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.

Scridb filter

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.

Scridb filter

Guaranteed Annual Income: Wrong solution, wrong problem

In my never-ending campaign to Ă©pater les bourgeois (aka the commenters on the Globe’s comments page), my latest column takes aim at one of their favourite policy prescriptions: a guaranteed annual income for Canadians, delivered through the tax system (also called a “negative income tax”). Almost all the arguments advanced in favour of this alleged panacea are deeply flawed and take little account of incentives, human motivation or of the complexity of administering fairly or cheaply a system that will not be simple but rather devilishly complicated.

This column appeared in the 11 Dec. 2015 edition of the Globe’s ROB in their Economy Lab feature.

Scridb filter

Why pursuing happiness makes many unhappy

It is fashionable in public policy circles to suggest that a chief object of such policy should be to promote “happiness” among the public and that we should therefore be less concerned with measures of economic growth than with measures of happiness in determining what policies to pursue.

Thus when Pierre Trudeau once mused that we should obsess less about GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and more about NSB (Net Socfial Benefit) he was lionised as a great philosopher

There may be some truth in this idea, but not all that much. In fact as I demonstrate in my column for the Ottawa Citizen and other Postmedia newspapers, happiness is a slippery concept that often means promoting the happiness of some immediately causes the unhappiness of others.

While GDP may have its flaws, at least it measures something objective, and there are few people who would argue that they would like less rather than more of whatever it is they want (whether parks, or environmental protection or toasters or airplanes or hospitals or public transit). GDP measures our production of the means that each of us needs to pursue our own vision of happiness, and that is perhaps the best we can do….

Scridb filter

$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.

Scridb filter

What Canada can, and cannot, do about inequality

To hear the critics talk, inequality is growing in Canada because of a mean-spirited effort by governments to reduce the tax burden and leaving the most vulnerable to fend for themselves. As I point out in my column for this Saturday’s Ottawa Citizen, this view ignores important facts. First of all, the level of progressivity in Canada is growing, not falling. In other words far from cutting taxes for the wealthy and washing our hands of those on low incomes, if you look at taxes paid and benefits received Canada’s social safety net is highly progressive and increasingly so.

Rising inequality is therefore not an artifact of Canadians failing to shoulder their responsibilities. The issue is that the inequalities created by globalisation, technological change and returns to skills and talent, market generated inequalities are growing even faster. So is the solution even more taxing and raising benefits? No. On the contrary, as the research I cite from Philip Cross and Munir Sheikh clearly shows, we are at the limits of what we can do through high taxes and passive income transfers. The rest of the progress we need must come from improving economic opportunities and incentives and equipping Canadians to benefit from them, both of which are made harder by high taxes and poorly designed transfers.

Scridb filter

Separated at birth: Ottawa budget, 1995; Quebec budget, 2015

My latest musings for the Globe/ROB’s Economy Lab revolves around the context and significance of the year’s most important budget: Quebec’s. After years of failed attempts, the new Liberal government of Philippe Couillard will make another stab at fixing Quebec’s self-imposed economic decline by wrestling with the out-of-control growth of the Quebec state over the last 50 years. The stakes couldn’t be higher, but it is not at all clear that Couillard will be more successful than his predecessors. That very uncontrolled growth of the state has created a political climate in which a democratic mandate may not be enough to overcome the organised resistance to reform. In the column I draw parallels between the historical significance of Paul Martin’s 1995 budget and this one, 20 years later. Both aimed to fix the damage done by several generations’ worth of bribing Quebeckers to support federalism or sovereignty. Martin pulled it off, but his task was more manageable.

Wish Couillard well. He’ll need it.

Scridb filter

More than education at stake in Ottawa-First Nations pact

In my latest column for the Globe’s ROB I make the case that the newly announced agreement between Ottawa and the First Nations over education could do more than advance the cause of Aboriginal education, as vital as that is. It could also be the key to strengthening the leadership of National Chief Shawn Atleo and the influence of the new generation of Aboriginal leaders looking to turn newly- recognised rights into genuine economic opportunities.

Scridb filter

Text of my speech to the IMFC Family conference

On March 11 I was the keynote speaker at the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada’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.

Scridb filter

The Future of Federal Transfers

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.


Scridb filter

Next Page »

Brian Lee Crowley