Part One: Peter Fenwick on Newfoundland’s Showdown with its Unions

In a battle reminiscent of the Winnipeg general strike, close to 20,000 public service workers in Newfoundland walked off the job April 1st in the largest job action in provincial history. Hospitals workers, highways workers, general government workers and many school board support staff have set up picket lines from Cape Spear to Nain, Labrador. Although the unions walked out over the monetary terms of a new collective agreement, the fight is more about what shape the new Newfoundland economy will take. The unions are reeling from the recently tabled budget that proposed laying off 4000 public employees over four years, an eighth of the provincial public service. And while those cuts will hurt, it is difficult to see what else the government could do.

Part Two: AIMS on ACOA: “a program mistaken in principle.”

In April of 2004, the Halifax Chronicle Herald began a series of articles reviewing the federal government’s principal economic development arm in the region, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. The debate over the value of ACOA, or lack thereof, has been brewing since its formation the 1980s. The Agency has been plagued with reports of politicized spending, inept business evaluations and lack of accountability resulting in millions of dollars of wasted tax dollars. Supporters of ACOA say it is a valuable tool for initiating business activity in the region and its problems have been cleaned up by replacing grants with loans. In this article, by the Chronicle Herald’s Clare Mellor, AIMS president Brian Lee Crowley says it’s not a matter of grants versus loans, “any program that depends on civil servants to decide which businesses should succeed and which businesses should fail is a program that is mistaken in principle.”

Part Three: Patient Power Starts Here: AIMS in the National Post

While federal and provincial governments bicker over health care, technology is opening new routes for Canadians to escape the restrictions of the inefficient public sector health care monopoly while making access to health care services quicker and more convenient. And it doesn’t even violate the Canada Health Act! Healthcare co-ops, for example, not only empower patients to consult their doctors more conveniently, but also inject more money into the health system without raising taxes and improve the speed and efficiency of delivery. In this commentary from the April 5th, 2004 National Post, AIMS’ Fellow in Health Care Policy, Dr. David Zitner, explains how the healthcare co-op may be one way ensure Canadians get the healthcare they need, while the provinces fumble with the status quo. You can read the original full text here. (A slightly edited version appeared in the National Post)

Part Four: Shifting Power to the People: Brian Lee Crowley on cutting taxes

a) Was John Hamm’s tax cut justified?

Nova Scotians are carrying an excessive tax burden, but when the Hamm government cut taxes, it came under intense criticism. In his regular column in the Chronicle Herald, Brian Lee Crowley says that policy makes sense because taxes are a good thing only up to a point. Economists have proven time and again that after that point, the harder you tax, the lower the benefit and the higher the cost. If we want better quality public services, the best way to achieve it is to make the economy grow and take a smaller share of wealth in taxes. But our high level of taxes prevents that growth. That’s why no one ever taxed their way to prosperity.

b) Do tax differences affect growth? Comparing NB and NS

Throughout Atlantic Canada, people are carrying an excessive tax burden, and the puts us at a competitive disadvantage compared to many other jurisdictions that are struggling to get their tax levels down. There is lots of evidence that tax levels do matter. Even within the region, tax differentials are related to economic performance. For example, in 1991-92, New Brunswick was collecting just over 115 percent of the revenue per taxpayer that Nova Scotia was. Ten years later, it was over 117 percent. Between 1996 and 2002, Nova Scotia’s cumulative GDP growth was higher, its population decline slower and its unemployment performance on the whole better than New Brunswick’s, despite the latter consistently spending roughly $1000 per person more on public services (not including debt charges) every year. Neither Nova Scotia nor New Brunswick has anything to boast about when compared to other places that are making more progress in bringing down taxes, but the comparison can still tell us something about the trade-offs to be made between high taxes and overall economic growth. If we want better quality public services, the best way to achieve it is to make the economy grow and take a smaller share of wealth in taxes. But our high level of taxes prevents that growth. That’s why no one ever taxed their way to prosperity. 

Part Five: Self-Governing Bands and Municipal Governments: Bridging the gap

Two of the hottest topics in Canadian public policy today are the future of local government and aboriginal self-government. AIMS, which has taken a growing interest in both, is delighted to make available this important new commentary on the relationship between these two issues. John D. Weston, a long-time friend and supporter of AIMS and a prominent BC lawyer, is Lead Counsel for the Chief Mountain Legal Challenge to the new Nisga’a Treaty on Canada’s west coast. In this Keynote Address to the Canadian Institute Conference on Provincial / Municipal Liability, Mr. Weston tackles some of the most contentious public policy issues of our time, and does so energetically and thoughtfully. He argues that aboriginal land claim negotiations, including the benchmark Nisga’a Treaty, are changing not only the map of Canada, but also the legal and perhaps constitutional landscape, including local government. He asks, which law applies? Which courts have jurisdiction? Which dispute resolution processes are to be used? In his talk, Weston also offers specific recommendations to local government and developers that may well find themselves entangled in this “cutting edge” area of law.

Part Six: AIMS on the urban/rural divide in Atlantic Business

Emotions run high in the debate over the survival of rural Canada. Those who suggest that some communities may simply not be viable are met with strong opposition from those who feel their community must be saved. Well-intended government programs have poured billions of dollars into the Atlantic region to prop up failing industries, often in rural areas, yet this policy has clearly not served the region well. In this month’s edition of Atlantic Business Magazine, Sandra Phinney talks with people on various sides of this argument. AIMS president Brian Lee Crowley says it’s not a question of city versus small town, “But we have to be honest and say that that not every rural community is going to survive. We don’t live in a world that stands still.” To read the full article, visit the Atlantic Business Magazine website at