Brian Lee Crowley

To counter Russian disinformation, the West must rebuild its ability to mobilize ideas

After the Cold War, the West dismantled much of its capacity to oppose Russian propaganda and disinformation. Now our own complacency and an emboldened Vladimir Putin is leaving us prey to bad, damaging, mistaken, misleading and dangerous ideas as I write in an op-ed for the Ottawa Citizen that appeared on 21st March 2017. Time for the West to rise to Russia’s challenge once again. The alternative doesn’t bear thinking about, as Putin seeks to undermine the trust on which so much of the West’s institutions and prosperity rely.

How globalisation bowled over the taxman

As I wrote in my Globe column for the ROB, carbon taxes are all the rage, but they are not going to be the tax reform that will bring national tax systems into the 21st century. Governments and their traditional tax systems have become the latest bystanders sideswiped by the globalisation juggernaut, and the shift from corporate taxes to more objective tax bases like sales and consumption are going to be the response. In this context, people should stop ventilating and look more closely at the Republicans’ border adjustment tax. In my estimation it is a back-door way of introducing something like  a much needed national sales tax in the US.

Provincial liquor monopolies: you can run but you cannot hide

Canada’s liquor control boards – the provincially run bodies that control the sale of alcohol to Canadians – have proven surprisingly adept at enduring through calls for lower prices and greater consumer choice.

But as I argue in a new commentary for MLI, that doesn’t make them immortal. The fact that they have survived so long is itself a tribute to their political advantages for provincial governments, even as their economic advantages are gradually eroding under the onslaught of the consumer power revolution. In this Commentary, based on a talk I gave to the Canadian Association of Liquor Jurisdictions, I lay out the strengths and the challenges liquor monopolies must manage if they are to survive and how their world is changing thanks, among other things, to increased judicial scrutiny of trade barriers as well as the traditional objections of consumers and taxpayers.

We live in a world driven by the power of the consumer, and regulatory obstacles to consumers getting what they want are falling all around us. That has bodies such as the provincial liquor boards, with their monopolies, lack of choice and high prices, swimming against the historical tide.

 

The conflict between elites and ordinary people that brought us Trump and Brexit has Canada in its sights

There is no wall protecting Canada from the populist tidal wave that washed Donald Trump to the presidency in the United States, as I argue in a new Macdonald-Laurier Institute commentary based on a talk I gave in Vancouver to the local chapter of NAIOP.

The phenomena that delivered a stunning election result in the United States and a surprise vote to leave the European Union in Britain are – despite what some observers think – also happening here in Canada. I single out three areas where this conflict is already coming into the open: labour markets, immigration and housing prices.

The Brexit vote last June and the recent election of a populist and anti-establishment American president are perhaps only the opening chapters of a new era of friction and even confrontation between the opinions of the Davos-inspired elites who have been in charge for decades, and those of the man and woman on the street.

Think the conditions that led to Trump’s rise don’t exist here? Think again.

In my Globe column I argue that typical Canadian smug moral superiority has no place in our assessment of Donald Trump and the political phenomenon he represents. Canada is not immune to the economic dislocation and policy arrogance that propelled Trump to the presidency. If we forget about those whom free trade, balanced budgets and higher productivity are leaving behind important parts of our population will be vulnerable to Trump-like appeals.

Celebrating Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the founder of modern Canada, on his 175th birthday

Last November 16th MLI issued my talk in celebration of the remarkable life and achievements of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the founder of modern Canada and one of my personal heroes.

Laurier deserves a venerated place among the historical figures responsible for making Canada the great country we live in today.

As I argue in the piece, “Sir Wilfrid dwells among us through the wisdom and energy with which he shaped politics, institutions, and especially the ideas underlying modern Canada”.

Laurier’s “courage and vision” are largely responsible for some of Canada’s major achievements during a period where he won four federal elections: Opening Western Canada to mass settlement, welcoming unprecedented numbers of immigrants and unleashing a manufacturing and resource boom across the country.

But outside of those accomplishments, Laurier is worthy of our praise for building a foundation of progress and freedom on which Canada today rests.

The Indo-Pacific Rim is where the action is for Canada

Talk to the Australians and they will tell you that the “Pacific Rim” is old hat. The action now is in the Indo-Pacific, in other words the littoral nations on the Pacific *and* the Indian Oceans. And indeed that is exactly how Canada should be thinking about its geo-strategic interests. Instead of thinking that China is the only game in town, we should be acutely aware of the dangers as well as the benefits of embracing the dragon and think about how to build up counterweights to Chinese power. The number one place to look should be the emerging Japan-India axis. Nothing could be more natural than for Canada to throw its lot in with such old friends who share so  many values and are looking themselves for friends and allies to counterbalance China’s rise. My analysis in the Globe and Mail on Nov. 25th, 2016.

The economic value of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in Canada

In my last column for the ROB’s Economy Lab (in the G&M, 28 Oct.), I made the case for reconciliation with Indigenous people (FNs, Metis and Inuit) not just on grounds of fairness and justice, but in terms of the business case. The legal and bargaining powers of Aboriginal peoples in Canada are here to stay. The only question is whether we will make that power work within the framework of the rest of our institutions (e.g. the rule of law, reliable and predictable settlement of disputes, respect of contracts, etc.) or whether we will let it become an insurmountable obstacle to investment and development, particularly in the natural resource sector. Check out the column for my thoughts on how to make this work.

Is Canada worthy of true patriot love?

Inspired by a new Angus Reid/CBC poll that shows young Canadians significantly less likely than their older compatriots to feel patriotic about Canada, I wrote my Oct. 11th Ottawa Citizen column about why Canada is worthy of our honourable patriotic love. Young Canadians may be being led astray by the teaching (if one can call it that) now available to them about Canadian history. This approach to canadian history focuses with unseemly glee and zeal on episodes from our history that to modern sensibilities seem errors, and sometimes huge ones. Acknowledging our forebears’ mistakes, however, is no bar to love of country, and dwelling on those mistakes to the exclusion of earlier generations great achievements is many things, but it is not history, nor an appropriate yardstick by which to measure Canada.

Rebranding the minimum wage as a “living wage” triumph of marketing over reason

The latest marketing dodge by the Left is to start calling, not for higher minimum wages, but for a “living wage,” thereby cleverly evoking images of poor single mums struggling to feed themselves and their kids on low pay. No one should work for a wage they can’t live on is a pretty good battlecry. Except that there are lots of people, in fact the vast majority, who earn the minimum wage and don’t live on it at all. The bulk of minimum wage earners are secondary earners in families above the low-income cutoff (LICO). And how many single parents with dependents try to get by on a single minimum wage income? Just over 2% of all people earning the minimum wage.

In my Globe column for the ROB of April 1st, therefore, I try my own rebranding campaign for the minimum/living wage. Here are the three I thought best. To the extent it represents government forcing businesses to pay more for labour than the going price, it is a tax on jobs. To the extent it forces up prices  at providers of low-cost goods and services to the poor, it is higher prices. And finally to the extent that the minimum wage is actually the entry wage for young workers living at home looking for their first job, and therefore every hike in the minimum wage makes fewer such jobs available, it is a youth penalty.

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Brian Lee Crowley
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