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Institute for Advanced Policy Research

The Institute for Advanced Policy Research (IAPR) is a public policy research institute created at the University of Calgary in the Fall of 2004. The IAPR’s mandate is to enhance the quality of public policy research generated at the University of Calgary; to disseminate that research to academics, the public, and policymakers; and to engage graduate students in policy relevant research. The emphasis of the Institute is to provide a solid, analytical, evidenced-based foundation for public policy discourse by integrating scholarly knowledge with practical applications.

The Institute draws together existing public policy expertise from several departments and faculties across campus to provide a collaborative, integrated, cross-disciplinary approach to research in the public policy area. The intention is to build the intellectual critical mass necessary to produce pioneering public policy research and contribute to the development of public policy in Canada.

What’s New?


Biology, the Courts, and Aboriginal Rights

September, 2007:  Effective wildlife management requires the conjunction of science and policy. Disjunctions can arise when courts make policy because since and the judicial process operate along very different tracks. In "Wildlife Management and Aboriginal Rights" political scientist and IAPR Fellow Rainer Knopff and Kyle Knopff of the Department of Biological Science at the University of Alberta argue that the Supreme Court's jurisprudence on aboriginal hunting and fishing rights is out of step with modern science to the extent that it 1) wrongly assumes that subsistence predation is benign, 2) employs assumptions about the ability of Aboriginal communities to self-regulate in situations that may be inappropriate, and 3) uses political rather than ecological scales to apply Aboriginal exemptions from hunting and fishing regulations. Fortunately, say the authors, the Court's jurisprudence leaves room for the necessary policy refinement; an "ecologically scaled biomass approach" to Aboriginal exemption rights.

Mad Cows and Meat Packers

June 2007:  In May 2003, due to the discovery of BSE in a single animal in Alberta, the market for fed cattle in the province changed with the closing of the Canada/US border.  In their paper "Market Power in the Alberta Red Meat Packing Industry", IAPR Professor Jeffrey Church and Daniel Gordon investigate the implication of the border closing for the market for fed cattle in Alberta.  Their results show that prior to the BSE crisis, competition from US packers eliminated or minimized the market power of the small number of packers in Alberta, and feedlot operators enjoyed the benefits of a competitive market for meat packing.  Post-BSE, however, Alberta packers were able to exercise significant market power implying a reduction in the prices for fed cattle beyond what would be expected from the loss of a major export market.  The estimates are not, however, consistent with the coordinated exercise of market power by packers.

Providing Prizes for Drug Innovations

June 2007:  There is growing interest in the use of prizes as an incentive mechanism for innovation, especially in pharmaceutical markets.  In his paper "Incentive Mechanisms for Innovation", IAPR Fellow Aidan Hollis examines how prizes based on outcomes could interact with the patent system.  He shows that an optional reward system offers a number of advantages.  It increases the potential profits to be earned for innovations of great social value which are not otherwise profitable given the structure of the patent system; it is efficient in terms of the incentives created, and it limits the informational burden on the rewards administrator.  The optional reward system uses a market mechanism to ensure that the rewards are appropriate to the size of the social value created by the innovation.

Optimism vs. Pessimism

May 2007:  Does it matter if one is a pessimist or an optimist?  In their paper "Cognitive Dissonance, Pessimism, and Behavioral Effects", David Dickinson and IAPR Fellow Robert Oxoby show that the answer is yes.  In laboratory experiments they show that the random assignment of low versus high piece-work wages generates pessimistic and optimistic beliefs, respectively, in those participating.  What's more, having been imbued with those beliefs they are shown to affect how subjects make other unrelated choices.  An implication is that one's sense of optimism may be endogenous to ones circumstances and may play a causal role in many life choices; work absenteeism, marital well-being, charitable giving, and any choice that depends on judgement.

