Brian Lee Crowley

How globalisation bowled over the taxman

As I wrote in my Globe column for the ROB, carbon taxes are all the rage, but they are not going to be the tax reform that will bring national tax systems into the 21st century. Governments and their traditional tax systems have become the latest bystanders sideswiped by the globalisation juggernaut, and the shift from corporate taxes to more objective tax bases like sales and consumption are going to be the response. In this context, people should stop ventilating and look more closely at the Republicans’ border adjustment tax. In my estimation it is a back-door way of introducing something like  a much needed national sales tax in the US.

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.

TSX-LSE tie-up a lost opportunity Germany isn’t missing

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.

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.

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.

Scotland takes low road in secession vote

In my column this week for the Globe’s Economy Lab (in the ROB) I talk about the political, economic and moral consequences of secession votes under poorly designed rules as was the case in the Scottish vote yesterday. There are many reasons why the status quo is entitled to a presumption in its favour, and that presumption requires a high voting threshold to overcome.  Thus not only is a decision rule of 50% + 1 of voters actually undemocratic, it imposes many forms of cost on citizens through unnecessary uncertainty and encourages nationalist troublemakers to try repeatedly since the chances of success are relatively high under this ridiculously low threshold.

D-Day, the Cold War and Putin’s challenge to the West

In the latest of my seemingly endless screeds for the Ottawa Citizen and other PostMedia newspapers today I mine the D-Day invasion and the West’s success in the Cold War for lessons to apply to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s challenge to the values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law. Relax, Mr Obama: We don’t have to engage the Russians militarily.  On the other hand, if we don’t show an unwavering willingness to do so if necessary, he will continue his campaign to re-create Russian greatness and a bi-polar world at our expense and that of weaker countries on his borders and perhaps farther afield. The longer we delay in responding decisively, the more emboldened he will become.

Why we need Clarity Act Mark II before next referendum

In my latest column for the Ottawa Citizen and other Postmedia papers I call for Ottawa to supplement the Clarity Act with another law that fills in the gaps left by that original landmark legislation. Mark I gives legislative form to the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Secession Reference, but only with regard to the Court’s rules about the standard Quebec must reach to trigger an obligation on the ROC to sit down and negotiate. The SCC went on to say a lot about what would have to happen wrt the negotiations themselves for them to be regarded as constitutional and respectful of the rule of law. Once the April 7th Quebec election is out of the way, if the PQ has their majority Ottawa should table Mark II, laying out what its negotiating mandate would be in any eventual negotiations (e.g. protection of minority rights, which means dismembering Quebec), and well as how Ottawa should respond if Quebec flouts the SCC rules on things like a clear question. Stern but bracing stuff!

NAFTA disappoints, but what to do?

In my latest screed for the ROB, I point out that for all its benefits, NAFTA is now showing its age. Twenty-five years after Canada and the US signed their bilateral FTA on which NAFTA was later based, attention in trade liberalisation and economic integration has shifted to other forums, such as Canada-EU and US-EU trade negotiations, or the TPP. Yet while new benefits won in such negotiations are also likely to benefit our NAFTA partners, other things are specific to the NAFTA relationship, like border management and regulatory mutual recognition. Despite that there seems little appetite on the part of the US to think North America, even though their economy is hurt by the many barriers that remain between our highly integrated economies.

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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