, but not yet the will despite the fact that it is Canadians’ rights at stake. Bipartisanship in Ottawa deserves a more worthy standard-bearer than this.

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Tear down these walls!

This month we celebrate 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. That world-shaking event occurred in part in response to Ronald Reagan’s calling out of Mikhail Gorbatchev: “Mr Gorbatchev, tear down this wall!”

After nearly 150 years of Confederation, however, the walls that divide Canadians from one another, that prevent us from fully exercising our rights to exercise our trade or profession or carry on our businesses across provincial boundaries, are still very real. They cost us billions. Worse: the little bit of momentum that Industry Minister James Moore thought he descried just a scant few months ago has evaporated. Check out my latest Globe column to find out why and to learn what the solution is to continued provincial obstruction of full Canadian nationhood. Hint: provinces are the problem; Ottawa is the solution.

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The premiers don’t speak for Canada

In my latest column for the Globe’s ROB Economy Lab, I dissect the behaviour of the premiers as they demonstrated yet again, over the course of the summer, why we cannot expect them to speak up for the national interest. The issue is protecting the rights of economic citizenship of Canadians (otherwise known as “internal trade”). Read on to find out what the systemic reasons are the premiers will never be the ones who deliver free trade within Canada. It’s Ottawa’s job.

By the way, If there is any question about what business, those ultimately responsible for job creation and exports think, the major Canadian business associations have banded together to publish a paper urging action.  Their vision is much more expansive than the premiers’, calling for all barriers to be ended and rules to be harmonized.   As Ailish Campbell, Vice President at the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) has put it, “We want to see firms growing from Canada into global leaders. A common market to boost growth and jobs shouldn’t be in question.”

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Don’t get hung up on AIT numbers game

In my latest column for the Economy Lab feature of the Globe and Mail, I take issue with the journalists who think the only issue that matters with internal barriers to trade is the price tag we assign to them. The fact that any attempt to quantify their cost is subject to challenge becomes the story, whereas in reality it is a disingenuous distraction much beloved by apologists for the status quo (cf Baloney Meter!). We know four things for sure about internal trade barriers: they’re real, they cost us a lot, their damaging effects compound over time, and they violate our rights as Canadians. Isn’t that damning enough?

If you want chapter and verse about the problem and the solutions, see the MLI paper I co-wrote with John Robson and Bob Knox, Citizen of One, Citizen of the Whole.

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Internal trade: Ottawa has the power and duty to act

One of the things that has always struck me about Canada is that whatever powers the provinces have must be respected without question and if they exercise them everyone rushes to say that no one should interfere with their legitimate powers. But let Ottawa have the temerity to want to act in an area of its own clear jurisdiction, everyone rushes to say that no one should act precipitously, that the Canadian Way is consultation, that the provinces might be offended by Ottawa flexing its muscles, etc., etc., etc.

I say rubbish. We really only created one new thing in 1867, and that was a national parliament and a national government with the power to create a nation out of the colonies and territories that had hitherto been spread across British North America. The Fathers of Confederation were explicit that one key objective was the creation of a single unified national economic space, the removal of barriers between provinces, to make, in George Brown’s phrase, “a citizen of one citizen of all.” To achieve this they gave Ottawa strong powers, including the Trade and Commerce power.

We have been talking for years now about eliminating those barriers, barriers Canada was created to sweep away in 1867. It should be clear by now that asking the provinces to do it is a failed strategy. Indeed the only question to ask is why in God’s name we ever thought that provinces, who are in competition with each other for investment and jobs, would ever voluntarily relinquish the barriers they created to give them an advantage in that competition. It is time to let Ottawa be Ottawa, as the founders of Canada intended. Read all about it in my column for today’s ROB in the Globe. Then read MLI’s paper “Citizen of One, Citizen of All” for the full argument…

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Brian Lee Crowley