Economic Note contrasting the fundamentally different approaches of companies and governments when it comes to the use of personal information
In the debate over the collection, sharing, and use of personal information, there exists a widespread prejudice according to which companies are less respectful of citizens’ privacy than governments are. Yet companies universally operate by means of mutual consent, whereas governments very rarely ask those concerned for permission to access their information.
Research Paper looking at the empirical connection between entrepreneurship and economic freedom
Entrepreneurship is one of the main engines of the economy. Entrepreneurs invest, create jobs, and help increase the standard of living of all. This Research Paper looks at the empirical connection between entrepreneurship and economic freedom. If there is a positive correlation between these two variables, then public policies aiming to support business creation must take this fact into account.
Viewpoint presenting five alternative ways of thinking about the cost of deficits and infrastructure spending
The federal deficit is rising, far beyond the $10 billion projected in the Liberal platform. It is widely repeated that now is a good time to borrow since interest rates are very low. Those who use this argument to justify borrowing forget that interest charges are not the only cost associated with deficits. This Viewpoint presents five alternative ways of thinking about the cost of deficits and infrastructure spending.
Research Paper showing how the tendency toward centralization, which has characterized forest regime reforms for decades, has undermined the competitiveness of the sector
Over time, the Quebec government has modified, on several occasions, the forest regime that governs the activities of the forestry industry. This Research Paper reviews the history of the forest concessions regime, the TSFMA regime, and the main events that influenced the new 2013 forest regime. It also proposes reforms inspired by the positive aspects of the former regimes and of practices that prevail elsewhere.
Economic Note describing a measure for collecting hospital quality data and making it transparent and accessible to Quebec patients
Choosing the right hospital can be a difficult decision for patients and their families. In 2005, in order to provide more transparency and facilitate evidence-based decisions, Germany began requiring that all hospitals publish structured quality reports every two years. These reports are meant to allow patients to compare the level of quality of each hospital. Doctors can also base their referrals on these reports. This kind of transparency leads to the continuous improvement of the quality of medical treatment.
Economic Note providing an overview of the history of public transit in Montreal and of international experiences with private involvement
Over the past few decades, the costs of public transit in Montreal have outpaced services rendered. This occurred while many municipalities around the world opted to reform their public transit systems by increasing the involvement of the private sector. This Economic Note provides an overview of the history of public transit in Montreal and of international experiences with private involvement.
Research Paper providing an overview of the history and current state of tobacco policy in Canada, with a focus on the debate over plain packaging
In Canada, tobacco is one of the most regulated and controlled industries, and smoking, because it is hazardous to one’s health, is one of the most heavily regulated behaviours. It thus provides a good example of how far risky behaviour is being regulated and taxed in Canada. The case of tobacco may also hint at how government might next regulate and tax other industries like alcohol, fast food, and sugary beverages.
Viewpoint contrasting the widespread costs and concentrated benefits of softwood lumber protectionism
Despite multiple legal setbacks before WTO and NAFTA tribunals, American softwood lumber producers are still calling for the imposition of limits and tariffs on Canadian imports, arguing that they represent unfair competition because they are subsidized. If no agreement is ratified before October 12, 2016, imports from Canada could be subject to tariffs of up to 25%. The case of softwood lumber is a good illustration of how protectionism provides benefits for a limited group, all while harming a majority.
Viewpoint illustrating how supply management hurts low-income Canadian households
As a result of a recent decision by the Canadian Dairy Commission, the price of industrial milk is set to increase on September 1st, 2016. Numerous studies have found that supply management, under which Canada’s dairy and poultry sectors operate, imposes a large cost per family through higher consumer prices than could be obtained on open markets. Furthermore, these higher prices place more of a burden on poorer households than on richer ones.
Viewpoint showing that more autonomous and accountable schools could help students be more successful academically
The most recent school board election results represented a golden opportunity to do away with this superfluous institution in order to allow the emergence of more autonomous schools. In December 2015, the Quebec government introduced a bill that went in this direction. However, the new Education Minister, Sébastien Proulx, decided to drop the structural modifications and focus instead on academic success. Yet abolishing school boards and entrusting schools with more autonomy would in fact promote the success of students.
