Brian Lee Crowley

Celebrating Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the founder of modern Canada, on his 175th birthday

Last November 16th MLI issued my talk in celebration of the remarkable life and achievements of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the founder of modern Canada and one of my personal heroes.

Laurier deserves a venerated place among the historical figures responsible for making Canada the great country we live in today.

As I argue in the piece, “Sir Wilfrid dwells among us through the wisdom and energy with which he shaped politics, institutions, and especially the ideas underlying modern Canada”.

Laurier’s “courage and vision” are largely responsible for some of Canada’s major achievements during a period where he won four federal elections: Opening Western Canada to mass settlement, welcoming unprecedented numbers of immigrants and unleashing a manufacturing and resource boom across the country.

But outside of those accomplishments, Laurier is worthy of our praise for building a foundation of progress and freedom on which Canada today rests.

In defence of budget balance Part II

In the second of my two part series of columns in defence of balanced budgets I respond to my critics on the Globe comments page. They were incensed by my argument in Part I of the series that the stimulative effects of Paul Martin’s drive to balanced budgets in the 90s were in any way relevant to today. “That was then, this is now” was there rallying cry. The economy is underperforming and only deficit-financed stimulus can get it back on track.

My reply took several forms. First, I argued that if the Martin example was not relevant because conditions had changed then we should look at the results of the Ontario government’s fiscal policies today. After all they have been running deficits much larger in relative terms than what the new federal government proposes for several years. If they hold out the promise of stimulus for the nation in today’s circumstances we should see strong evidence of that effect in Ontario. Instead we find, well, one of the national economy’s underperformers.

Then there is the whole argument that the national economy is in fact underperforming, and that therefore stimulus might “shock” it back onto a higher growth path. Here I cite the most recent work of the OECD shoing that Canada’s “output gap” (the gap between its actual performance and its theoretical potential) is quite small (a mere .5% of GDP) and that they forecast that it will have more than disappeared in 2016, long before any stimulus spending could have had any effect. The OECD predicts that the next 2 years will see inflation pressures building in the national economy, likely leading to interest rate rises. Kiss the stimulative effect of the federal borrowing goodbye.

Finally I go through yet again the argument why politically it is exceptionally easy to start down the road of deficit financing, but the reverse gear is extraordinarily difficult to find and requires huge strength to engage.

This Economy Lab column appeared in the November 27th edition of the ROB in the Globe and Mail.

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….

The Liberals’ deep roots in free trade

In my early November column for the PostMedia papers (including the Calgary Herald and the Ottawa Citizen) I talk about the Liberals’ deep commitment to the ideal of free trade, reaching all the way back to Sir Wilfrid Laurier and beyond. Sir Wilfrid, who exhorted Canadains to “seek markets wherever they are to be found” would have been a huge advocate of the recently negotiated deals with the EU (CETA) and other Pacific Rim nation (TPP). The fact that they were one of the signature achievements of the outgoing government should not make the Liberals look any less kindly on them. Anyone interested in learning more about Sir Wilfrid’s amazingly modern vision for Canada and why all parties should be pursuing it, have a look at the book I co-authored with Jason Clemens and Niels Veldhuis called The Canadian Century.

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.

No moral high ground here

The Tories are often rightly criticised for ignoring inconvenient expert advice and knowledge in pursuit of their political objectives. This is decried by the opposition as crass pandering to the Tories’ political base. But the Liberals have no moral high ground to occupy on this issue. The past examples of them ignoring expert advice to pander to their own political base are many. Nor have they stopped doing so, as their position on e.g. Northern Gateway shows. Read the details in my latest column for the Ottawa Citizen and other Postmedia papers.

Why Russia’s Crimea caper should matter to us

Much of the commentary I’ve read about Russia’s smash and grab of Crimea misses the point about why this kind of behaviour must engage the west’s attention. Much more is at stake than Neville Chamberlain’s famous “quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing.” Read more in my latest column for the Ottawa Citizen and other Postmedia papers.


A tale of two Trudeaus

In my newest column for the Ottawa Citizen and other Postmedia papers I tell the story of what I learned about political leadership by watching Pierre Trudeau when I was a young man becoming interested in politics for the first time. I compare Pierre’s leadership style with what Justin has on offer so far. Can’t say that Justin comes off looking too good…

An evening with Crowley, Coyne and HĂ©bert

We’re having a big dinner in Vancouver tomorrow night featuring Andrew Coyne, Chantal HĂ©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!

Announcing The Canadian Century

Coming soon: the sequel to Fearful Symmetry

I have had the great good fortune over the last 6 months to work with co-authors Jason Clemens and Niels Veldhuis on a new book that is essentially a sequel to Fearful Symmetry: “The Canadian Century: Moving Out of America’s Shadow”. This will be the first book of my new national think tank, the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, and will be published by Key Porter. Here is the blurb from Key Porter about the book, which is due out in May, 2010:

One hundred years ago a great Canadian, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, predicted that the twentieth
century would belong to Canada. He had a plan to make it so.

What happened? Canada lost sight of Laurier’s plan, and failed to claim its century,
dwelling instead in the long shadow of the United States.

In a bold, fascinating and thought-provoking call to arms, Crowley (author of the
national bestseller Fearful Symmetry) and co-authors Jason Clemens and Niels Veldhuis
envision Canada’s emergence as an economic and social power. While the United States
has been squandering its advantages — including making a series of bad decisions that
precipitated a global economic disaster from which it struggles to emerge — Canada finds
itself on a path leading out of the shadows and into a new prosperity that could — if we
stay the course — make us the envy of the world.

It won’t happen without effort, however. We must be prepared to follow through on
reforms enacted at the end of the twentieth century, completing the work already begun.
If we succeed, Canada can and will become the economic outperformer that Sir Wilfrid
Laurier foretold, a land of work for all who want it, of opportunity, investment, innovation
and prosperity. America’s performance, by contrast, risks trailing ours until they
embrace Canadian-style courageous and far-seeing reform.

Laurier did indeed predict the Canadian Century. He was absolutely right; he was
merely off by 100 years.

Brian Lee Crowley is the author of the national bestseller Fearful Symmetry: The Fall and Rise of Canada’s Founding Values. Crowley is Managing Director of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute for Public Policy and is a frequent commentator on political and economic issues for the CBC, Radio-Canada and many other media. His website is He lives in Ottawa.

Jason Clemens is the director of research at the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco, where he specializes in fiscal policy. His articles regularly appear
throughout Canada and the United States, including the Globe and Mail, the Financial Post, the Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. He lives in San Francisco.

Niels Veldhuis is vice-president and senior economist at The Fraser Institute. He also
writes a bi-weekly column for the National Post and appears regularly on radio and television
programs across the country. He lives in Vancouver.

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Brian Lee Crowley
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