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Part One: Port-Ability: A Private Sector Strategy for the Port of Halifax

This just-released study represents an important step forward in not only understanding the major changes taking place in the marine transportation industry, but also the opportunities those changes offer to Halifax. It is clear that the global trend towards private sector ownership, or at least management, of ports and the accountability and incentives that come from that, has been the driving force behind most of the global port success stories.

According to the report, for Halifax to achieve a position as a true global player, it has to get past the limitations of Canada’s public port authority structures and secure a private sector-driven solution modeled on successes achieved elsewhere. The report lays out the benefits to be gained through a private sector joint venture operating a global trans-shipment terminal capable of handling the biggest ships on the drawing board and then some. “Port-Ability” further argues that this joint venture should include at least CN and either a global shipping line or a global terminal operator in order to guarantee the necessary volume of containers and then move those containers to market at the cheapest possible price.

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Part Two: AIMS major generator of new policy thinking: Michael Bliss

Michael Bliss, a distinguished Canadian historian and policy thinker recently expressed his concern that the absence of strong party competition at the federal level means that political parties are not generating the renewal in policy thinking Canada needs. One of the alternative sources of fresh thinking that he sees filling that vacuum is a handful of national public policy institutes, including AIMS. Bliss says that these think tanks are among the very few groups capable of generating the energy Canada needs to renew itself politically. Fortunately, people with new political ideas have not stopped thinking and writing, they have simply turned to think tanks as they have turned away from partisan politics or government service.

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Part Three: National Post turns to AIMS for new thinking on equalization

Ottawa’s equalization system ostensibly exists to provide an average level of public services to all Canadians, but John Lorinc, writing in the National Post, ponders whether the system has not in fact entrenched the very inequality it was meant to cure. Lorinc finds a great deal of support for this hypothesis. In Nova Scotia he finds spending on special needs education that is only half that in Ontario, in Manitoba he finds Winnipeg (once Canada’s third largest metropolis) living through 30 years of steady decline, and in Ottawa he finds only a handful of policymakers who truly understand the system. Having identified the problem, Lorinc turns to AIMS and other Canadian think tanks as a source for fresh ideas about equalization.

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Part Four: The cruel hand of equalization

The time has never been better for the Atlantic provinces to lessen their dependence on federal transfers and to become masters of their own fate. Energy prices are high, shortages are emerging in Canada’s major US markets, and the Prime Minister has responded favourably to US requests to speed up the development of new energy supplies. Yet, on average, about 40% of provincial budgets in the four Atlantic provinces still come from federal transfers, most in the form of equalization. AIMS President Brian Crowley and AIMS author Ken Boessenkool outline a straightforward solution to this dilemma in this op-ed piece published in The National Post. Removing nonrenewable natural resources from the equalization formula would provide the Atlantic Provinces with the incentive to rely on natural resources development as a centrepiece of their economic strategy in place of pleading for larger transfers from equalization. Gone would be the days when an Atlantic province might forfeit a nickel mine, or forgo sound long-term development of offshore oil and gas deposits because of the perverse incentives of the equalization program.

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