Parson Manning makes a salient point

I always liked Preston Manning. He was like a contempletive version of Ross Perot. In this op/ed piece in the TJ he calls for more think tanks or at least better funding for the current ones. He says:

In the United States, there are scores of think tanks, covering the entire political spectrum, that constantly generate compelling ideas, policies and communications pieces for their politicians in a timely and effective manner. In Canada, our think tanks are much fewer in number, chronically underfunded and seriously constrained by tax laws.

I think that is dead on. I have been calling for such a think tank in New Brunswick (although my version has a distinctly economic development edge). Up till know, policy has been made at the ‘Cool Camel’ on the back of a napkin (anyone familiar with the back story on the rise of Bernie Lord will remember the now defunct Cool Camel). NB politicians love to serve up the standard fare but if you look closely you will see that there have only been subtle gradiations in policy, legislation and even how the government raises and spends money in the past 40 years.

There have been very few game changer moves out of any NB government – at least in my generation. We are dying the death of a thousand little policy cuts.

Manning is correct. If New Brunswick had a thoughtful – I would say non-partisan but even that is negotiable – entity (ies) that were churning out NB specific ideas for the politicians, government and community leaders to mull over and look to incorporate into public policy. Some will say this is done inside government. They will point to the scores of ‘policy analysts’ in government. But I don’t think can really be done inside government. The Council on Foreign Relations is not inside government. The Brookings Institution is not inside government.

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0 Responses to Parson Manning makes a salient point

  1. Anonymous says:

    A think tank in NB !
    We can’t even get a decent Newspaper,as evidenced by the insult to NBer’s in the Irving paper today.Reminds me of the kids song, “Lets talk about me”.

  2. richard says:

    Think tanks are inherently problematic. Few are non-partisan or stay that way for long; certainly the ‘think’ tank that Manning is part of is not non-partisan. He would disagree, but that is because poor Preston has problems separating facts from his ideological perspective. I often find his opinion pieces in the Mop and Pail to be short on data analysis and strong on long-debunked nostrums.

    We could use some more transparency around here and certainly some more meaningful discussion around how to establish public policy. A few posts ago, you referred to a BC group that published various metrics comparing regions. More of that focussed on NB would be welcome; at least that would set some benchmarks. I’d be in favor of setting up any agency or institute that could provide high-quality data analyses on policy issues; I’m just doubtful it can be done. Perhaps university chairs are the way to go (provided we could work out some way of demanding and getting excellence from academia).

  3. nbt says:

    …certainly the ‘think’ tank that Manning is part of is not non-partisan.

    Yes, it is Richard. When Manning visited Moncton this past spring (I attended btw), he spoke on the importance of religion, politics and activism.

    When the seminar was all over, I began to mingle throughout the hall. You know what I found? That the individuals in attendance were not only from different parts of the region, they came from different political and religious backgrounds as well.

    For instance, I spoke to two Baptist from Moncton who were social workers and NDP supporters. They explained how they had trouble with their party’s stance on the legalization of marijuana.

    I also spoke with two prominent Liberals who didn’t happen to agree with their party’s stance on same-sex marriage.

    As well, there were many university professors, lawyers and business leaders in attendance. I had a good chat with UNB economist David Murrell regarding blogging, religion and many other topics.

    So it is far from being partisan.

  4. Anonymous says:

    What is your opinion on Harper’s Bailout of our banks today?
    I know he says it’s an investment, I think those are the words George W Bush used as well.
    Maybe Harper is right…our economy is strong, our banks are stable, its time to invest in the stock Markets.
    Don’t Worry…Be Happy!

  5. David Campbell says:

    What is your opinion on Harper’s Bailout of our banks today?

    Again, this is a bit above my pay grade and I am the first to criticize people who don’t know anything about an issue yet have a strongly held position on it.

    That being said, and again this is only based on my limited knowledge of the subject, the credit markets (the money available for borrowing) are seizing up and governments are stepping in to ensure they function. If access to credit were to completely dry up it could lead to far more than a recession and the sad part is that eventually hits the middle and lower classes of people far worse.

    If you raise the unemployment rate in Canada to 10-12%, you would have huge social costs that would be hard to pay by the government. They are trying to mitigate that with these credit moves.

  6. mikel says:

    Again, whats the point of having think tanks if they don’t make it to print? Do you honestly think that government legislators would actually look at legislation because some profs said so? You can go to AIMS and laugh where they say “this editorial on health care was REQUESTED by the Telegraph Journal”-and of course the Chairmain of AIMS is John Irving.

    It’s pretty clear from NBT’s example (thanks for that), that they ARE clearly partisan. Because somebody is a member of a party or SAYS they are, means little when their views are conservative in the most glaring ways. Who even goes to see somebody like Preston Manning talk? Again, AIMS is a perfect example of that, you can go to their Board of Directors and virtually every one is the head of some corporation. They even SAY that they are ‘partisan’.

    I highly doubt that politicians are not aware of this blog-yesterday a cabinet minister was posting at Spinks blog, which almost NEVER has to do with actual public policy. So either they are very very very bored, or else use blogs to get info and find out what people are saying. There are very few political blogs, David has to get over his ‘defeatist’ self esteem problem and realize that his is the place any bureaucrat or politician goes for a halfway intelligent economic perspective. If his advice isn’t being followed, it certainly isn’t because those in power dont’ know about it.

    I’ve mentioned it before, but the only difference between this blog and a think tank is a permanent home page. Go take a look at AIMS page, David has posted FAR more data than is found in most of their studies. In fact, if David expanded some and set up his podcasts and blogs with a little more structure, he SHOULD be asking for donations for it. I’d pay for the information here far sooner than I’d pay to read the Irving rags, or even CBC. And even AIMS is now set up so that anybody can donate to them (why anybody would is beyond me).

    But even that isn’t enough to broach the walls around Fredericton. Corporations clearly call the shots, but when it comes to things like education the government ignores AIMS as much as they ignore everybody who doesn’t have a lobby group. There is plenty of research out there, but nobody KNOWS about it. That goes back to problems with the media. There are two steps in lobbying for public policy-people have to KNOW about it, and then have to be able to DO something about it. A think tank solves NEITHER of those problems. Sorry, thats not exactly true, CURRENT think tanks solve neither of those problems.

  7. richard says:

    “Yes, it is Richard”

    You are confusing attendance at a seminar with the ‘think’ tank.

  8. nbt says:

    Well, the work shop was sponsored by the Manning Centre for Building Democracy.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Manning building democracy? Yeah right…