Regulating Private Pension Plans

May 2007:  IAPR Fellow Norma Nielson and David Chan, both of the Haskayne School of Business, have recently published a research paper which shows that the regulatory environment for private pension plans in Ontario is significantly different from that in the rest of Canada.  The Pension Benefits Guarantee Fund has resulted in pensions plans in Ontario exhibiting a lower degree of funding per participant suggesting that the government guarantee is related to a moral hazard problem in Ontario pension financing.  The paper, "Private Pensions and Government Guarantees: Clues from Canada", appears in the March 2007 issue of the Journal of Pension Economics and Finance.

A Race to the Bottom?

March 2007: In their desire to attract industry do governments race against one another to cut tax rates to such low levels that they find it difficult to finance social programs? Concern over this possibility is behind discussions amongst some members of the European Union to limit tax competition. Those critical of Canada’s adoption of free trade arrangements have similarly suggested that Canadian social programs are at risk as tax rates are forced downward in an international “race to the bottom”. Finally, some provincial governments have expressed concern that ’s resource wealth will enable it to lower tax rates and so force others to follow suit or risk losing industry to that province. But what is the evidence? In “An Empirical Investigation of Tax Competition between Canadian Provinces”, IAPR Graduate Fellow Daria Crisan employs a unique data set describing effective tax rates on 21 manufacturing industries in 6 Canadian provinces over the period 1970-1997. She finds little evidence to support the hypothesis that governments engage in a race to the bottom in tax rates. Crisan’s analysis shows that if competition exists across provincial governments it is such to have caused increases in tax rates to be smaller than might otherwise have been realized. This would suggest that if social programs are under threat, it is not because of tax competition.

Public Participation and Public Policy

March 2007: Elections are blunt instruments for allowing citizens to express their preferences for public policy. One may prefer Candidate A for her stand on education but prefer Candidate B for his stand on transportation. In an election, one can vote for only one candidate and so one must make a decision regarding which policy issue is most important. To circumvent this problem, governments sometimes offer public forums as a way of soliciting the preferences of citizens on specific issues and using them as a way of building consensus on what is the preferred public policy. In "A Tale of Two Cities: Public Participation Processes in Banff and Calgary", Christopher Bruce compares the design of two local consensus-building exercises -- the Banff Bow Valley Study (completed in 1996) and the City of Calgary's more recent imagineCalgary (completed in 2006) -- and offers recommendations for how public participation processes might be most effectively designed to improve public policy outcomes.

Transportation Research at IAPR

February 2007: People face a myriad of choices when they step out their front doors: Whether going to work, or to school, or just out for shopping or for fun, people have to select the route they take, what time they depart, whether they take a bus, train, bike, or drive, etcetera. These are all choices that help determine (and are in turn determined by) policy choices with respect to road design, transit fares, fuel taxes, and parking levies. Policy choices and the response to them also impact upon the environment as transportation is widely identified as a key source of greenhouse gases. The study of public policy choices with respect to transportation is the bailiwick of IAPR Professor JD (Doug) Hunt of the Department of Civil Engineering. The breadth and high level of sophistication of research in this area is illustrated in three recent papers Doug and his co-authors have posted on the IAPR web site. "Enhancing Policy Decisions Using Integrated Models" explores the use of so-called integrated models of transportation; models which illustrate the interrelationships between transportation choice, land use, and economic activity. "Levels of Disaggregation and Degrees of Aggregate Constraint in Transportation System Modeling" considers and evaluates alternative modeling approaches to transportation systems. Finally, "An Examination of Bicycle Use Sensitivities over Time" employees a survey approach to ascertain the determinants of bicycle use and what features of urban design might best encourage their use.

