Brian Lee Crowley

A primer on Canada’s pipeline mess for Canadians and others

On the topic of pipelines in general and Trans Mountain in particular, there has of course been much action in recent weeks, including most notably Ottawa’s acquisition of the TM project from Kinder Morgan for $4.5 billion. Here are two examples of my commentary on the issue:

30 May 2018 I published an op-ed in the Financial Post arguing that the Liberals are chiefly the authors of their own misfortune on TM, through their ill-advised political alliance with the hard-line environmental movement. I predict that they will reap the social licence whirlwind when their erstwhile allies really get serious about civil disobedience.

Then on June 12th I sought to explain to an international audience the issues surrounding TM and pipelines in general in the context of Ottawa’s sudden ownership of TM. The Washington Examiner was kind enough to publish my piece. I also did a video version of the op-ed which is available at the top of the MLI page.

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.

Why the SCC must not have the last word on Comeau and barriers to trade

Another hot topic for Canadians in 2018 was the disappointing decision of the Supreme Court of Canada on the Comeau “Free the Beer” case. Here is some of my commentary following that decision:

First, I took the SCC to task for its failure to honour Canadians’ economic rights and its tendentious reading of the plain language of the Constitution. In a 21 April 2018 op-ed published in the major dailies throughout New Brunswick (where the Comeau case originated) I also pointed out that it was probably always a long shot that the profoundly economically-ignorant SCC might solve Canada’s failure to fix its internal barriers problem. That puts the onus right back squarely where it has always been: on Ottawa’s shoulders.

On 30 April MLI released a video of me making the same case.

Finally, on 16 May 2018, Sean Speer and I co-wrote a piece for Inside Policy reiterating these arguments and adding new ones about Canadians’ economic rights!

Trans Mountain: the worst is not behind us, but ahead

Trans Mountain pipeline (TM) is surely one of the most talked-about issues of 2018. Here are three of my recent contributions to the debate:

First, on 18 April 2018 I wrote a ground-breaking piece for MLI’s Inside Policy magazine making the case that the greatest challenge to TM’s success is not the rather feeble court challenges offered by the government of BC, but rather the easily foreseeable broad campaign of civil disobedience that awaits the project once construction begins in the early autumn.

A shortened version of the IP piece appeared in the Sun newspapers on 23 April 2018.

Finally, on 25 May 2018 I did another Pod Bless Canada episode, this time with MLI Sr Fellow Dwight Newman on the legal situation of the TM project. Even though this was recorded just before the announcement of the federal purchase of TM from Kinder-Morgan, the discussion remains highly germane.

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.

The Iran nuclear agreement: how not to do a deal

John Kerry and Barack Obama are travelling the US and the world vaunting their nuclear deal with Iran. Yet while any sane person hopes that this agreement will do all its negotiators claim, I think there is every reason to doubt that it will. In my July 17th column for the Ottawa Citizen and other Postmedia papers I lay out the case for thinking the US played a strong hand poorly and Iran came out of these negotiations the winner.

The Great Game and the Greek crisis

In the so-called Great Game, in which Western powers seek through espionage as well as soft and hard power to counter the influence of disruptors and adversaries like Russia, Greece is now an important pawn. There is little question that Greece has repeatedly abused its obligations to repay its vast debts. But, as I ask in my July 10th column for the Globe’s ROB, in a world where Russia seeks actively and unashamedly to extend its power and influence, can Western powers really afford to close the door on its troubled ally?

Papal deer in the headlights: Francis contradicts papal policy on human fertility

In my July 26th column for the ROB’s Economy Lab feature in the Globe I point out that in his recent encyclical on climate change Pope Francis wants to suck and blow at the same time. The pope was right to make protecting human life a goal, a goal moreover that is entirely consistent with traditional Catholic doctrine. The problem? Fossil fuel use has been an indispensable factor making it possible for the Earth to support its teeming billions….and alternative energy technologies are nowhere near ready to displace them.

All Japan all the time!

Thanks to the generosity of the Japanese government I have just returned from two weeks in the land of the rising sun. A fascinating visit that gave me a week’s briefings with government officials, think tanks, academics and others, plus a few moving days in Hiroshima and about 5 days in Kyoto, all during the time that cherry blssom season was slowly gathering way.

I put some of my impressions in two columns published last week.

In the first, written for the Economy Lab feature in the Globe’s ROB, I wrote about my assessment of the chances of success of Abenomics. The summary: losing 250,000 people every year is a huge sheet anchor for the Japanese economy to drag along as the government tries to stimulate it into resurgence. And, well, Keynesianism on steroids is, after all, still just keynesianism, and its track record is dubious at the best of times.

In the second, written for the Ottawa Citizen and other Postmedia urban dailies, I struck a more positive note, delving into the arguments behind my conviction that Japan remains a better partner for Canada in Asia than China.


I hate to say I told you so, but…

Yes, there is something deeply unattractive about the scold who smugly wallows in others’ debacles because he warned that the worst might happen. On the other hand, sometimes the scold is right and disaster today should be a warning to stop self-destructive behaviour that is still continuing in spite of catastrophe. That is exactly the case in the resource-rich provinces’ (step forward Alberta and Newfoundland, with a few others not far behind) dependence on resource royalties to balance their budgets. Tanking oil and gas prices have revealed just how shaky their budgetary assumptions have been.

Not only is dependence on such revenues ill -advised from a budgetary point of view (former Alta Treasurer Jim Dinning rightly notes “non-renewable natural resource revenues are non-reliable revenues”), it is deeply suspect from a moral point of view. Royalties are not income. They are the revenue from sales of an asset, and are therefore capital to be invested, not income to be spent, not least because the resources belong to generations yet unborn as well as the totday’s population. I lay out the argument in today’s column for the ROB’s Economy Lab feature in the Globe and Mail.

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Brian Lee Crowley
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