Finally, amid the pervasive gloom, comes an exuberant expression of optimism â nay, faith â in Canadaâs future. Remarkably, it comes from three economists, practitioners of the famously dismal science. The 20th century, they say, wasnât destined to belong to Canada, as turn-of-the-century prime minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier once asserted it would be. But Laurier, wasnât really wrong, they say â he was merely premature. Make it the 21st century instead.
What went wrong? What caused a 100-year postponement of Canadaâs manifest destiny? Laurier put everything in place for a century of stupendous advance, these economists say â but the country discarded Laurierâs precepts for decades. âWe abandoned almost every tenet of Laurierâs plan,â they say, âand we paid a heavy price for it.â
But, bit by bit, Canada has tentatively restored, or begun to restore, Laurierâs lost tenets â a restoration successively accomplished by Conservative governments (notably, Brian Mulroneyâs free trade agreement with the United States in the late 1980s and early 1990s), NDP governments (notably Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanowâs principled return to balanced budgets in the 1990s) and Liberal governments (notably Paul Martinâs paying down of the national debt in the late 1990s and early 2000s).
Canadian Century celebrates the good beginning that the âredemptive decade,â with its tentative return to Laurierâs lost tenets, provided â apparently, given the great global recession, just in the nick of time. It laments the retreat from these tenets that the recession produced. Now, the economists say, is the time to finish the job â now that Canadaâs opportunity has been doubled âby Americaâs confusion and loss of directionâ â and by its own loss of the tenets that produce enduring prosperity.
I am quoted in this Hill Times story about religion in politics.
Brian Lee Crowley, managing director of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute and author of the book Fearful Symmetry: The Fall and Rise of Canada’s Founding Values, said the increased visibility of the religious right in politics is partly a reaction to a period of aggressive secularism in Western politics. He said it’s a trend that’s likely to continue. “We’re entering an era in which faith, in the largest sense, is becoming a powerful political force,” said Mr. Crowley. “People of faith in Canada are getting more involved in politics, not just Christians, I think Jews are doing it, the Muslim community is doing it, in the Sikh community, you’ll find the various temples are powerful community rallying points. We’re entering an era in which faith is going to be much more powerful force within politics.”
My new book (co-authored with Jason Clemens and Niels Veldhuis), The Canadian Century: Moving Out of America’s Shadow, is coming out soon! We’re having a national launch party in Ottawa on May 20. Click here to register for this event.
We’re having a big dinner in Vancouver tomorrow night featuring Andrew Coyne, Chantal HÃ©bert and me, to talk about politics, policy and economic trends. The event is a presentation of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute and our hosts for the evening are Liberal Senator Larry Campbell and former Conservative cabinet minister John Reynolds. There are still a few places available. Click here to register!
On March 11 I was the keynote speaker at the Institute of Marriage and Family CanadaÃ¢â¬â¢s conference on family policy. I spoke about what we know today about the relationship between the health of the institution of the family and the transmission between the generations of values essential to democracy, freedom and the rule of law. Below is the text of that speech.
I was recently invited by the Federal-Provincial Relations Division of Finance Canada to participate in a panel discussion in Ottawa on the future of federal transfers to the provinces. Here is the text of my remarks.
In this week’s Maclean’s magazine Paul Wells spends a lot of time discussing Fearful Symmetry and the social policy changes it portends:
“For next steps, many conservatives are turning to Fearful Symmetry: The Fall and Rise of CanadaÃ¢â¬â¢s Founding Values, a new book by Brian Lee Crowley, an economist and founder of the new Macdonald Ã¢â¬â Laurier Institute.
Crowley does not regard himself as a social conservative. But many who do see themselves that way like what heÃ¢â¬â¢s saying. To caricature a complex argument, Crowley says the modern welfare state has overextended itself, is unsustainable, and causes more harm than good to institutions like the family. These trends will only get worse when an aging population sharply increases the cost of delivering most social programs. One size can no longer fit all. Social services will have to be narrowly aimed at those who need them most, and delivered only as long as recipients are willing to improve their behaviour by attending to their family, keeping or seeking a job, and so on.