Unions, Bicycles, and Gasoline

January 2007: Reflecting the diverse interests of IAPR researchers as well as the wide range of issues and problems to which public policy decisions must be brought to bear, the IAPR has posted three new technical papers on a wide range of topics. In "Reconciling Differences Differently", IAPR Professor Daphne Taras investigates the implications of the diminution of union power for the role played by labour standards in protecting the interests of workers. In their paper "Federal Environmental Standards, Regional Fuel Choices, and Local Gasoline Prices" IAPR Fellow David Walls and Frank Rusco of the U.S. Government Accounting Office measure how a policy-induced proliferation of motor fuel types has impacted gasoline prices and supplies in local markets. Finally, IAPR Professor Doug Hunt and David Walls co-author a note titled "Robust Analysis of Discrete Choice in Transport with an Application to Alberta Cyclists" which examines the routes chosen by bicyclists as a way of testing a new approach to modelling discrete choice models.

The Politics of Cabinet Selection

December 2006: In 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made two highly visible moves to include representation from major cities in his new cabinet. In appointing Michael Fortier he provided representation for Montreal, where the Conservatives had gained no seats in the House of Commons. In enticing Liberal David Emerson to cross the floor and join the cabinet, he did the same for downtown Vancouver. Is this a new sensitivity to cities? In "City Ministers: The Local Politics of Cabinet Selection", IAPR Fellow Anthony Sayers shows that cities have long been over-represented in cabinet and suggests that if they are getting a poor deal in terms of policy, under-representation is not the cause. He also finds distinctive patterns in the city-ness of federal cabinets and discusses the implications for federal policies.

Grading Standards

November, 2006: University researchers play an important role in training future generations of scholars, scientists, artists, and -- particularly important from the point of view of the IAPR -- policy-makers. Grades are the signal we use to encourage students to specialize in one discipline versus another and to pursue one career or another. But what if the signals we give are wrong or misleading? Mukesh Eswaran of the University of British Columbia and IAPR Fellow Curtis Eaton have posted a paper "Differential Grading Standards and Student Incentives" in which they investigate that possibility. They show that grading standards differ significantly across disciplines and this may cause students to choose programs of study that do not maximize their potential. Eswaran and Eaton suggest some non-intrusive ways to rectify the problem.

Conference on Energy Security

November, 2006:  The IAPR was a sponsor of the 2006 Canada-UK Colloquium held at . Representatives of government, academia, and industry, from both and the , met to discuss issues pertaining to the security of energy supply, the environmental impacts of energy production and consumption, and policies to promote energy conservation. Support for the conference is part of the Institute’s interest in issues to do with resources and the environment. To view IAPR Technical Papers written on this topic look under the Resources and the Environment Research Theme.

Time for the City of Calgary to Sell ENMAX Energy Corporation?

November, 2006: Dr Aidan Hollis, a Fellow of the IAPR, has posted an IAPR Technical Paper which examines the City of Calgary's ownership of ENMAX Energy Corporation (EEC). "The City of Calgary's Ownership of ENMAX Energy Corporation: Value at Risk" shows that EEC, a subsidiary of ENMAX, which is wholly owned by the City of Calgary, poses tremendous risks to the citizens of Calgary through its participation in the energy supply business. The study quantifies the risks, and examines other aspects of ENMAX Energy's business, including its low pricing strategy, its exclusive supply contract with the City of Calgary, and its governance.

How Academic Research Shapes Public Policy

October, 2006:  A goal of many university research institutes, including the IAPR, is to produce research that has an impact on public policies. But what determines that impact? The IAPR is pleased that Morley Gunderson, a labour economist at the University of Toronto, has chosen to post his recent paper "How Academic Research Shapes Labor and Social Policy" on the IAPR web site. Although the examples he draws upon are mostly from the realm of labour policy, Dr Gunderson's study offers valuable lessons for researchers in all disciplines.

IAPR Visitor and Seminar

September, 2006: The IAPR is pleased to have Dr Gerald Boychuk visit us on September 20th and 21st. Gerry is a member of the Department of Political Science at the University of Waterloo. He has made contributions to our understanding of a number of public policy issues of importance to Canadians. On Wednesday, September 20th he will present a seminar titled "The Alberta Paradox: The Regulation of Private Health Insurance in Comparative Cross-Provincial Perspective." The seminar begins at 3:00 p.m. and will be held in Social Sciences Room 729. All IAPR Professors, Fellows, and Graduate Fellows are invited to attend.

