Tories Draft Brian Crowley to Advise on Finance Policy

Publication, Think Tanks, Frontier Centre

A prominent, but controversial, free-market economist from Atlantic Canada, who has publicly criticized government pay-equity programs and argued that employment insurance, equalization and regional development programs have retarded growth in the economically depressed region, is to be a senior policy adviser at the federal Finance Department.

Brian Lee Crowley, the founding president of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, will be a “visiting economist” who will “advise the department on emerging economic issues and take part in policy development at the highest level.”

The up-to-two-year appointment of Mr. Crowley, announced yesterday by the Finance Department, sparked concerns among the opposition and the head of a left-leaning economic policy think-tank, who warned that the appointment is another signal of the economic policy intentions of the Conservative government, especially should it win a majority government.

“The appointment of a person who’s against such basic things as pay equity for women clearly shows where the Conservatives are going and what their ideological bent is, and it’s on the extreme far right,” said NDP finance critic Judy Wasylycia-Leis.

John McCallum, a former senior bank economist, and now Liberal MP and official Opposition finance critic, described Mr. Crowley as “intelligent but way, way out in right field.”

“He sees equalization as a welfare trap, he has no time for regional development and he’s a forceful advocate of two-tier health care,” Mr. McCallum said.

Bruce Campbell, executive director of the left-leaning Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, added that Mr. Crowley’s free-market solutions, as well as his advocacy of closer economic links with the U.S., are in line with views expressed by Stephen Harper before he became prime minister.

However, Bill Robson, president of the C.D. Howe Institute, applauded Mr. Crowley’s appointment, saying he has “very solid economic instincts.”

He’s known for being a skeptic about some types of government intervention and will be provocative. “It doesn’t necessarily threaten the programs,” Mr. Robson said.