Government is no good at any of that and, in the opinion of most, shouldnÃ¢â¬â¢t try. Ã¢â¬ÅIt is precisely for this reason, in my view, that we have seen in both the United States and the United Kingdom a growing use of the private sector, including the not-for-profit and so-called faith-based charities, for the delivery of social services,Ã¢â¬Â Crowley writes. Ã¢â¬ÅSuch private agencies may be more demanding of their clientele and expect more in the way of improvements in behaviour.Ã¢â¬Â
CrowleyÃ¢â¬â¢s book was published last autumn. It seems to have been barely one step ahead of the news. This monthÃ¢â¬â¢s Throne Speech contained a single line saying the government Ã¢â¬Åwill look to innovative charities and forward-thinking private-sector companies to partner on new approaches to many social challenges.Ã¢â¬Â Such charities and companies were much in evidence at the Manning Centre conference. The changes Crowley anticipates are expected and embraced by social conservatives.
Meanwhile, the federal Liberals are still defending policies from five years ago, policies Harper has taken pains to ensure future federal governments wonÃ¢â¬â¢t be able to afford, with his GST cuts and his massive cash transfers to the provinces. If the Liberals cannot begin to make a case for a return to larger, more activist Ã¢â¬â and more expensive Ã¢â¬â state-run social welfare, then Stephen HarperÃ¢â¬â¢s social conservative revolution will only accelerate.
Macdonald-Laurier Institute (MLI) Fellow Jason Clemens was at the University of Windsor yesterday to talk about The Canadian Century: Moving Out of America’s Shadow. Canadian Century will be the first book published by MLI, and is co-authored by Jason, Brian Lee Crowley and Niels Veldhuis. The book is published by Key Porter, one of Canada’s largest publishing houses, and will be available in stores in late May 2010.
The Windsor Star’s Chris Thompson was there, too, and wrote this news story about the event:
If Sir Wilfrid could see us now.
Canada’s seventh prime minister, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, who served from 1896 until 1911, was known for proclaiming the 20th century as Canada’s.
You may also know him as the man on the $5 bill.
But according to a new book co-authored by University of Windsor business alumnus Jason Clemens, Laurier’s prediction was just 100 years ahead of its time.
“Canada sits on the edge of an opportunity, and that opportunity is the Canadian century, which was Wilfrid Laurier’s famous, one of his famous sayings,” Clemens said Thursday at a lecture at the Odette School of Business.
“My authors and I think he was right, he was just 100 years (early). If we do the things that we’ve already done as a nation, as a province, I believe the 21st century will be Canada’s century.”
Clemens said Canada’s strong economic fundamentals, among the leaders of the G8 in most categories, and its ability to keep debts in check have it poised to bolster its stature compared to the debt-burdened U.S.
Clemens has co-authored The Canadian Century: Moving out of America’s Shadow, along with Brian Lee Crowley and Niels Veldhuis. The book hits the shelves in May.
Clemens said Laurier was a classical liberal who believed in small government and low taxes, and Canada followed his core beliefs for about 50 years.
“He was not only interested in policy, he was interested in an aspiration for this country,” said Clemens.
“He was interested in lifting this country up into a leadership position, not only in North America but in the world. Laurier had great plans and great hopes for our country at the turn of the century. For a very long time, even right into the 1950s, we were essentially following Laurier’s principles, in terms of government, in terms of policy, in terms of the role of government in our country. Then we go off course in the mid-1960s.”
Canada’s government was consuming 15 per cent of the economy in 1965, but by 1992 that had grown to 24 per cent.
“As we deviated and started spending more, what we didn’t do is raise taxes,” said Clemens.
“We went from a fairly stable period to a huge mountain of red ink.”
Clemens said the return to Laurier’s values — and the shrinking of the red ink mountain — began with Brian Mulroney and continued under Jean Chretien.
