At MLI, we are attempting to influence the development and implementation of sound federal public policy by ensuring decision makers are informed of the best policy options. Measuring our influence is crucial to measuring our success. In our Impact Report for 2015 we have documented our achievements in informing policy decisions in the areas of Aboriginal affairs, justice, the economy, security issues, health care, labour, and transportation issues. In addition, we examine how MLI is consistently rising in think tank ratings, and publishing high-quality work efficiently, with the least number of staff in comparison to our leading competitors: Fraser, C.D. Howe, CIGI and IRPP.
Think Tank Rankings
The Macdonald-Laurier Institute has seen a steady rise in the world’s foremost think tank rankings. The University of Pennsylvania’s Think Tanks in Civil Society Program’s annual rankings for 2015 ranked MLI as the top think tank in Ottawa and fourth in the country, climbing from 9th in 2011, 8th in 2012 and 2013, and 7th in 2014.
MLI’s ranking in the same index rose from 20th in 2010 to 3rd in 2012 in the World’s Best New Think Tank category. MLI is no longer eligible for that category.
MLI is by far the best value of the top four Canadian think tanks, with both a budget and a personnel complement that are a fraction the size of our longer established competitors: Fraser Institute, C.D. Howe, CIGI and IRPP.
MLI Senior Fellow Benjamin Perrin authored a report in late 2014 making the case that the Supreme Court of Canada was the “policy-maker of the year”. This led to a response by none other than retired Supreme Court Justice Louis LeBel, who strongly disagreed in the Toronto Star in January 2015 that the Court was intruding on Parliament's policy-making role. Yet several of his colleagues have since written in judgments in 2015 that the Court has been doing just that, which was detailed in Perrin’s most recent report. Perrin’s review of the Court’s top cases in 2015 was widely read and reported on, including a front-page above the fold story in the Ottawa Citizen and interviews with dozens of CBC morning shows across the country.
Scott Newark, whose MLI work has guided government decisions on handling human smuggling and collecting and analysing crime statistics, is now advising a new Senate Justice Committee investigation into inefficiency in the justice system which will draw substantially on MLI’s work.
Philip Cross’s 2015 paper on the use of sick leave in the public service, titled A Sickness in the System, revealed a large and growing gulf in how public servants use sick leave compared to the private sector. The paper caused quite a stir in both public service unions and management, according to Kathryn May at the Citizen and Cross’s contacts in the civil service. We heard from numerous managers who were grateful for the exposure of the issue. This paper was also covered in a story above the fold in the Citizen, and widely in other publications, as well as radio and television interviews.
Cross’s paper, Serving up the Reality on Youth Unemployment, on how youth unemployment is overstated by including 15-years-olds, is leading Statscan to reconsider their inclusion. Cross revealed that younger teens are creating the appearance of a crisis in youth unemployment, but older youths, in their early 20s, are employed at historical norms. Removing 15-year-olds from the Labour Force Survey will give a clear picture of the important issue of youth employment.
Aboriginal Canada and the Natural Resource Economy
After reading several of the MLI ACNRE reports, including one on the Northern Gateway Pipeline, Greg D’Avignon, President of the Business Council of British Columbia, invited MLI Senior Fellow Ken Coates to present at the BC Premier's Forum on Natural Resources. After the first event, where he endorsed MLI's work, he then invited Coates to come to the 2016 Forum, where he introduced Coates as a Senior Fellow at MLI and described the Institute’s work as the most important effort being made to explain and understand the role of Indigenous peoples in relation to the natural resource sector.
A senior employee with the First Nations Financial Management Board asked Coates to join their consultation processes in British Columbia which are exploring new means of financing Aboriginal equity investments in the resource sector. In inviting Coates to the meeting, he indicated that, together with Douglas Eyford (author of the influential report, Forging Partnerships, Building Relationships: Aboriginal Canadians and Energy Development, which drew heavily on MLI’s work), MLI had an established reputation as the most informed and respected source of analysis and recommendations for Indigenous peoples and the natural resource agenda.
The Aboriginal Affairs Committee of the Mining Association of Canada invited MLI to each of their meetings, twice annually to provide updates and advice on the natural resource sector and Aboriginal engagement. Aside from these presentations to the top executives with responsibilities in the field, MAC requests our advice on major policy initiatives and we are consulted by them regularly.
Following a meeting with senior policy officials in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada early in 2015, MLI (Drs. Crowley and Coates) was invited to present our work to a meeting of approximately 25 Assistant Deputy Ministers from across the federal civil service. This two-hour session included a brief presentation and more than an hour of intense and engaging questions and answers with senior officials. Immediately after this event, Dr. Coates led a discussion with close to 30 senior officials within Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (which led to three follow-up sessions with units within AANDC and Human Resources and Social Development Canada).
MLI’s Senior Fellow Dwight Newman has also had the influence of his work on Aboriginal issues felt. The final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) on residential schools cited the paper he and Coates authored on the Tsilhqot'in decision, The End is Not Nigh, making its message part of the forward-looking portion of the TRC Report.
Newman was invited during the course of the year to contribute to two discussions with governments considering aspects of their policies on the “duty to consult” Aboriginal communities on resource developments, with Alberta’s Deputy Minister of Indigenous Relations, and an individual doing a high-level study of the federal government’s policies. In both cases the individuals involved mentioned Newman’s MLI work as being of particular interest.
As well, the lead partner in Aboriginal law at a major Canadian law firm, McMillan LLP, has repeatedly noted the contributions of Newman’s work for MLI to public understanding on Aboriginal law issues, and had him speak to a group composed of dozens of significant individuals from BC industry and government.
