Here is how I put it before the editors get to it and squeeze all the life out of it:
Born and raised in Vancouver, from a professional point of view I am a little hard to classify. Polite folks say that I am a public intellectual; the more literal-minded think of me as a public policy troublemaker. I am certainly a serial intellectual entrepreneur – I am the Managing Director of a new national think tank in Ottawa called the Macdonald-Laurier Institute. In January 2013 MLI (or ‘Emily’ to the cognoscenti) was named one of the top 3 new think tanks in the world by the Go-To Think Tank Project of the University of Pennsylvania. The Atlas Economic Research Foundation awarded our first book, The Canadian Century, the top international prize for excellence in think tank publications, the Sir Antony Fisher Award, in 2011. In October 2012 we won one of only two international Templeton Foundation Awards for outstanding achievement by a young institute awarded that year. In November, 2012, the building where MLI lives was rated one of the 100 most powerful buildings in Ottawa, because of who works there, including MLI!The sadly misinformed Hill Times insists on naming me one of the 100 most influential people in Ottawa most years.
Before I went to MLI I was the founding president of the country’s top regional think tank, the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS).
I also spent a couple of years (2006-08) in Ottawa as the Clifford Clark Visiting Economist at Finance Canada, meaning I was the Department of Finance’s one-man in-house think tank, policy gadfly and general pain-in-the-derrière. During this stint I was also on the Hill Times Top 100 list.
My penchant for policy commentary was further indulged during the two years I served on the Editorial Board at The Globe and Mail, where William Thorsell, the then Editor in Chief, in a fit of absent-mindedness called me “the finest writer on public policy in Canada today.”
I write a distressing amount of stuff – as one friend says, I am a “gassy bugger”. My output includes five books (Canadian Century: Moving out of America’s shadow, MLI’s first book, co-authored with my friends Jason Clemens and Niels Veldhuis, and a bestseller that has attracted a lot of attention on both sides of the border; MLI’s second book, Northern Light: Lessons for America from Canada’s Fiscal Fix (co-authored with Bob Murphy and Niels Veldhuis) which we launched in Washington DC in October 2012; Fearful Symmetry: The Fall and Rise of Canada’s Founding Values, which was released in September 2009, been through three printings and was the subject of energetic critical commentary; The Self, the Individual and the Community, Oxford University Press, 1987; The Road to Equity: Impolitic Essays, Stoddart, 1994;) and a sixth which I edited: Taking Ownership: Property Rights and Fishery Management on the Atlantic Coast, AIMS, 1996.
I have written a lot about various topics that you have to be a serious geek to be interested in: equalization, regional development, tax and fiscal policy, etc., but I also write lots about things a lot of people care about. Health care is one. I have twice won the Sir Antony Fisher Prize for excellence in think tank publications for my health care work, which helps explain how I ended up on the Alberta Premier’s Advisory Council on Health, as well as doing a lot of work with the think tank community in Washington DC.
Today I write regular columns for the Globe and Mail, Ottawa Citizen, Calgary Herald, Vancouver Sun and other major urban dailies, while at different times in the past I have been a columnist for various newspapers in Halifax, Moncton and Montreal. I am a talking head on CBC, Radio-Canada, CTV, Sun TV, TVO and many regional and local media with a frequency my tiny but vociferous band of detractors find distressing and explicable thanks only to a widespread conspiracy. I was a member of the National Political Panel on CBC Radio’s Morningside with the late Peter Gzowski.
I am a recovering academic, having been a tenured prof at Dalhousie, as well as having taught at many universities in Canada, the US, the UK and France. I elatedly gave up tenure to launch AIMS, and continue to think it was one of the best moves I ever made (the absolute best was marrying my wife Shelley). I have a jumble of letters after my name, most of which add up to degrees from McGill and the London School of Economics (including a doctorate in political economy from the latter) and a director’s certification from the Canadian Institute for Corporate Directors.
In addition, I have been constitutional advisor to the governments of Nova Scotia (Charlottetown negotiations) and Manitoba (Meech Lake negotiations) and had spells as a Salvatori Fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, a diplomat for the EC (now the EU) Commission, an aid administrator for the UN in Africa, an advisor to the Quebec government on parliamentary and electoral reform and a parliamentary intern at the House of Commons in Ottawa.
Contrary to a popular misconception I am no slave to ideology, but am totally enslaved by cats, notably Miss Mew, Ragnar Foggybottom and Rollo Fluffernutter. Sadly Mr Bits and Coco Puff are no more, having gone to their just reward due to old age in late 2014.
I live with my wife Shelley on the banks of the Rideau River just outside Ottawa.