Brian Lee Crowley

Globe and Mail columns

  • Internal Trade on Canada Day. Sean Speer and me in the Globe September 15, 2016

    Writing in the Globe on Canada Day, Sean Speer and I argued in this commissioned op-ed that Prime Minister Trudeau must understand that real reform on internal trade needs to come from Ottawa. It is the only way to assert a true national economy unshackled from parochial or narrow interests.

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  • Meanwhile, down on the farm things aren’t going too well…. June 11, 2016

    Canada should be a world food superpower. Instead, as I wrote in my 10th June Economy Lab column for the Globe’s ROB, we are seeing our share of markets steadily eroded as other countries literally eat Canada’s lunch and breakfast and dinner too. Click on the link for my analysis and some potential solutions.

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  • What Uber and health care teach us about innovation May 13, 2016

    You might be of the view that Uber and Canadian health care have nothing in common. How wrong you would be!

    They are both classic instances of how governments’ rhetorical support for “innovation” is belied by their shameless kowtowing to vested interests who are threatened by disruptive innovations. Here is a little foretaste of the argument:

    In Canadian health care, which may soon represent nearly a fifth of the economy, innovation must go cap in hand and beg to be allowed to help patients. And in doing so it will be opposed by those in the system whose power and livelihood might be threatened, just like those taxi owners fighting Uber.

    This is inevitable in a system where the amount of money available is determined in advance through government budgets. Every innovation accepted is a charge against a fixed pie, meaning established interests may be damaged to accommodate the innovation. And it is those established interests who are the system’s gatekeepers.

    It is as if Henry Ford, in his drive to bring the automobile within reach of the average person, had to get his assembly line ideas approved by a government committee composed of buggy makers, stable operators, horse breeders and hay growers.

    The full piece was published in the Economy Lab feature of the Globe’s Report on Business on 13th May 2016.

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  • The dark art of deliverology: does it work? May 13, 2016

    The dumbing down of the public service continues apace as Ottawa’s appeal to the guru of deliverology underlines. The whole subtext of deliverology is that civil servants exist merely to execute politicians’ will. What tosh. if that were so, why spend so much time in the British parliamentary tradition underlining and celebrating the non-political and independent nature of the civil service? The CS exists to give independent, expert, non-partisan advice to ministers and their authority to do so is in no way dependent on the electoral mandate of their political masters. The failure of governments of all stripes to understand this relationship is poisoning the relationship itself. Of course the CS isn’t helping with its shameful displays of partisanship following the last election, but that is a different topic for another day!

    Deliverology is merely the latest false gospel promoted by charlatans to give a semblance of legitimacy to the increasing creep of politics into the CS. And it doesn’t work anyway, as I lay out in some detail in my Globe column for the ROB that appeared on April 29th, 2016.

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  • Rebranding the minimum wage as a “living wage” triumph of marketing over reason April 2, 2016

    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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  • Why Premier Wynne is wrong to lament tuition isn’t free April 2, 2016

    In the last Ontario budget Premier Kathleen Wynne brought free tuition to lowish-income students and in an interview lamented that she couldn’t make it free for everyone. I beg to disagree. I get everything that the advocates of zero tuition are saying about their desire to improve access to PSE and yet I still don’t think that the evidence shows that free tuition is the answer to the problem of access. For example:

    • We have a far better record at getting people into PSE than other countries that have free tuition (e.g. Germany and France).
    • I do not see the case for subsidising equally the children of billionaires and welfare recipients.
    • Subsidizing tuition out of general tax revenues makes poor people subsidise those who will be wealthy.

    Finally Queens did a very interesting study a few years ago in which they compared the impact of lower tuition across the board vs putting it up but reserving 30% of the increase for scholarships and bursaries for low income students with good academic records. The second option was found to be significantly better than the first at improving access and equity.

    To see more of the argument, have a look at my Globe column of March 18th, 2016.

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  • TSX-LSE tie-up a lost opportunity Germany isn’t missing April 2, 2016

    A few years ago the London Stock Exchange, a global powerhouse in investment clearing made a rich and constructive offer to buy the Toronto Exchange. This would have tied our business capital into one of the world’s premier economic and investment networks with guarantees of local jobs and global access. Narrow business nationalism prevailed and LSE was shown the door in favour of the hastily cobbled together Maple. LSE moved on, Maple has languished by the London exchange has gone from strength to strength and is now close to a deal to merge with their German opposite number to become one of a tiny handful of globe-dominating exchanges. Meanwhile Canada continues to lose steam. It didn’t have to be this way. Read the whole sad tale in my Globe column of March 4th, 2016.

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  • Keeping up with the Joneses in the UK March 1, 2016

    If you thought that Britain was an ageing doddery has-been barely managing the gentility of its decline, think again. In a stunning proof that how countries manage themselves matters, Britain is on a tear. How this happened is full of lessons for the rest of us. At least that’s what I argued in my Globe column for Economy Lab on February 19th. Britain is leading the western indsutrialised countries in growth, and is set to overtake Germany as the EU’s largest economy by around 2030. That’s if they don’t bugger it up, to use a good old British expression. To learn how Britain did it, and the challenges that still lie before it, check out the column!

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  • The arguments why Canada should join TPP March 1, 2016

    In my February 5th column for the Globe’s Economy Lab feature I lay out what I think are two of the chief reasons to adopt the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The first is that it is a stealth modernisation of NAFTA and we cannot afford to let Mexico get these benefits while turning them down ourselves. Second, it puts tremendous pressure on China to play by the established trade rules.

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  • Anglosphere leadership on M&As offers lessons for Canada January 25, 2016

    We all get dazzled by the growth of Asian Tigers, China, etc., etc., particularly in terms of their trade performance (don’t get distracted by short term gyrations — I’m talking medium to long term…). Because they appear to be economies “on the way up” we all want to cosy up to them and sell them our goods and services. But as I point out in my latest column for the Globe’s Economy Lab feature in the ROB, that neglects an equally vital and perhaps even more important trading relationship between nations — the international market for quality corporate assets, otherwise known as Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A). And here it is not the Asian countries that lead the world, but the major industrialised economies, with the biggest relationship in the world being between the US and the UK. This increasingly tightly integrated trans-Atlantic business relationship is poised to lead the world. Don’t count out the Anglosphere yet! And Canada should be doing more to follow this lead….



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Brian Lee Crowley
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