MLI Newsletter
Vol. V, No. 5
May 2, 2014






Northern Light: Lessons for America from Canada's Fiscal Fix


The Canadian Century 



Fearful Symmetry   






Stay in the know






In this edition...
Justice: A defence of mandatory minimum sentences
Governance: Completing the devolution revolution in Canada's North
Economic policy: How Canada adds value to its resources
Governance: It's time to end the neglect of Canada's 'Provincial Norths'
Institutions: Why serious Senate reform is the only option
International: Not your grandmother's Sweden
International: Why a Modi win will become a headache for Canada
Event: Crowley to address le Cercle de la finance internationale in Montreal
MLI in the media
MLI report: A defence of
mandatory minimum sentences

Today, mandatory sentencing tools are in the spotlight as Parliament continues to promote law-and-order legislation in response to the public's perception that Canada's criminal sentencing regime is overly lenient with offenders. This continues a trend in recent decades of federal governments placing such limits on judicial discretion.

Public commentary on the subject has been overwhelmingly negative, with mandatory sentencing rules meeting fierce criticism from members of the media and academia, and increasingly inventive attempts to subvert them by the judiciary.

But judicial discretion in sentencing has never meant an unfettered entitlement to impose any sentence deemed appropriate by a particular judge, according to a new report released today by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, titled "Parliamentary Restrictions on Judicial Discretion in Sentencing: A defence of mandatory minimum sentences". Prominent legal experts Lincoln Caylor and Gannon G. Beaulne argue these sentences are an effective tool for consistently applying the law while ensuring judges don't provide too much leniency to those who have been convicted of crimes, and that Parliament has a role to play in ensuring the application of justice is consistent with the moral judgment of society.


MLI study: Completing the devolution revolution
in Canada's North

"Canada is an incomplete nation", according to the authors of a major paper by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute that analyses the successes and failures of major recent changes to how people in the territories - Nunavut, Yukon and the Northwest Territories - govern themselves.

"Canada is a better nation for having found the means of sharing power with Aboriginal people and northerners generally", write MLI senior fellow Ken Coates and University of Saskatchewan Professor Greg Poelzer. But they note that many people in the North "still lack the services, equality of opportunity, and political authority necessary to effect positive change".

The paper, titled "An Unfinished Nation: Completing the devolution revolution in Canada's North" demonstrates that the key to successful governance of Canada's vast Arctic is the process of devolution. That is, the transfer of government power, authority, and resources from the national government to sub-national governments.

Coates and Poelzer had an op-ed on the subject published in the National Post.



Crowley in the Globe: How Canada adds value to its resources

Writing in the Globe and Mail, MLI Managing Director Brian Lee Crowley explains that while Canada is blessed with resource wealth, that alone is not what makes it such a wealthy country. Many jurisdictions that have abundant natural resources are poor or troubled, while some of the world's wealthiest societies "have no natural resources to speak of", he writes. Crowley argues that what makes Canada's resource endowment "almost uniquely valuable in the world is that it exists within another vastly more important endowment of rules, institutions and behaviours". The Globe ran an edited version of this column, and it generated a lot of response, including in the letters to the editor section.

MLI commentary: It's time to end the neglect of Canada's 'Provincial Norths'

Spare a thought for the "provincial Norths". An enormous region of this country is politically marginalized, with social and economic problems unheard of in southern Canada, and significantly worse than even those faced by the northern territories.

In a new commentary paper titled "The Next Northern Challenge: The Reality of the Provincial North," Macdonald-Laurier Institute senior fellow Ken Coates and University of Saskatchewan professor Greg Poelzer draw Canadians' attention to the varied jurisdictions of the northern portions of seven provinces, and the many problems they face.

The provincial North, despite the lack of national attention to the region, is of great importance to Canada's present and future. The sub-Arctic portions of the provinces have close to 1.5 million residents, hold enormous resource potential in oil and gas, forestry, mining, and hydro-electric development, and are home to dozens of culturally distinct First Nations, Métis, and Inuit groups. If this region were a province, it would have more Members of Parliament than any of the Maritime Provinces.

Coates and Poelzer wrote an op-ed on the subject for the Globe and Mail in January, titled "Why are Canadians ignoring the North Below the North?". And Greg Poelzer was interviewed about the paper by host Ed Hand at 1310News radio in Ottawa. Click here to listen to the audio.

Crowley in Postmedia papers: Why serious Senate reform is the only option

Writing in the Ottawa Citizen and Calgary Herald, MLI Managing Director Brian Lee Crowley comments on last Friday's Supreme Court ruling on the federal government's Senate reform reference. As someone who was involved in negotiating the Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords, Crowley acknowledges that Canadians are rightly reluctant to open constitutional negotiations. But, he points out, "unless we are simply to throw up our hands and admit that our nation lacks the will and the means to fix fundamental national challenges like this, serious constitutional reform is our only option". 

Crowley is the author of a bold plan for Senate reform in an MLI paper titled "Beyond Scandal and Patronage: A rationale and a strategy for serious Senate reform". 

Crowley was also interviewed by the National Post's John Ivison and Ed Hand on Ottawa's 1310News about the SCC ruling. 



