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.

Think what you like of Kevin O’Leary—He is right to call for the restoration of Ottawa’s economic power

Writing in my fortnightly Globe column I make the case that commentators can harrumph all they want at Kevin O’Leary’s plan to discipline the provinces for damaging Canada’s national economic prospects. He is doing nothing the founders of Canada didn’t plan and allow for.  His rhetoric may be a little over the top, but he is not wrong to say that Ottawa has the tools to discipline provinces who act contrary to the national interest (including via withholding some transfers) and that they should be used when circumstances warrant.

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.

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.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Friends can buy LAVs

The Grits are fumbling the defence of the LAV sale to Saudi Arabia. And they’re not just fumbling a little bit.  It’s a Bob-Stanfield-dropping-the-football photo op kind of fumble. Yet the arguments in favour of the sale (we’re at war with ISIS in the Middle East and the Saudis are our allies, among other things) are more compelling than the hamfisted “They’re nasty people and we should only sell to nice folks” narrative of the government’s critics. The sale of the LAVs is not bad; it’s the lesser of two evils. And that’s a perfectly acceptable and defensible standard, especially where Canada is putting its own troops in harm’s way in this conflict. Read my full analysis in my column for tomorrow’s Ottawa Citizen and other Postmedia newspapers.

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.

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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Brian Lee Crowley
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