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Part One: Regulating Petroleum Prices in Newfoundland Doomed To Failure

Last Friday, January 3, 2003 could have been the start of the end for regulated oil prices in Newfoundland and Labrador says Peter Fenwick, AIMS’ voice on Newfoundland and Labrador.

On January 3, 2003 Western Petroleum forced the politically appointed Newfoundland oil pricing commissioner to increase the price of a litre of gasoline by 5.8 cents, a full two weeks early. It was only a brief reprieve for the largest independent gasoline chain in the province, but it may signal the end of the Petroleum Pricing Commission.

Western Petroleum is a local home grown company that is trying to compete with some of the largest companies in the world. That in itself is difficult. But when you have to take on your own government in the guise of a politically appointed commissioner who wants you to sell for less than your costs, your job is that much harder.

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Part Two: Unhealthy spending threatens healthcare

Expenditure on Medical Care in Canada: Looking at the Numbers

This paper demonstrates conclusively that medicare’s much-heralded success at cost control is illusory. Simply put, the introduction of medicare did not introduce a period of health care cost control in Canadian health spending.

The reason the Canadian health expenditure to GDP share fell below the US figure was not because of differences in the rate of growth of health spending, but rather because Canada happened to have the good fortune to bring medicare in during a period in which the Canadian economy outdid the US economy in terms of real growth.

Had our economic growth been as weak as US growth through the 1970s and ’80s, for two decades our health spending to GDP share would have been higher than the actual US GDP share. In other words, Canada would have had the most expensive health care system in the world, a situation that would have changed only in the 1990s when governments got serious about its fiscal crisis.

The Non-Sustainability of Health Care Financing Under the Medicare Model

This new AIMS paper argues that, without real substantial reform, we are not going to escape our place as big spenders on health care any time soon. A dramatically aging population, the introduction of new and ever more expensive medical technologies and rising consumer demands for the highest quality, leading-edge health care are driving costs beyond the capabilities of the health care system to afford them while relying on public financing alone. The sustainability of the health care system ultimately depends on whether public budgets can continue to absorb the costs of health care for Canadians, and the evidence indicates that the medicare approach is failing and will not be able to fulfill expectations without fundamental reforms.

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Part Three: AIMS expands national and international reputation in 2002

With its third Sir Antony Fisher Award coming in April 2002, AIMS’ already sterling international reputation was cemented in only our ninth year of existence as we joined a very select group of policy Institutes to have won this prestigious international award more than twice.

The award came in recognition of our innovative partnership with the Montreal Economic Institute (MEI) and the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (FCPP) in Winnipeg on the issue of equalization. This partnership led to the release of a series of innovative papers that fed the national debate on this issue throughout the summer. Appearing before the House and Senate, AIMS set the stage for informed policy debate on this critical federal issue.

Equalization was not the only issue of national scope taken up by AIMS in 2002 – Health Care was the issue that saw 2002 close with a flurry of activity from AIMS. The release of Definitely NOT the Romanow Report, and its accompanying 12 background papers, placed AIMS front and centre as a leader in the national debate on health care and as the primary source for reasoned alternatives to the complacent defence of the status quo presented in the report of the Romanow Commission. The Definitely NOT the Romanow Report was the culmination of three years of effort by AIMS.

Beyond equalization and health care, AIMS authors also took up the gauntlet on cross border cooperation with the US, the role of cities in the growth of the national economy, appropriate federal economic and social policies, natural gas distribution and export, and the future of Canadian fishery and aquaculture policy were all taken up by AIMS authors this year.

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Part Four: Restoring prices for services drives productivity & efficiency in Swedish health care

One of AIMS’ most popular commentary series returns as Johan Hjertqvist, internationally known health care reformer, discusses the positive effects of the reintroduction of prices for health care procedures in Sweden.

According to Hjertquist, among the important reforms to the medicare model in Stockholm, no single step has been of greater importance than the restoration of prices for health care procedures in hospitals. The acronym for the price tag per treatment is known as “Diagnostic Related Group”. The DRG price mechanism, introduced in 1990, underpins the remarkable increases in productivity and efficiency in the delivery of publicly funded Swedish health care. By attaching an official price tag to every hospital treatment, government budget makers enabled providers both to improve their performance and to shift the system’s focus to the needs of health-care consumers.

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Part Five: AIMS seeks:

AIMS seeks Director of Research

AIMS is seeking a Director of Research to work from the Institute’s head office in Halifax.

The Director of Research must have an excellent policy mind, a gift for written and oral communications and a drive to improve the quality of public policy in Atlantic Canada and the country generally. As a member of the executive team, the successful candidate will play a leading role in defining and carrying out the research, publication, education, conference, media and other activities of one of the country’s most successful public policy think tanks.

The position is full time. Salary is negotiable. Applications will be accepted until the post is filled. While AIMS appreciates all expressions of interest, only candidates who are to be interviewed will be contacted. For details on how to apply, please go to www.aims.ca/Main/jobs.htm

AIMS seeks summer intern

AIMS expects to offer a four-month internship beginning in May, 2003, subject to foundation funding being made available. Internships are intended to introduce bright and innovative final-year undergraduate or graduate students to the policy making process, involve them in the important questions and issues of the day, and to give them a chance to make a tangible and worthwhile contribution to the work of the Institute. Applications are welcome from a wide range of disciplines including economics, public policy, commerce and business administration, law, history, political science, etc.

Internships can vary depending on the policy area upon which the intern wishes to focus. Part of the internship application process will involve candidates presenting a detailed proposal for a major project to be carried out over the course of the internship. The major project should be in an area related to AIMS’ broad research interests and should culminate not only in the production of a publication quality research report and associated op-ed pieces but should also be directed towards laying the foundation for an expanded application to funders for follow-up work in the subject area.

In general, applicants should possess strong writing abilities, a talent for research and excellent communication skills. During the internship program, participants will participate in regular discussions on policy issues that are designed to augment their day-to-day activities. In order to further enrich the internship experience, program participants are invited and encouraged to attend all AIMS activities whether in their policy area or not.

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