Message from the President

charles_photo1-jan18Welcome to the website of Northern Policy Institute, Ontario’s newest think tank.

NPI exists to inform and educate not just policy and decision makers, but everyone involved in and impacted by public policy. And, in case you missed it, YOU are impacted by public policy, every day in thousands of ways: speed limits, the cost of a litre of gas, the cost of a cup of coffee, how much you pay for milk, what your kids are taught in school, how safe and secure your pension is, whether you even have a pension…and myriad things in between.

HAVING ideas is easy, COMMUNICATING them is hard, TESTING them is even harder. NPI will do a bit of all three, but it will be the last one that is the most controversial.

Who among us wants to be told that an idea that SOUNDS so obviously good, isn’t so good after all? Yet, in many cases, it will be the job of NPI to do just that – to tell you that something that SOUNDS good, really isn’t.

Not a recipe for popularity, we know, but a necessary job nonetheless.

Take the recent decision to increase minimum wage. It SOUNDS good. Who doesn’t want every worker to earn as much as they possibly can? Who does not want to see poverty eliminated?

Problem being, contrary to what you may have seen in certain media outlets, increasing the minimum wage is not a good thing for everyone – and we are not just talking about the added costs for the businesses that have to pay the new wages or the customers who have to pay higher prices.

For workers themselves, the evidence (and the economists who daily delve into and analyze that evidence) almost uniformly tells us that the minimum wage is a blunt tool that does little to alleviate poverty. The minimum wage also has some serious negative side effects: including reduced total employment and reduced hours for the lowest wage workers among us.

There are far better tools for alleviating poverty and for rewarding work. Things like a guaranteed annual income (which we have for seniors), or the working income tax benefit (which we could readily enhance). There exists lots of evidence from which to judge the relative effectiveness of these alternatives to raising minimum wage, and we know quite a lot about WHO the alternatives will actually help most. Those people tend to be the exact people we SAY we want to help with minimum wage increases and the very people who actually get hurt the most by those same increases: the young and the working poor.

So, as you see, a “tough job, but someone has to do it”.

That said, because it is a tough (and big) job, we need your help.

YOU must make use of the information we provide to guide and shape government policy (since we are legally barred from lobbying with it ourselves). Write a letter to your MP, MPP, or local councillor. Share one of our op-eds or reports with your spouse, your neighbour, your friend. Write a letter to the editor, even if it is to criticize one of our findings. Talk about our latest piece at the water cooler, the coffee shop, the hockey rink or the soccer field. Get informed, and get engaged, or enraged.

We also need your help to produce the information you will find here on our website. Go to the section of this website called “Get Involved” and, well, get involved. From writing and reviewing papers, to coming to events, to serving on volunteer groups inside NPI, there is a wide range of roles for you to help us and to help yourself, and your neighbours, and your friends.

There is an endless list of potential policy areas that need to be improved, help us decide where to focus today, and tomorrow. Our resources, like yours, and like government’s, is finite. Choices have to be made and you can be sure that the “usual suspects” will offer us their advice. Make sure to take the opportunities we make available, and offer us yours as well.

We at NPI look forward to working with you to make our communities better, stronger, and more sustainable.



Read Charles' biography.