“Canada is a fundamentally more conservative country now when it comes to debts and deficits,” said Clemens.
“I think part of that is the struggle that we as a country, and as a province, went through to balance our books. We felt the pain of restructuring and restraint by the government and understanding what running up debts and what that means to citizens and what that means to the country.”
Clemens said Canada’s position contrasts sharply with that of the U.S., which will be limited in what it can do for a decade or more because of crippling debts.
Despite years of effort and billions of dollars spent, aboriginals continue to fare worse than all other Canadians on almost every social and economic indicator. Education, particularly higher education, is undeniably one of the keys to fixing this iniquitous state of affairs.
According to one study, if aboriginal Canadians were able to increase their educational attainment to the level of other Canadians, our cumulative economic output would grow by an additional $179-billion by 2026 and government tax revenue would be $3.5-billion higher. That would be good for aboriginals and all Canadians.
So for economic as well as moral reasons, Canada needs to do better at helping aboriginal youth attend colleges, universities and trade schools. How we pay the bill isn’t the entire answer, but it’s a key part. And the way we now pay that bill is failing aboriginal youth.
The current federal program, the Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP), does a lousy job of helping status Indian students get into postsecondary education. It fails because the money too often doesn’t reach the students themselves. Even when it does reach them, it comes in a form that helps to perpetuate a system of dependence and lack of accountability that is the hallmark of failed aboriginal policy in Canada.
Each year, taxpayers put $314-million into PSSSP. Unfortunately, this money does not go directly to registered Indian students. Instead, it is given to Indian bands to distribute, with virtually no government oversight. It’s not even required that the money be spent on aboriginal postsecondary education.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We believe that a relatively simple solution exists, one that breaks with dependency and puts into the hands of young aboriginals the power and the means to make the educational choices that are right for them: The PSSSP should be phased out, and the money should be given directly to qualifying Indian students, subject to appropriate safeguards, for them to spend solely for purposes of legitimate postsecondary education.
Here’s how it would work. The government should create an Aboriginal Post-Secondary Savings Account (APSSA) program, opening an APSSA at birth for every registered Indian, regardless of whether they live on or off reserve. A basic amount would be paid into each account when established, and the money would earn interest until the account holder finished high school. An additional sum would be added for each year of secondary education completed, creating a powerful incentive to finish high school. And when the student enrolled in a bona fide college, university or trade school, the money would be used to pay tuition and contribute to living expenses.
The institutions must be accredited, and tuition fees would be paid directly from the APSSA to the institution without passing through the student, let alone a band council. Living expenses could be drawn only in accordance with established criteria. This would ensure transparency while avoiding opportunities for waste or corruption. It would mean fairness and consistency for Indian students, regardless of band or region. And by having the money follow the students rather than the other way around would encourage postsecondary institutions to recruit and retain Indian students.
Improving educational opportunities for young aboriginals offers substantial economic benefits to Canadians. As the population ages and baby boomers retire, Canada faces a double demographic crisis: a looming shortage of workers for the private sector and taxpayers for the public sector. Studies consistently show that immigration alone cannot alleviate this shortage. Unlike the rest of the population, aboriginals are on average quite young, and because their current educational results are so poor, it’s a very promising place to look for a dramatic increase in the supply of young skilled workers.
But the key argument for the APSSA isn’t economics Ã¢â¬â it’s decency and fairness. The aboriginal grassroots are increasingly clamouring for change. Indian policy in this country is an expensive, shameful failure harmful to the intended beneficiaries and infuriating to taxpayers. What we need, if we really want to help aboriginal students help themselves, is not more money. What we need is fresh thinking.
Calvin Helin is president of the Native Investment and Trade Association. Dave Snow is a PhD candidate in political science at the University of Calgary . They are the authors of Free to Learn: Giving Aboriginal Youth Control Over Their Post-Secondary Education, published yesterday by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.
Monday morning March 15th at 7.30, listen to an interview with Brian on CBC Radio’s Ottawa morning programme where he will announce the opening of his new think tank, the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.