Brian Lee Crowley

Monarchy’s Contribution to Canada’s Greatness

Of all of Canada’s many misunderstood, abused and underappreciated institutions, monarchy and the Crown perhaps top the list. On few subjects do I hear as much rubbish talked as on the topic of the monarchy. To try and set the record straight and to explain in simple terms this most Canadian of institutions, I gave a talk to the Ottawa chapter of the Monarchist League some months ago. On 30 May 2018 MLI republished this talk, Monarchy’s Contribution to Canada’s Greatness, as a Commentary.

MLI launches Pod Bless Canada — first 6 episodes

The Macdonald-Laurier Institute has launched a new series of podcasts entitled Pod Bless Canada. Each episode of roughly 30 minutes showcases a chat between an MLI representative and someone knowledgeable about a key issue of the day.  Here are links to the first six episodes:

On 2 Feb. 2018, Sean Speer and I talked debts, deficits and responsible public finances.

On 16 Feb. 2018 Shuvaloy Majumdar and I talked about the Canada-India relationship in the context of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s trip to India.

On 22 Feb. 2018 it was the turn of MLI Sr Fellow Ken Coates to join me to talk about the opportunities for Indigenous people in the natural resource economy.

On 6 March 2018 Sean Speer to discuss the nexus between business and political decision making in Canada.

On 20 March 2018 in one of my personal favourites, Canadian J. Michael Cole, a specialist on Taiwanese affairs, came in to discuss with me China, Taiwan, cross-strait relations, tensions in the Indo-Pacific and more.

Finally, another favourite: on 23 March 2018 Ryerson University history professor Patrice Dutil and I talked frankly about whether Canadians should feel ashamed about Canada’s past.

Is abstinence or harm reduction the right tobacco policy?

On 18 Oct 2017 I had an op-ed in the Sun newspaper chain arguing that technolgical innovation has rendered tobacco abstinence the wrong policy if we want to reduce the harms caused by tobacco use.  Since the scientific evidence is eloquent that most tobacco-related harm is caused by combustion, not tobacco per se, the emerging technologies that allow people to use tobacco at greatly reduced risk are likely to produce better health outcomes than an abstinence policy honoured more in the breach than in the observance.


The premiers don’t speak for Canada

In my latest column for the Globe’s ROB Economy Lab, I dissect the behaviour of the premiers as they demonstrated yet again, over the course of the summer, why we cannot expect them to speak up for the national interest. The issue is protecting the rights of economic citizenship of Canadians (otherwise known as “internal trade”). Read on to find out what the systemic reasons are the premiers will never be the ones who deliver free trade within Canada. It’s Ottawa’s job.

By the way, If there is any question about what business, those ultimately responsible for job creation and exports think, the major Canadian business associations have banded together to publish a paper urging action.  Their vision is much more expansive than the premiers’, calling for all barriers to be ended and rules to be harmonized.   As Ailish Campbell, Vice President at the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) has put it, “We want to see firms growing from Canada into global leaders. A common market to boost growth and jobs shouldn’t be in question.”

My homage to the (undeservedly) hated car

In my latest column for the Globe & Mail, I call down the worst the car-haters can muster in defence of the automobile and what it has meant in terms of raising the standards of living for millions of people.

My homage to the (undeservedly) hated car

BRIAN LEE CROWLEY, Special to The Globe and Mail

Wednesday, Jun. 12 2013

When Toronto Mayor Rob Ford came to power, he promised to end the “war on the car.” He was taking aim, of course, at the paternalistic philosophy of centralized urban planning that has infected city halls in virtually every major city in the country. Cars are bad, and the sprawl that they give rise to is worse, a blight on the countryside that all bien-pensants abhor and wish to reverse.

Timorously, I periodically raise my hand, cry “rubbish,” and let slip the dogs of war. For every time I question this article of faith of the smug new self-righteous urban puritans, I am immediately inundated with angry e-mails blaming me for every ill associated with cars, including one kind reader who accused me of being in favour of people being run down in crosswalks. So be it.

I call down on my unrepentant head the worst the car-haters can muster. The automobile is a wonder that rapid transit can never hope to replace, but can at best supplement to some minor degree, and at a cost greatly disproportionate to its benefit.

Almost universally, as people’s standard of living rises, one of the first things they buy is more space for themselves and their families. Those cities that anti-car proselytisers embrace with fervour, such as the centres of New York and Paris, have seen their population density fall over most of the past 100 years, as people have fled their cramped inconvenience in favour of blossoming suburbs, where everything is bigger, including the lots, and cars are the workhorse of city travel.

As a result, people who don’t live there hold up the centre of Paris or Stockholm as an example of what we should do with our own cities, ignoring the fact that the French and the Swedes live in far greater numbers in suburbs that are basically quite indistinguishable from those of Toronto or Montreal.

What’s this got to do with cars? Suburbs and space go hand in hand with the car. The car means people can reach affordable space. Instead of a balcony and a window box, they can have a yard. “Urban sprawl” and the car have given people a higher standard of living and more freedom than ever before.

Cars put you literally in the driver’s seat, including about when you travel, and what route you take (picking up the groceries on the way home from work or taking the kids to dance, hockey and music) without advance planning, transfers or extra fares, it is as essential as having a Graco FastAction-Fold-Click-Connect stroller for your kids at home. You stay dry and warm no matter what the weather, and travel time by car is in the vast majority of cases shorter than by transit, especially if you have to transfer. Cars carry more than one can manage on bus, bike or foot, allowing people to shop at supermarkets and discount stores farther from home. The car has been essential to the emergence of IKEA, Costco and Target, which raise our standard of living by improving choice and lowering prices.

Economic activity, far from being concentrated in city centres, is increasingly dispersed across our cities, meaning that the way people move for work less and less matches urban mass transit, which largely moves people to the central core and back again. Transit could never reproduce the blooming buzzing diversity of travel needs the car accommodates with ease. A tiny fraction of commuter trips are made on mass transit. Even if we were to double the share of mass transit in major cities (in itself a huge, and hugely expensive, task), it would still barely affect congestion, while emissions per kilometre driven are now vanishingly small.

The incontrovertible fact is the vast majority of people will continue to rely on their cars for transport. Mass transit is chiefly a poorly designed and very expensive social program for those who don’t have a car. We’d be better off buying them cars and spending the leftover money on well-designed roads, preferably where people were charged for every kilometre they drove and a premium at rush hour to reduce congestion.

Everyone talks in favour of urban transit, but what they really mean is that they wish the driver in front of them on the road would leave his car at home. This includes the allegedly anti-car young, who say they want to live downtown but in fact live in ever greater numbers in the suburbs. Pay no attention to what people say, because it is so unfashionable to be pro-car. Look instead at what people do; while city centres have grown, suburbs have grown hugely more, as people voted, not with their feet, but their steering wheels.

Brian Lee Crowley ( is the Managing Director of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, an independent non-partisan public policy think tank in Ottawa:

Brian Lee Crowley
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