First Nations leaders have taken notice of the positive and constructive nature of MLI’s work. At a 2015 event intended to answer the TRC’s call to action, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Perry Bellegarde, called for a new approach to policy work on Aboriginal issues, and pointed to the MLI work done by Ken Coates as the kind of practical, impactful research that Canada needs more of.
Harold Calla, executive chair of the First Nations Financial Management Board has sought MLI’s support as a leader on the issue of Aboriginal equity in resource projects. And Haisla Nation Chief Ellis Ross, and Manny Jules, Commissioner of the First Nations Tax Commission, have reached out to actively participate in and contribute to MLI’s policy work.
Finally, a dinner MLI held bringing business leaders, Aboriginal leaders and government together in Saskatoon so impressed the Saskatchewan Treaty Commissioner that he recruited Ken Coates to travel across Saskatchewan to host similar meetings, and work directly with those affected by controversy over resource development. These meetings have served as a model for another series of MLI meetings in BC under the auspices of the BC Chamber of Commerce, which began in 2015. These meetings are a terrific example of how this project has moved to a new phase of working directly with affected parties to find practical solutions.
MLI author Malcolm Cairns, a consultant on transportation issues, was asked to brief a member of the secretariat of the Canada Transportation Act Review Panel on details of his February 2015 MLI paper, Staying on the Right Track. Cairns, who was involved in the 2000 CTA review and is a former rail executive, makes the case that Canada has a well-functioning and competitive rail industry and recommends against intrusive and costly new regulations on freight rail. The CTA Panel, headed by former MP David Emerson, submitted its report to the Transportation Minister in December 2015 and it was tabled in February 2016. The majority of its recommendations on freight rail policy were in keeping with Cairns’ recommendations, most crucially steps toward removing government interference on the shipment of grain. A quote from Cairns’ MLI paper was especially highlighted in the CTA review report.
As a result of an op-ed in Postmedia papers and an MLI commentary paper published following the Paris terror attacks in November 2015, MLI Senior Fellow Alex Wilner was invited to headline a day-long workshop on the future of Canada’s war with ISIS by the Department of National Defence in February 2016. The focus of the discussion was the global and strategic counterterrorism issues that he raised in his MLI publications.
Wilner was also invited by the Communications Security Establishment to lead a two-hour workshop with over 200 security and intelligence analysts from across the federal public service in mid-February 2016, and the organizers cited Wilner’s published work with MLI as one reason for the invitation.
MLI Senior Fellow Christian Leuprecht, one of Canada’s foremost experts on security issues, was asked to appear before a number of parliamentary committees on security issues in 2015, a year in which Leuprecht published numerous opinion pieces and commentaries with MLI.
On March 23, 2015, Leuprecht appeared before the Senate of Canada Standing Committee on National Security and Defence to testify about Bill C-44: An Act to Amend the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and other Acts.
On March 23, 2015, Leuprecht participated in a hearing by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security on Bill C-51, An Act to enact the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act and the Secure Air Travel Act, to amend the Criminal Code, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts. On April 2, 2015 he participated in hearings by the Senate of Canada Standing Committee on National Security and Defence to discuss the same issues. During the hearings he defended and rationalized the ends of C-51 but made two key recommendations on the means: more effective parliamentary oversight through a committee of MPs who are security cleared as happens in the UK (an approach the current government seems to be adopting), and he suggested the powers of SIRC (the Security Intelligence Review Committee) be broadened to be able to follow CSIS intelligence through Canadian agencies to which CSIS hands off intelligence. Indications are that it looks like the current government may be looking at the whole review mechanism.
On March 31, 2015 Leuprecht appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance to discuss the issue of Terrorist Financing in Canada and Abroad.
On May 28, 2015 Leuprecht participated in hearings on Bill C-59, the budget implementation act before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.
On May 4, 2015 Leuprecht appeared before the Senate of Canada Standing Committee on National Security and Defence for a Study on Security Threats Facing Canada. He asked the committee to consider why immigrants integrate relatively well in Canada and why Canada’s problem with political violence has thus far been relatively small, but expressed concern about developments such as ethnic clusters where immigrants appear not to integrate or acquire either official language effectively. Several of his recommendations were subsequently included in the Senate committee’s interim report.
Our Asian Flavour for Medicare paper led to an invitation for authors Ito Peng and James Tiessen to present the paper in a panel at a conference hosted by The Canadian Association for Healthcare Reimbursement in November, 2015. There were over 100 health care professionals, policy leaders and members of the media in the audience.
Impact by Other Authors
Managing Director Brian Lee Crowley has a national profile that is higher than that of any other think tank head in the country. He is regularly interviewed by a range of print, online and broadcast media on issues of vital national importance. His columns on a wide array of national public policy issues appear regularly in the Globe (twice a month) and the Postmedia papers (once a month), reaching an audience of hundreds of thousands and carrying the flag of the institute.
Crowley also accepts scores of speaking invitations annually across the country and internationally where he showcases the work of MLI before audiences numbering in the thousands, and building our relationship with important sponsoring organisations such as the BC Business Council, ResourceWorks, the Chartered Professional Accountants Association, the Conference for Advanced Life Underwriting, numerous chambers of commerce, Alberta Roadbuilders, the Economic Club of Canada, the Calgary Energy Summit, Enbridge's Aboriginal Equity Partners, the Canada-New England Business Council, Harvard University, the US Chamber of Commerce, Denton’s law firm, CAMPUT (Canada’s Energy and Utility Regulators, the Grains Council, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, and the embassies of the UK, Japan, Korea, the EU and many others.