Viewpoint explaining how Ontario is following the Quebec model with increasingly high levels of spending, taxation and indebtedness
For decades, Quebec’s economy and the state of its public finances have been judged in comparison with Ontario. Catching up with its neighbour was a worthwhile goal, promoted by many. Over the past few years, the differences between the two most populous provinces have indeed been reduced. However, while the picture has improved somewhat in Quebec, including recent fiscal prudence on the part of the government, this narrowing of the gap does not so much reflect Quebec’s good performance as it does Ontario’s gradual decline.
Viewpoint describing how gentrification, when combined with sound housing policy, helps everyone, including the poor
Gentrification is a process whereby middle-class families and young professionals establish themselves in working-class urban neighbourhoods. By no means unique to Montreal, this process has generated some resistance on the part of anti-gentrification activists, some of whom have resorted to violent means in the belief that they are being displaced. Yet gentrification is a widespread phenomenon that yields largely beneficial outcomes for everyone—including the poorest members of society—and whose negative effects can be mitigated by sound economic policy.
Viewpoint reiterating the positive effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement for the three countries involved
The Republican Party’s presumptive nominee for the presidency of the United States, Donald Trump, has made the negative effects of the opening up of borders, and especially of trade between the United States and Mexico, one of his recurring themes. He claims that free trade does not benefit the United States. According to him, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is “a disaster” that needs to be renegotiated. In Canada, this opposition to free trade finds a certain echo among commentators and lobby groups.
Viewpoint showing how the charges and taxes imposed on Canadian airports lead to less investment and higher prices for consumers
Favourable conditions like lower fuel prices and the weakness of the loonie have benefited Canadian airports over the past two years. This trend could be short-lived, however, whereas systemic pressures are undermining the competitiveness of the Canadian airline sector in the longer term. In 2015, Canada was ranked 130th out of 138 countries in terms of ticket taxes and charges imposed on airports. Ultimately, these taxes and charges represent extra costs that are passed on to consumers and to air carriers.
Research Paper illustrating how the development of new drugs allows patients to lead longer, healthier lives and leads to savings elsewhere in the health care system
Although the costs of new pharmaceuticals are often the subject of critical media coverage, they are rarely juxtaposed with the benefits that these new drugs bring. Among other things, new research presented in this Research Paper investigates the impact that pharmaceutical innovation had on utilization of hospital care by cancer patients in Canada from 1995 to 2012.
Economic Note comparing the benefits for the Canadian economy of private projects like pipelines versus public infrastructure spending
The public debates over pipelines have focused especially on their safety, on environmental risks, and on economic spinoffs. These are relevant questions, but they are often considered from a local point of view instead of from a pan-Canadian perspective. This Economic Note examines the four pipeline projects currently being studied and focuses on their economic impact for Canada as a whole by contrasting them with the effects of public infrastructure investment.
Viewpoint describing how increased competition and a smaller regulatory state can reduce corruption
There have been several corruption scandals in Quebec and in the rest of Canada in recent years. Corruption is a problem that affects all countries and all societies, but it is much more prevalent in certain regions than in others. Economic analysis has several things to teach us about these disparities and about economic principles that can check this scourge.
Viewpoint explaining how activity-based funding of hospitals could help reduce wait times if accompanied by other, complementary measures
Quebec’s Health Minister, Gaétan Barrette, recently announced that the government wanted to transform the funding method for medical facilities in the health network by adopting activity-based funding, a model which the MEI has analyzed a number of times in recent years and which is the norm in most industrialized countries. This is a step in the right direction when it comes to reducing waiting times in Quebec hospitals.
Viewpoint explaining the benefits for consumers and workers of liberalizing mobile food vending in Montreal
Since 2013, there has been a loosening of the decades-long ban on mobile food vending in Montreal. Such steps place Montreal squarely within a wider movement throughout North America to allow greater entrepreneurship at the municipal level. In spite of this positive step, however, the large potential benefits to both consumers and workers are being undermined by heavy regulation. This Viewpoint highlights those benefits and explains how the regulatory framework surrounding mobile food vendors in Montreal remains much too constraining.
Research Paper analyzing various aspects of the Canadian telecommunications industry related to competition
The federal government and the CRTC should not repeat the mistakes of recent years by intervening in the broadband sector as they have in the wireless sector, argues the MEI in the 2016 edition of a Research Paper entitled The State of Competition in Canada’s Telecommunications Industry. The Paper notes that 96% of Canadian households already had access to download speeds of 5 Mbps in 2014, with 77% of households subscribing to such a service, a trend that has shown strong growth in recent years.
