Another independent new think tank has sprung up with disturbing ties to the Conservative Party of Canada. Some months ago now, Stockwell Day raised eyebrows by claiming that crime rates in Canada were actually going up, contradicting Statistics Canada reports which he said failed to take into account the unreported crime rates. This week, a researcher at a brand-new Ottawa think tank, the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, said exactly the same thing. My eyebrows went up again. I suspect the claims are similar because they came from the same man: Scott Newark. Basically, Newark’s claim is that Statistics Canada numbers are masking a steady rise in the violent crime rate.
John Ibbitson’s column in the Globe and Mail introduces the new report without any critical commentary whatsoever. As usual, it is left to your humble blogger to perform the basic vetting that journalists are supposed to do.
I’m not going to pick apart the report, because CK at Sister Sage’s Musings has already done that. Instead, I’m more curious about where it’s coming from.
The Macdonald Laurier Institute is a new think tank, which claims it exists “to make poor quality public policy unacceptable.” Right now its director is Brian Lee Crowley, who previously worked at other right-wing think tanks like the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS) and the Frontier Centre for Public Policy in Canada, and the Heritage Foundation in the United States. He also worked with Ralph Klein’s Mazankowski Commission on the future of healthcare, which authored the right-wing vision that claimed (years ago now) that public healthcare was unsustainable. When Stephen Harper’s government was elected in 2006, it brought Crowley into the Department of Finance as a visiting economist and assistant deputy minister.
The Institute isn’t exclusively a partisan organization. For instance, it welcomes other neoliberals like former Liberal international trade minister Jim Peterson (an advisor) and old Tory historian Jack Granatstein (a conservative in many ways, but not to my knowledge a politically active one). The right has a lot of other roots in this organization, though. The chairman of the board is Martinrea auto parts giant Rob Wildeboer, connected with religious right groups like the Equipping Christians for The Public Square (ECP) project. He also sits on the Science, Technology and Innovation Council, created by the Harper government in 2007. One of Wildeboer’s colleagues at the top of Aecon, John Beck, also sits on the board. Beck also directs the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships. Stanley Hartt, another director, used to be the chief of staff for Brian Mulroney, and has spent most of his time since working for American banks.
As a sign of their commitment to right-wing politics, the Institute hired as staff a pair of experienced partisan operatives to work directly under Crowley. The communications director is George Young, who among other things was the national director of the Liberal Party under Jean Chretien, executive director of the Ontario Liberal Party, and vice president of the Pollara polling firm. The office manager is Robin Bourke, whose online bio studiously avoids naming names by saying that she
worked in the Parliamentary Office of the Minister of State for Sport and the Minister of Natural Resources. Prior to that she held the position of Caucus Coordinator in the Office of the National Caucus Chair. Robin began her career in the constituency office of a Member of Parliament for Selkirk-Interlake.
Ha. The MPs in question, respectively, are Gary Lunn (who held both portfolios) and either James Bezan or Howard Hilstrom, all of them Conservatives. Nice try, Robin. Alex Wilner (also listed at the Atlantic Institute) and Jason Clemens (an ex-Fraser Institute writer) round out the team as research fellows. In short, it’s a right-wing echo chamber.
Which brings us to Newark and his suspicious crime statistics survey. Newark doesn’t actually work for the MLI: they’re just the forum to promote his paper. In early 2006, when the Conservative Party came to power, Newark was the special advisor to Stockwell Day — which is presumably why they’re both trumpeting this “rising crime” myth. While he was still in Day’s office, a $300,000 contract was let to Northgate Group to analyze Canadian border security. Newark promptly left Day’s office and took a job with Northgate.
The government argued that his name was not put into Northgate’s books until after it won the contract, and so there was nothing improper. That was only half true. It was still illegal under the Conflict of Interest Code, which requires political workers to wait at least one year before accepting a job from a firm they dealt with while in office. Newark then argued that he had deliberately failed to sign his employment contract and therefore could not be held to the public office regulations.
Well before that, incidentally, Newark was a Mike Harris government security advisor and the executive director of the Canadian Police association, in which role he was caught expressing the chilling opinion that
anything effective in law enforcement will inevitably be forbidden under the Charter [of Rights and Freedoms]. As we say, the Charter helps only murderers, pedophiles and judges… What we have now in Canada is a supposedly enlightened despotism.
Obviously we are listening to a sound and well-reasoned expert on public policy when we listen to Scott Newark.
Update: Pogge also has the story.Tweet