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Part One: A FEW SPACES LEFT – Former Alberta Treasurer, Jim Dinning, to speak on managing Oil & Gas wealth on 7 March in Halifax

Industry players, local investors, regional suppliers, and government representatives are all lining up to hear Alberta’s former provincial Treasurer Jim Dinning share with us Alberta’s hard-earned experience in what to do, and not do, in managing oil and gas wealth.

There has been a great deal of talk in Atlantic Canada about the benefits a windfall from our natural resources will bring. Yet such wealth has proven a mixed blessing for many places that have not learned – or learned too late – how to manage it. In this luncheon talk on 7 March 2002, Jim Dinning will highlight the pitfalls that Alberta experienced and describe the strategies they used to get beyond those early stumbles and create a Canadian economic juggernaut.

Mr. Dinning is the executive vice president, Sustainable Development & External Relations, for TransAlta, Canada’s largest non-regulated electric generation and marketing company. Prior to joining TransAlta in August 1997, Mr. Dinning held several key positions during his 11 years as a member of the legislative.

For more information, or to register for this event, go to:

Part Two: New AIMS Paper on Accountability & Testing in Education

The message from AIMS’ latest Research Report on testing and accountability in education is simple: governments cannot claim to be properly managing our educational resources, money and students, without using standardised tests for basic benchmarks. To be of value, however, these test results must be reported showing school, school board, and provincial achievement standards, so that teachers, parents, and taxpayers can determine how well students are doing in comparison with other students.

“Testing and Accountability: The Keys to Educational Excellence in Atlantic Canada” also examines the criticisms often levelled at standardised testing, such as that they don’t measure real student progress, or that they impoverish students’ educational experience because teachers must “teach to the test”. The authors find that these criticisms do not withstand critical examination. While properly designed standardised testing is not the only evaluative tool that parents, students and schools need, it is an indispensable one according to the latest research.


Part Three: Drug Use in Canada: Opportunity Lost

In this op-ed piece published in the Ottawa Citizen, AIMS’ Fellow in Health Care Policy, Dr. David Zitner, builds on the theme of the Institute’s recently released research paper, Public Health, State Secret. He emphasizes that, although the Canadian government is spending huge amounts of tax money on health information, they are gaining little useful knowledge about what is really happening in the current system. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the field of pharmaceuticals. Dr. Zitner stresses that although Canadians ingested over $15 billion in drugs and complementary medicines last year, no one knows whether their affects were harmful or helpful. No Canadian province has routine systems to inquire systematically and learn about the outcomes of pharmaceuticals, although if they did, they could inform clinicians about the results of the care they provide, and save lives.


Part Four: Time is money – even for natural resource industries

A widely- used mineral price index shows that most natural resource prices have fallen by 50% in real terms since 1950. Yet in Newfoundland the idea that natural resources increase in value the longer one leaves them in the ground has been used to justify policies that drove away investors, created regulatory bottlenecks and prolonged jurisdictional disputes. The results, according to Peter Fenwick, AIMS’ voice on Newfoundland and Labrador and former Director of Communications at the Institute, is severe damage to the offshore oil sector, delays in the development of the Voisey’s Bay nickel project and a succession of governments that have let the waters of the Churchill River flow to the ocean without producing any wealth.

In this piece, Fenwick considers whether recent setbacks in Newfoundland’s offshore oil industry will inject some semblance of reality into the collective consciousness, and lead to policies that promote wealth generation now before the resources decline another 50% in value.


Part Five: Are physicians businesspeople? What economics can tell us about how physicians practise medicine

An Introduction to the Microeconomics of Physician Practice In this, the second of AIMS’ working papers on health care reform, author and health care economist Brian Ferguson explores the economics of medical practice. He discovers that, once the effects of the extremely complicated administrative environment within which medical care is delivered is allowed for, the suppliers of medical services behave in exactly the same manner as do the suppliers of other services. Contrary to widespread belief, there is nothing intrinsically different about the economics of MD practice. If we continue to operate the national health care system on the assumption that physicians are not economic beings, we will simply get deeper into trouble. Any changes we make to medicare have to recognize that, unpalatable though it may be to some, economic behaviour is the same in this market as it is in any other.


Part Six: Evolution’s new role: Survival of the most helpful

he effects of biological natural selection today are doubtless more muted than at any time in human history. The efforts of humanity, and particularly Western civilization, have allowed us to shelter one another from the ravages of natural selection, through education, vaccination, sanitation, redistribution of wealth, labour laws, agricultural innovation, and a whole host of other institutions that have softened the pitiless rigours of the natural world. But that doesn’t mean that nothing is changing. In this column, AIMS President, Brian Lee Crowley, demonstrates that whatever else characterizes our modern societies, change on a grand scale is a huge constant.

But that change is so vast, and happening so quickly, that natural biological selection, which works over millennia, cannot possibly keep up. The natural selection that matters in the world today is not of individuals for their genetic endowment, but rather the selection of social institutions for the benefits they confer on us. The long Cold War was such a struggle, a struggle ultimately won by institutions that were built on the foundations of individual freedom and moral worth. Across the globe, similar struggles go on every day, and the institutions that seem to emerge and spread, however fitfully, are those based on values such as the primacy of the individual, universal education, and equality before the law.


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