Dividend Tax Credits and Income Trusts

August, 2006: In their inaugural budget of May 2006, the federal Conservative government implemented a substantial cut in the tax rate on dividends received from large corporations. This tax cut was motivated in large part by the recent growth in income trusts, and was intended to level the playing field between dividend distributions from corporations and distributions of income trusts. In his research report "Income Taxes, Integration, and Income Trusts", IAPR Fellow Ken McKenzie analyzes the economic implications of the dividend tax cut in terms of its impact on income trusts, savings and investment.

Municipal Finances in Alberta

August, 2006: IAPR Professor Ron Kneebone has posted a new Policy Brief on the topic of municipal government finances in Alberta. The paper, "Big Ideas (?) for Municipal Finances in Alberta" is based on a presentation he made at a C.D. Howe Institute sponsored conference in March 2006. Drawing on work by IAPR Graduate Fellow Jesus Vito, Kneebone questions the claims made by the mayors of big cities that they have inadequate revenues to meet their expenditure obligations.

Comings and Goings at IAPR

July, 2006:  Ken McKenzie, the inaugural Director of the IAPR, has stepped down to enjoy a sabbatical. He returns from sabbatical to become Head of the Department of Economics. Ron Kneebone , formerly an IAPR Professor, has been appointed the new Director of the Institute by President Weingarten. The IAPR is also pleased to announce the addition of Jeffrey Church to the list of IAPR Professors. Jeff will coordinate the new Markets, Institutions, and Regulation Working Group. To learn more about Jeff and the new MIR working group, click on the People and the Research and Publications links to the left. Jeff will soon be contacting researchers interested in working in the broad area defined by the MIR working group.

Aging Political Parties

June, 2006:  IAPR Professor Lisa Young and co-author William Cross of Carleton University examine the motivations of people who join political parties. They find that rates of party membership are falling, most party members are nearing retirement age, and that those who remain members are frustrated by their inability to influence party policies. The paper, "Are Canadian Political Parties Empty Vessels?", has been published in the June issue of Choices, a publication of the Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP).

Accommodating Disability in the Workplace

June, 2006:  A conference on Accomodating Disability in the Workplace: Research, Policy and Practice, co-sponsored by the IAPR, the Industrial Relations Research Group at the University of Calgary, the Workers Compensation Board of Alberta, and the Faculty of Management at the University of Alberta, was held on June 14, 2020 at the Westin Hotel in Calgary. The conference chairs were IAPR Professor Daphne Taras and Kelly Williams of the University of Lethbridge.

Labour Arbitration and Policy Conference

June, 2006:  IAPR Fellow Allen Ponak was chair of the Labour Arbitration and Policy Conference held on June 14 and 15 at the Westin Hotel in Calgary.

Party and Election Finance

May, 2006: IAPR Professor Lisa Young hosted a conference on Party and Election Finance: Consequences for Democracy, at the Rozsa Center, University of Calgary, on May 25-26, 2006. To view the conference program click here.

Alberta Requires Amendment to the Labour Code

January, 2006: In an IAPR Policy Brief titled "First Contract Arbitration: Alberta Requires an Amendment to the Labour Code", IAPR Professor Daphne Taras argues important changes need to be made to Alberta's Labour Code. Taras points out that the recent labour dispute at Lakeside Packers in Brooks, Alberta may not have reached the point that it did had an arbitrator been appointed to help craft Lakeside's first collective agreement.

Private Health Care in Alberta

January 2006: In "The Role of Private Financing in Alberta's Health Care System", IAPR Fellow Herb Emery examines the role of private health insurance in Alberta. This Policy Brief is based on a more in-depth investigation examination contained in an IAPR Technical Paper co-authored with Kevin Gerrits.  To see the technical paper click here.