Crowley in Diplomat & International Canada: Not your grandmother's Sweden

Writing in Diplomat and International Canada magazine, MLI Managing Director Brian Lee Crowley argues that the common perception of Sweden as a staunchly socialist society is increasingly out of date. Crowley cites numerous reforms that have left Sweden with lower taxes, a commitment to balanced budgets, and more private-sector competition. Crowley writes that "while Sweden's degree of socialism depends a little bit on what you mean by that term, there is little doubt that it has been furiously backpedalling from many of the nostrums of social democracy for decades".

Singh and Wilner in the Globe: Why a Modi win will become a headache for Canada

Writing in the Globe and Mail, MLI senior fellow Alex Wilner and Dalhousie research fellow Anita Singh raise the issue that Narendra Modi, frontrunner to become India's prime minister, has been refused a visa by Canada for years. They write: "His banishment has strained relations between Canada and Gujarat, a regional economic powerhouse. More broadly, it has also undercut Canada's effort to pursue economic relations with the rest of India", and they encourage the Canadian government to clarify its position on Modi prior to the results of the current elections in India.

Brian Lee Crowley to address le Cercle de la finance internationale in Montreal

Dr. Brian Lee Crowley, Managing Director at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, will be a guest speaker at the International Finance Club of Montreal on May 15, 2014 on the topic of "The natural resource sector: Economic opportunities, policy challenges". The luncheon will be held at the Saint-James Club, 1145 Union Street, Montreal. To register click here.
MLI in the media

Coates quoted by the CBC on Canada's narrowing wage gap


Statistics Canada reports that the gap in wages between Canadians with a high-school diploma and those holding a college or university degree is shrinking. According to the CBC, "high school grads are making wage gains, while the earnings of holders of a post-secondary school degree are staying flat - and in the case of young men, even decreasing". The CBC quotes MLI senior fellow Ken Coates as saying that we "overemphasize the so-called knowledge economy, but the reality is we have not yet produced very many of those jobs and what we have is a natural resource economy that's propping up the rest, and a service industry tagging along behind it".

The CBC reports: "Coates said the real lesson to be gleaned from the numbers is not that the fate of those with just a high school diploma is getting better, but rather that the fate of those who blindly pursue more schooling is stagnating. 'If you follow the swarm you're just going to walk over the cliff,' Coates said. 'When we keep focusing on what the economy looked like in 1980, we are doing a very poor service to young people coming out of high school.'"


Globe's Wente and OBJ cite MLI paper on policing costs


An MLI paper by Prof. Christian Leuprecht released in March continues to get attention in the media. Writing in the Globe and Mail, columnist Margaret Wente draws attention to the rising costs of policing in Orangeville, Ont. as an example of expanding police budgets. "That's the way it is across much of Canada", she writes. The cops and firefighters are taking home the biggest paycheques in town. While other public-sector salaries are frozen, their pay is rising faster than inflation. And the cost is eating small-town budgets alive". Wente cites Leuprecht's study which examines the factors driving the growth of police budgets in Canada and makes recommendations to reduce costs by re-evaluating the kinds of jobs we expect highly paid, uniformed officers to perform.

Also, in the Ottawa Business Journal, Ottawa Police Services Board chairman Eli El-Chantiry is reported to be considering measures similar to those recommended in the MLI paper, saying, "Really, do you need a police officer to do traffic (control)?" The OBJ reports that "Those in the security industry say the Macdonald-Laurier study highlights a golden opportunity for private companies", to offer services currently performed by uniformed officers.


Ken Coates discusses 'trigger warnings' on CBC's The Current


MLI senior fellow Ken Coates was recently part of a panel discussion on CBC Radio's The Current, discussing how universities should treat potentially disturbing material in class, and how to avoid triggering emotional distress in students. CBC notes that Oberlin College in Ohio "has passed a motion that requires professors to 'be aware of racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, able-ism, and other issues of privilege and oppression.' It also calls on professors to remove triggering material - anything that may cause a damaging emotional response - when it doesn't directly contribute to learning goals. It also encourages professors to 'strongly consider' making triggering material optional."

Coates argued that universities are very concerned with the psychological well-being of students and have many mechanisms to help them, but the he doesn't support warnings on class materials. "The world has changed and I think we should be really careful about being overprotective of university students", Coates said.

To listen to audio of the discussion click here.


Prince Arthur Herald runs MLI-inspired two-week series on campus free speech


Inspired by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute's recent Great Canadian Debate about free speech on campus, the Prince Arthur Herald, "an alternative newspaper" for students, recently ran a two-week series on free-speech issues at Canadian universities. At the MLI debate on March 27, National Post columnist Barbara Kay and York University professor Daniel Drache debated the resolution: "Free speech in Canadian universities is an endangered species". According to Prince Arthur Herald campus editor Clare Schulte-Albert, the PAH series was intended to examine, "What is the status of free speech on campus today? Has it improved or deteriorated? What are people doing about it? What can you do about it?"


Cross in the Post: The faulty assumptions behind 'Big CPP'


Writing in the Financial Post, Macdonald-Laurier Institute senior fellow Philip Cross addresses calls for expanding the Canada Pension Plan. Cross points out that the "crisis publicized by the pension 'industry' of academics and financial institutions lies in the future, and as such relies on assumptions and projections in models which are questionable". Cross argues that Canadian seniors can defy predictions by, for example, accepting a lower level of income in retirement or working longer, receiving assistance from family members, or taking advantage of the equity in their homes. Cross writes: "The fundamental flaw in using models to simulate the future of retirement is the underlying assumption that prospective retirees don't understand their financial circumstances".

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