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.

The dark art of deliverology: does it work?

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.

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….

Why 50% plus 1 shouldn’t be enough to break up European countries either

Regular readers of this site and blog will know that I am a ferocious opponent of the idea that Canada should be vulnerable to being broken up by a vote of 50% plus one of a province’s residents in a referendum on independence, and in this the Supreme Court of Canada and I are of one mind. But Canada is not the only place in the world where local nationalist movements are trying to use the referendum weapon to dismember venerable democratice nation-states such as the UK and Spain. Writing for CapX in the UK, I make the argument for Europeans as to why they too should learn the lessons Canada has learned from a half century wrestling with the separatist nationalist movement in Quebec, including the rules that should govern any referendum, what the threshold of success should be and what should follow a Yes vote.

Why reform beats Senate abolition every time

If abolition is the answer you get to about the Senate, you are not asking the right question. Only one parliamentary federation in the world doesn’t have an upper chamber and that’s Pakistan — not the place I want to go for lessons in democracy. In this special op-ed commissioned by the National Post, I review why a Senate is a good idea and the reform principles we should employ in making sure ours plays its vital role in our evolving democracy.

800 years ago, Magna Carta. Still worth celebrating today!

Click here for my take on why Magna Carta still matters to Canada 800 years after King John signed it under protest on a muddy field at Runnymede. A specially commisioned column by the Ottawa Citizen.

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Brian Lee Crowley
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