McGuinty's complaint should be Klein's too, paper argues

May, 2005: In an IAPR Policy Brief titled "McGuinty's Complaint", IAPR Professor Ron Kneebone analyzes fiscal imbalances between Ottawa and Ontario, and between Ottawa and Alberta. "If Prime Minister Martin is now recognizing that the size of the imbalance faced by taxpayers in Ontario is too large, will he now be entering into negotiations with Premier Klein to address the exact same problem faced by taxpayers in Alberta? "If not, the only conclusion . . . is that the Prime Minister's response to Premier McGuinty's complaint has little to do with firmly held principles or a sense of fairness, and has everything to do with political expediency," Kneebone writes, suggesting that "vote-rich" and "Liberal-friendly" Ontario is worth a $5.75 billion investment from Ottawa whereas Alberta is not.

Democracy in Alberta Ailing

May, 2005: IAPR has just released a Policy Brief titled "Electoral Democracy in Alberta: Time for Reform". The paper, prepared by Harold Jansen of the University of Lethbridge and IAPR Professor Lisa Young of the University of Calgary, calls for a "Citizens' Assembly" to study and potentially make recommendations for reforming the electoral process; an approach recently used in Ontario and British Columbia. "If you think that democracy matters, then how we elect our governments matters." says Dr. Lisa Young. "This is the one moment when we get some sort of say in who is going to govern us and if the system isn't working - if it doesn't reflect our real preferences - then there's something wrong."

The Decline in AISH Benefits Since 1993

February, 2005: The IAPR released a Policy Brief authored by Ron Kneebone, a professor in the Department of Economics and the IAPR. "Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped: The Decline in Financial Benefits Since 1993" details the decline in the purchasing power of the financial benefit paid to those in the provincial government's AISH program. AISH is intended to provide income support to those whose physical or mental disabilities make it difficult for them to earn a living. Kneebone considers alternative measures of what might constitute an appropriate increase in the financial benefit relative to what was paid in 1993. He shows that while disagreement exists over how large should be the increase in the monthly benefit, it would be very difficult to justify as appropriate the $40 increase in the monthly AISH financial benefit the provincial government has awarded since 1993.

Helliwell Visiting Killam Fellow with IAPR

January, 2005: Professor John Helliwell has won the Killam Fellowship for visiting professors at the University of Calgary. Helliwell will be at the University of Calgary for the winter 2005 term, from mid-January to mid-April. Prof. Helliwell is a distinguished economist from the University of British Columbia and was nominated for the fellowship by the IAPR. While at the University of Calgary, Prof. Helliwell will work with graduate students and members of the IAPR on various aspects of subjective well being.

Visions of Calgary's Future

December 20, 2020: IAPR Research Fellow Byron Miller discusses visions for Calgary's future in his Oped piece for the Calgary Herald. "Cities are not pre-ordained", says Miller, "they are about choices and consequences." In the Oped piece Prof. Miller discusses insights gleaned from the IAPR's speaker series on sustainable urban futures, which included public presentations by the University of Virginia's Tim Beatley, former B.C. premier Mike Harcourt, and former Winnipeg mayor Glenn Murray. Visions of Calgary's Future.

Bolster Heritage Fund

November 1, 2020: Three University of Calgary economists call on the provincial government to revitalize the Heritage Savings and Trust Fund. The IAPR Policy Brief, entitled "Living on Borrowed Time: "Alberta at the Crossroads" is authored by Ron Kneebone, Ken McKenzie and Scott Taylor. “Alberta’s economy is dependent on non-renewable resources, so when times are good it is vitally important that the government have a plan for reinvesting surplus revenue,” the authors say, adding that “it is inappropriate for the province to tie spending to highly volatile royalty revenues; there are certain guiding principles that should be observed in managing public finances in a resource-based economy.” The authors also emphasize the importance of investing in higher education, stating that “higher education may not have brought Alberta to where it is today, but it is required to ensure that it maintains this path into tomorrow."

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