[Halifax] – Policy options put forward by the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies during its first four years are showing real signs of taking root, says the Institute’s fourth annual report, released today.

AIMS’ research papers and books have been in the forefront of regional discussions about concepts as diverse as the stultifying effect of long-term dependency, the potential of property rights as a fishery management tool, and the benefits of charter schools in strengthening the public school system and allowing parents both choice and a good measure of control over their children’s education.

Over a period of time, said AIMS president Don Cayo, much of this once controversial analysis has become accepted as a starting point for discussions about where public policy should go from here.

“The point is that, while ideas percolate slowly through society, they do percolate. Seeds planted,” he said, “have taken root and continue to sprout and grow.”

Meanwhile, the Institute continues to plant more seeds.

Last year, for example, it took its first in-depth look at rural development with a conference in Sackville, NB and it initiated public discussions on a wide range of issues from the market’s role in protecting the environment to the lingering perversities of the new Employment Insurance system. Its most recent study was a 40-year look-ahead at population levels, all likely to decline, in each of the four Atlantic Provinces.

And much of AIMS’ efforts throughout the year, Mr. Cayo said, was devoted to research that won’t be published for a few months yet.

“Fred McMahon, our senior policy analyst, devoted most of the year to a new book that I believe will lay out a blueprint to dramatically speed economic growth in the region,” he said. “His first book, Looking the Gift Horse in the Mouth, analyzed how the region has been ill-served by decades of dependence and politicized spending. His new book, based on in-depth examination of several successful economies around the world, will spell out how to manage the economy for much more rapid growth.

“Equally important, in my view, are the ideas being explored in a second book being written on contract to AIMS by Brian Flemming, a Halifax writer, consultant and businessman. He is looking at how our governments can dramatically streamline the myriad regulations that so often hamstring development. He makes a strong case that regulations can, at the same time, protect the public and make life much easier for the regulated businesses.”

Mr. McMahon has finished writing his book, and it is being prepared for publication. Mr. Flemming’s book will follow a few months later.

AIMS chairman Purdy Crawford says in the report that the Institute, funded entirely by private money, is making steady progress in fund-raising by attracting new business supporters. It is approaching its goal of have all of its day-to-day expenditures covered by sustaining business donations, and a modest surplus that can be devoted to special projects.