November 1, 2014

History

The C.D. Howe Institute celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2008. Now in its sixth decade, the Institute is Canada’s leading independent, non-profit, public policy research organization. Its goal is to improve living standards by helping foster sound economic and social policy.

The Institute is at the forefront of public policy debate in Canada, confronting policy challenges with clear, innovative thinking and reasoned solutions. Its record of deep policy impact is built on a history of thought-leadership through research and events of the highest calibre.

The Institute’s work over the past five decades – supported at each stage by the advice and resources of its members and subscribers – played a key role in the development of continental free trade, ending the unsustainable deficits of the 1970s and 1980s, the development of rigorous inflation targets and tactically effective monetary policy, the reform of the Canadian and Quebec pension plans, lower and more competitive tax rates, and the development of a key new saving vehicle, the Tax Free Saving Account.

This website captures the C.D. Howe Institute’s research output from 1997 onwards. A list of the Institute’s publications from 1958 through 1996 can be viewed at http://www.cdhowe.org/c-d-howe-institute-research-publications-1958-1996/17195 

1958 – Born in Montreal

The C.D. Howe Institute’s origins go back to Montreal in 1958 when a group of prominent business and labour leaders organized the Private Planning Association of Canada (PPAC) to research and promote educational activities on issues related to public economic policy.

Under the leadership of Robert M. Fowler, and with a small but dedicated staff, the PPAC soon became the Canadian co-sponsoring organization for the Canadian-American Committee (CAC), which had been established in 1957 to study and discuss the economic factors affecting the bilateral relationship between Canada and the United States.

The 1960s – A Prescient Focus on Trade

The primary interest of the PPAC’s early years was trade, a focus reflected in the establishment in 1961 of the Canadian Trade Committee (CTC), whose purpose was to explore international trade and other closely related subjects crucial to Canada’s prosperity. In 1968, the CTC was reconstituted as the Canadian Economic Policy Committee, with an expanded membership and wider terms of reference. The work of the CAC and the CTC foreshadowed the liberalization efforts that ultimately culminated in the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement of 1988. In 1969, the PPAC became the Canadian sponsor for the newly created British-North American Committee, which for the next four decades would be a major forum for discussion of, and promoter of research on, issues of importance to Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.

During the 1960s, the PPAC cemented its growing reputation as a serious research institution by publishing, either alone or in conjunction with the CAC, such renowned economists as Harry Johnson, Robert Mundell, Grant Reuber, Ed Safarian, David Slater, and David C. Smith. A highlight of those early years was the publication of a 12-volume series of studies entitled “Canada in the Atlantic Economy,” edited by H. Edward English, who was also the PPAC’s head in-house economist during the 1960s.

The 1970s — Honouring the Legacy of C.D. Howe

In 1973, the PPAC’s assets and activities became part of the C.D. Howe Memorial Foundation, created in 1961 to memorialize the late Right Honourable Clarence Decatur Howe. The new organization operated as the C.D. Howe Research Institute until 1982, when the Memorial Foundation chose to focus directly on memorializing C.D. Howe; the Institute then adopted its current name: the C.D. Howe Institute.

The new organization would honour the man in both name and public contribution. As its revised Charter noted, the objectives of the Institute were: “To maintain an independent, privately supported institute for economic research in Canada, including economic analysis of the shorter-term future (particularly in the industrial policy field), to publish its findings.”

Heading up the newly reconstituted organization was brilliant young economist Carl E. Beigie. In his youth a preacher in his native United States, Beigie became the eloquent public face of HRI. With a talented group of researchers that included Gail Cook, Judith Maxwell, Joshua Mendelsohn, Caroline Pestieau, Richard Shaffner, and Gennifer Sussman, Beigie greatly expanded the scope of HRI’s research. Energy, fiscal policy, labour policy, and monetary policy were just some of the new areas in which the Institute’s expertise began to be applied.

Another new area was constitutional issues. Responding to growing concerns over the rising tide of nationalism in Quebec, in the late 1970s and early 1980s HRI published, in both English and French, a major series of studies called “Accent Québec,” which took a comprehensive look at the structure of Quebec’s economy.

The 1980s— Building a National Presence

In 1981, the organization’s name changed to its current form, the C.D. Howe Institute, after the Memorial Foundation chose to focus directly on memorializing C.D. Howe.

The Institute began to expand its national presence by establishing a Western Regional Committee to involve members in Western Canada more closely in its research and advisory activities. A Quebec Committee was also set up in 1981 to help the Institute’s members in Quebec become more involved in the Canadian public policy debate.

A highlight of the decade was the work of the Howe Institute Policy Analysis Committee (HIPAC), formerly the Canadian Economic Policy Committee. Under the dynamic chairmanship of H. Anthony Hampson, HIPAC promoted the interaction of Institute members with economics staff and government officials in the analysis of Canadian economic policy. This interaction, and HIPAC’s role in shaping the Institute’s research agenda — in particular its annual Policy Review and Outlook — gave the Institute’s policy recommendations added relevance and bite.

