Brian Lee Crowley

What makes Canada great: My talk to MLI’s Canada 150 Dinner, 16th February 2017

Forget diversity, multiculturalism or social programmes. Despite what you may have heard, these are not the things that make Canada great, however desirable they may be in their own right. The things that have brought untold millions to settle in Canada were here long before these ideas ever saw the light of day.

Instead we have to look for the explanation of Canada’s greatness in things like our grounding in the New World, our tradition of freedom and our willingness to sacrifice to protect what really matters. At least that’s the argument I made in my talk at the MLI Canada 150 Dinner on 16th February 2017.

Multiculturalism, public health care and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms are all well and good. But they don’t get at the essence of why true patriots love Canada, says Crowley.

The willingness to sacrifice in order to protect the freedoms uniquely available to us in the New World: now that, ladies and gentlemen, is a country worth celebrating.

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In defence of budget balance Part I

In the first part of a two part series of my columns for the ROB’s Economy Lab feature in the Globe and Mail I take the Liberals to task for breaking the now decades-long consensus in Canada in favour of balanced budgets outside periods of genuine deep crisis. Yes, the Liberals won a mandate to do so (having defeated two other parties both committed to balanced budgets, including, wonder of wonders, the NDP), but as I say in the column that does not make it good policy.

The Liberals claim that the economy is underperforming and that roughly $10-billion of deficit financed infrastructure spending each year for three years will shock the economy out of its torpor. What they neglected to consider was the stimulative effects of balanced budgets. This is a lesson we learned from Paul Martin when he balanced the budget in the 1990s and I lay out the case in some detail….

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The Liberals’ deep roots in free trade

In my early November column for the PostMedia papers (including the Calgary Herald and the Ottawa Citizen) I talk about the Liberals’ deep commitment to the ideal of free trade, reaching all the way back to Sir Wilfrid Laurier and beyond. Sir Wilfrid, who exhorted Canadains to “seek markets wherever they are to be found” would have been a huge advocate of the recently negotiated deals with the EU (CETA) and other Pacific Rim nation (TPP). The fact that they were one of the signature achievements of the outgoing government should not make the Liberals look any less kindly on them. Anyone interested in learning more about Sir Wilfrid’s amazingly modern vision for Canada and why all parties should be pursuing it, have a look at the book I co-authored with Jason Clemens and Niels Veldhuis called The Canadian Century.

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$15 minimum wage? Not if you want to help those that really need it.

Incoming Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has confirmed her partyt’s intention to raise the minimum wage in the province to $15/hr. Like many things this sounds good but in fact isn’t, especially if your objective is to help the most vulnerable workers (and potential workers) at the bottom of the wage scale. A $15/hr minimum wage is simply a government decree that anyone who cannot produce $15 worth of value with an hour of their labour will not work. Thanks for the help guys!

Read my analysis in my latest column for the ROB’s Economy Lab feature in the Globe and Mail.

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The legacy of Sir John A. Macdonald: He lives on in us….

In my latest column for the Ottawa Citizen I celebrate the opening of Sir John A.’s 200th anniversary year with a paean to our principal founder and his vision for what Canada could be. 150 years after Confederation, Canada stands at the front rank of nations. Given the circumstances of 1867 and the unprepossessing materials he had to work with, you have to admire the guy’s vision and…chutzpah!

Interestingly, roughly a quarter of the Twitter response to my piece has been folks disparaging Sir John as the author of outrages against Indigenous peoples. To them I say that each generation must confront a two-fold challenge: first, to understand and appreciate the legacy we have received from the past; second, to pass that same legacy on improved to those who will follow us. Alas, you churlishly fail the first part of the challenge. Happy to work with you, however, to make sure we get the second part done, including the long overdue reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians.

 

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Obama loves us and leaves us…again

On his first visit to Canada, President Obama proclaimed “I love this country.”

He failed to specify his love was of the tough variety. Ever since Canada’s relationship with the US president has been a long list of disappointments punctuated by the occasional outright provocation.

The latest punctuation mark is how the president is trying to sell the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal) to Americans: by saying that it will be a good trade agreement, not a bad one like–wait for it– NAFTA was. What is this man thinking?

Read my latest column in the Ottawa Citizen and other Postmedia papers for my thoughts on how Obama has NAFTA all wrong. Like Keystone. Like the new crossing to Detroit. Like country of original labelling. Like how he agreed to Canada joining the TPP talks. Like…well, do I need to go on?

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America makes it hard to be friends, again

Nobody loves America as Canada does, but you know how the saying goes, to get a friend, be a friend. And in this week’s column for the Globe’s Economy Lab feature (in the ROB), I lay out the case why America is making it hard for its friends to support it in its push to negotiate a Trans-Pacific Partnership. Unless Congress agrees to limit its power unilaterally to rewrite any negotiated agreement, the 11 other parties at the TPP table won’t make their best offers. US bullying is not the solution. Trade Promotion Authority (whereby Congress agrees to vote any final deal up or down without amendment) is.

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Taking Keynes’s name in vain

A C.D. Howe paper recently called for Ottawa to keep borrowing and spending up to .5% of GDP rather than to balance the books as Finance Minister Oliver plans to do in the spring. This advice reminds me of Nobel Laureate (and great Keynes critic) F.A. Hayek’s dictum that his problem was not with Keynes, but the Keynesians. Find out why John Maynard and I would side with Hayek and against further “stimulus” spending in my latest column for the Economy Lab feature in the Globe’s Report on Business.

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Labour shortages ahead, no matter what the “experts” say

In today’s column for the Economy Lab feature of the Globe and Mail‘s Report on Business, I report on my encounter with the massive complacency of the “expert chattering classes” when confronted with the evidence about the labour shortages Canada will face in a few short years. Yes, we will adjust, but skillful adjustment takes thought and foresight. It is amazing how much effort is required to make the inevitable happen!

Those of you with (reasonably) long memories will remember I reviewed the data on all this extensively in my book Fearful Symmetry. Everything I foresaw there is coming to pass….

I was also interviewed about this column by BNN. You can see the interview by clicking on the link.

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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