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Equalisation: welfare trap or helping hand? This is the question AIMS, the Montreal Economic Institute and the Frontier Centre for Public Policy sought to answer at a conference in Montreal on October 25, 2001. These three private sector think tanks together represent all of the equalisation receiving provinces, giving them a unique perspective on the harm the current system has caused to their regions and the country as a whole.

As part of this conference, James Buchanan, Nobel Prize Laureate in Economics (1986), revisited the case for equalising grants during a luncheon conference at the University Club in Montreal. Earlier in the day private and public sector experts took part in a roundtable seeking to answer two questions: “What’s wrong with equalisation?” and, “How should equalisation be fixed?”

Equalization programmes can destroyed by politics and design flaws.
This was the message delivered in a dramatic presentation by Professor James Buchanan, 1986 Nobel Laureate in Economics at a conference in Montreal on October 25, 2001. The conference was co-hosted by the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, the Montreal Economic Institute and the Frontier Centre for Public Policy and explored the realities of equalization in the modern context.

Known as one of the “fathers of equalization” because his early writings were highly influential in the design of equalization programmes such as Canada’s, Buchanan took this opportunity to revisit his arguments of 50 years before. He said that he didn’t take enough account of how political interference with the operations of such programmes can outweigh the good intentions behind them.

Read Fiscal Equalization Revisited

Event Schedule:

Thursday, October 25, from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM University Club, 2047 Mansfield Street, Montreal
Roundtable from 9:00 AM to NOON

Session I: What’s Wrong with Equalisation?

  • Bev Dahlby, Professor, Department of Economics, University of Alberta;
  • Herb Grubel, Professor of Economics (Emeritus), Simon Fraser University & David Somerville Chair and Senior Fellow, Fraser Institute;
  • Annette Ryan, Senior Analyst – Federal Fiscal Relations, Department of the Provincial Treasury of Prince Edward Island

Session II: How Should Equalisation Be Fixed?

  • Ken Boessenkool, Adjunct Research Fellow, C.D. Howe Institute;
  • Paul Boothe, Professor, Institute for Public Economics, University of Alberta;
  • Michel Boucher, Professor, École nationale d’administration publique (ENAP) & Associate Researcher with the Montreal Economic Institute;
  • Paul Hobson, Professor, Department of Economics, Acadia University.

Luncheon Conference from Noon to 2:00PM

Federalism: The Case for Equalising Grants Arguments Revisited After A
Half Century
with James Buchanan, Nobel Prize Laureate in Economics (1986)


View selected photographs from this event.