CU Economics Conference headline

The minutiae of statistical analysis would make a physicist buzz with confusion. But quantitative economic research gradually works its way into economic policy in Canada, affecting everything from how inflation is measured to deregulation of the hydro-electricity industry.

Published analyses, trends and comprehensive investigations into all aspects of the Canadian economy are likewise examined and re-examined before changes are ever filtered through government policy that will in turn touch pension plan changes or unemployed fish workers.

Each year, hundreds of economists gather to mull over policies and trends in research prepared for publication. This year, they descended on Carleton University May 30 for the annual meeting of the Canadian Economics Association, the organization of academic economists in Canada.

Economists from Statistics Canada and the federal Department of Finance to Canadian universities and not-for-profit groups spent three days immersed in data. Carleton’s Frances Woolley, of the Department of Economics, was the local conference organizer. Woolley received the 1999 award from the Doug Purvis Foundation, which honours highly significant research related to Canadian economic policy. The award, with a $10,000 cash prize, is presented at every conference. Woolley won the award with Carole Vincent for research on fair taxation for Canadian families.

The research of economists from across the country help guide the design of government programs, the tax system and income support systems, Woolley says. Several sessions were devoted to immigration.

“We don’t know what’s happening now to immigrants in the labour market and we are learning more about this.”

What does a conference like this achieve? “There are some things we are doing better and that is partly as a result of work like this,” says Woolley. “If you think about the 1970s where you had a huge runup in the government debt that we are still paying for—there is now a consensus that doing that was a mistake. That’s the sort of thing we learn, that you are not going to fix the economy in the long run by running up the debt.”

Conference participants included Andrew Sharpe, an economist and executive director of the Centre for the Study of Living Standards. The center presented a half dozen papers including labour market trends, productivity and the unemployment gap between Canada and the United States.

“Ultimately, the purpose is to shed light on key issues that will hopefully improve public policy,” Sharpe says.

This entry was written by Marlene Orton and posted in the issue. Tags applied to this article are: , . Leave a comment, bookmark the permalink or share the following short URL for this article via social media:

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