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 (right), 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.
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.
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 (left). 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.
Heading up the newly reconstituted organization was brilliant young economist Carl E. Beigie, who 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.
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. In 1986, Maureen Farrow, an economist well respected in the investment community, became president.
In 1989, highly respected investment banker Thomas E. Kierans became president of the Institute, a position he held for the next 10 years. 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.
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.
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.