In 1982, after more than 20 years in offices in Montreal’s Sun Life Building, the Institute moved its headquarters to Toronto. Shortly after the move to Toronto, Carl Beigie handed the reins to Executive Director Wendy Dobson, whose force and dynamism guided the Institute through the early to mid-1980s. Joining the Institute on its move to Toronto was the talented young economist Edward A. Carmichael and, in 1983, Dobson persuaded the renowned Richard G. Lipsey to join its economics staff. In 1986, Maureen Farrow, an economist well respected in the investment community, became president.

Probably the dominant economic issue for Canada in the mid- to late 1980s was the prospect of free trade with the United States. The Institute was an authoritative voice on this controversial subject, as the Canadian-American Committee had been studying it since the mid-1960s. Dick Lipsey played a major role in the Institute’s contribution to the debate.

As the decade progressed, inflation and the Bank of Canada’s increasingly aggressive program to bring it down also became a pressing issue. The Institute had long been a leading commentator on monetary policy, with Thomas Courchene’s authoritative books on the Bank of Canada and inflation. Under the leadership first of Lipsey, and then of leading monetary economist David Laidler and William Robson, who joined the Institute as Fellow in Residence and Policy Analyst respectively in the late 1980s, the Institute’s views gained a wide audience, both inside and outside the Bank of Canada.

The 1990s – Taking a Leadership Role

In 1989, highly respected investment banker Thomas E. Kierans became president of the Institute, a position he held for the next 10 years. Along with Robson, the economics staff during those years included such talents as Ken Boessenkool, David Brown, Irene Ip, and Daniel Schwanen.

Under Kieran’s leadership, the Institute became the acknowledged leader among Canadian think tanks. It continued to expand its areas of analysis, particularly in the fields of social policy and constitutional issues. Two major series of studies reflected these concerns: “The Canada Round,” edited by John McCallum; and “The Social Policy Challenge,” edited by John Richards and William Watson.  The Institute’s longstanding concern with mounting public sector obligations was reflected in a series of Commentaries spelling out the dangers and urging reforms to federal and provincial finances, as well as to the Canada Pension Plan. Many of these received close attention in the media and from policymakers, and helped shape the consensus for fiscal rebalance that led the country onto a more sustainable track after mid-decade.

2000 and Beyond – Leading Debate to Make Canada “A Most Favoured Nation.”

From 1999-2006, the Institute benefited from the able leadership of President and CEO Jack M. Mintz, a tax specialist and University of Toronto professor. In 2006, he was succeeded by Bill Robson, formerly Senior Vice President and Director of Research.  Finn Poschmann became Vice President, Research.

Key focuses of the Institute’s work during the 2000s have been tax competitiveness, North American economic and security cooperation, sectoral studies in such areas as financial services, monetary policy – including the innovative Monetary Policy Council, which provides advance recommendations on the Bank of Canada’s policy-rate setting – and social policy. In all these areas, the Institute has fostered high-level interaction among leaders in business, academia and the public service, and has promoted public awareness of the critical importance of good public policy to Canadians’ wellbeing. The subsuming of the Western and Quebec Committees in a national Regional Advisory Committee in 2005 reflected the Institute’s growing commitment to presence in, input from, and relevance to every part of Canada.

In the wake of the global financial crisis, the Institute addressed both near-term issues emerging from the downturn, and longer-term monetary, fiscal and demographic issues that will affect Canada long after the downturn is over. Quite apart from the enduring benefits of the work noted above, our efforts on other fronts have yielded tangible results. Examples include:

  1. the removal of capital gains tax on gifts of appreciated securities;
  2. the phasing out of tariffs on capital goods;
  3. announcement of, and improvements in, harmonized sales taxes in Ontario and British Columbia;
  4. an improved venture capital climate through the extension of tax treaty provisions on foreign investment; and
  5. more liberal rules on foreign investment in the telecommunications sector.

While other individuals and organizations also deserve credit for these changes, the C.D. Howe Institute’s authoritative and timely advice clearly makes a difference.

Looking ahead, the challenge facing the Institute’s board, staff, and members is to continue influencing Canada’s policy agenda in a direction that builds comparative advantage and leads to a strong economic future. And we need to do this in a markedly different domestic and international environment

It is one thing for a think tank to produce a high volume of work – but quite another for a think tank to produce work that is analytically tight and pertinent enough to be taken seriously at the highest policy levels. Our work continues to demand priority attention among policy leaders across the country, and it is our members who provide the support and guidance that make that possible. As our country faces a series of policy challenges – some well known, and others which yet require substantial research and dialogue to elevate on the national agenda – the Institute will continue to make a tangible contribution to the development of smart, evidence-based, public policy in Canada.