Economic Note showing how difficult it is for innovative solutions like nurse-led clinics to establish themselves in a bureaucratic health care system
Quebec’s Health Department is senselessly blocking the opening of clinics run by nurse practitioners who specialize in front-line care. Yet these doctorless clinics would respond to real needs among the population, access to front-line care being one of the main failings of Quebec’s health system. Moreover, a nurse practitioner costs the health care system around 1/3 of what a general practitioner costs, shows an Economic Note published by the MEI.
Economic Note illustrating how the Internet contributes to economic growth, helps small businesses be more competitive, and improves our lives in often intangible ways
A few weeks ago, the Davos World Economic Forum underlined the growing role of the Internet in the economy by taking as the theme for its discussions the “fourth industrial revolution,” namely the revolution made possible among other things by innovations related to the Internet. According to the World Bank, the Internet promotes economic development since it provides access to opportunities that were previously out of reach for the most disadvantaged people around the world.
Viewpoint comparing the size of Canada’s gross debt and net debt
In the introduction to its budget plan tabled earlier this week, Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced a deficit of $29.4 billion for the 2016-2017 year, or $1,631 per net taxpayer, and total deficits of $113 billion over the next five years. One of the arguments raised in the document in favour of this substantial new debt is that Canada’s current overall debt is much lower than that of the other G7 countries, which gives the federal government the leeway to take on more debt. However, this comparison is based on the net debt, which distorts the situation.
Viewpoint highlighting the inefficiency of running large deficits versus other ways of stimulating economic growth
A number of Bay Street economists are urging the federal government to loosen its purse strings even more and run larger deficits than announced during the election campaign in order to “stimulate” the Canadian economy. This short-term perspective, however, fails to take into account several important considerations.
Viewpoint showing that the well-being of women is intimately connected to the degree of economic freedom that prevails in a given country
International Women’s Day is an occasion to think about policies that are likely to improve the status of women around the world. Whereas the debate in rich countries has lately focused on gender parity for certain types of positions, in many countries women must still fight for access to health care, education, and the right to work. Numerous studies show that these objectives are more easily attained when women enjoy the advantages of economic freedom.
Economic Note exploring the potential impact of various proposed energy policies on consumers and taxpayers in Alberta
In recent years, Canadian provinces have adopted various “green” energy policies that have had a discernable impact on their energy markets. Carbon levies and constraints on using certain energy sources to generate electricity are now commonplace, and their use seems to be spreading. Until recently, Alberta had avoided such policy tools. In addition, much electricity in Alberta is generated, transmitted, and sold by private market actors, and thus political interference in the market has mostly been avoided.
Viewpoint describing reforms recently implemented in Australia allowing the taxi industry and ride-sharing applications to coexist peacefully
In the majority of North American cities, existing laws do not control or make any provisions for activities related to ride-sharing applications. As a result, they operate in a grey zone. Like certain European cities, Vancouver and Montreal have chosen to oppose the operation of such services.
Viewpoint comparing the performance of the provincial premiers in terms of government spending, corporate and individual taxes, and deficits and debt
For several decades, Quebec has been one of the Canadian provinces in which public spending, the tax burden, and the debt level are the highest. One of the Quebec government’s main challenges is therefore to reverse these three trends in order to improve the dynamism of the province’s economy and to allow the population’s standard of living to rise. How does Quebec’s current government compare with the other provincial governments in achieving these goals?
Economic Note explaining how regulating credit card loyalty programs would have unintended consequences that would harm consumers instead of helping them
Today, 89% of Canadians adhere to at least one loyalty program (also called a reward program), and 41% adhere to a program that is connected to a credit card. In other cases, such programs are connected to stand-alone loyalty cards or smartphone applications. Many critics maintain that these programs do not really offer any benefits for consumers, and suggest that they should be regulated. What is the truth of the matter, and what effects have such regulations had in countries that have adopted them?
Economic Note illustrating how a less arduous dismissal process for incompetent teachers would benefit the school system
According to Quebecers, the single most important factor in the success of students is the quality of the teaching staff. However, this profession is plagued by persistent problems: the poor university records of many education undergraduates, the abandonment of the profession by young teachers, discouragement and loss of motivation, etc. These problems can affect the quality of students’ learning, and are quite naturally a concern for parents.
Big brother sleeps easy
Op-ed by Mathieu Bédard, Economist at the MEI, published on November 23 in the National Post.
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