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AIMS

Ryan Scarth, AIMS – Final Week!

Ryan Scarth, 10 August 2016

Beautiful Halifax

My final week at AIMS was a true summary of the 5 preceding it. From more fireworks and multiple barbecues catching up with all of the amazing people I had met along the way, to another frantically busy week in the AIMS office.

It’s hard to believe that I have been in Canada since June – the time has absolutely flown by. I’ve learnt so much and have been provided copious lasting memories and experiences. I feel my time in Canada was made all the better by the warmth and generosity extended to me by everyone with whom I crossed paths.

My last week was already off to a good start, with Monday being a public holiday for Natal Day; the anniversary of Nova Scotias founding. I was busy finishing off research projects I had begun the week before, and making final edits to an article I had written titled, The Case For Lower Business Taxes. The article touched on how fortuitous Canadian provinces were in being able to adjust their fiscal policies and tax rates independently of the federal government. Unlike Australia, however similar to the USA, Canadian provinces and territories set all their own tax rates; from consumption tax, to personal and corporate income. This offers them the perfect opportunity to create economic environments conducive to growth and prosperity, especially in relation to their neighbours.

My first day at AIMS.

With this blog to be my last, I would like to thank Marco and all the fine folks at AIMS for hosting me in such a kind manner. The patience, understanding, and willingness to share knowledge and experience ensured my internship would leave a lasting impression.

Finally, I would like to thank Ron Manners, Paul McCarthy, and all of the wonderful staff at Mannkal. Without them, the opportunity to both travel overseas and grow intellectually, with a broadened scope of knowledge both politically and economically, would never have happened.

As I sit in my hostel room in New York, gazing inquisitively at the flurry of passers-by, I am reminded of just how fortunate and appreciative I am to have been given this opportunity… Thank you Mannkal.

My last day at AIMS - Myself, Leo, Marco, Jackson, and Alex (From Left)

Ryan Scarth, AIMS – Week 5

Ryan Scarth, 3 August 2016

What another busy week at AIMS!

My work week begun with more research and data collection on standardised provincial testing for school students. The provincial results gave us a good indication as to how students were doing (relative to other provinces), however Michael Zwaagstra and I were more concerned with how the results had fluctuated over the past years relative to the education departments expenditure – which had been increasing.

The Halifax Public Library

The data is to be used for an upcoming AIMS report concerning the performance of Atlantic Canadian educational systems, relative to those around the country. A strong case is forming in favour of the fact that more money doesn’t equate to better education. It will be interesting to see what kind of a reception it is met with by the local governments and teachers unions.

Chilling at Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia

This week I was fortunate enough to have an op-ed on the Halifax pubic transit system published in a local newspaper (Halifax Transit Reform, The Coast Halifax). You can find this article here. As an issue at the forefront of public discussion, the piece stirred a certain amount of debate amongst local urban planners, regular commuters, and public transit advocacy groups. One such advocacy group, It’s More Than Buses, asked whether AIMS would be interested in working with them to push for transit reform in the city. It was a rewarding to see how reform suggestions, premised on Classical Liberal viewpoints and expressed through a commentary piece, could ignite and encourage real action.

Lunenberg, Nova Scotia

Away from work, Canada continued to amaze. I spent a great afternoon watching a baseball game with the CEO and his sons, one of whom was playing. I saw a couple of gigs in town and went road-tripping around the beautiful Nova Scotian South Shore all weekend.

The upcoming week is to be my last at AIMS, which means I’ll be frantically busy wrapping up all of the projects I’ve been able to work on and having farewell barbeques. I can’t wait.

A beautiful Canadian summers day

Ryan Scarth – Week Four

Ryan Scarth, 25 July 2016

Bright colours at the Pride parade

Pride week in halifax

Following our weekend in Las Vegas, I was rather exhausted. The city had ushered upon me a sense of ambivalence only few places had; the engrossing sense of fun was not typical of that associated with everyday life, consequently, it caught me off guard. After multiple flights Sunday night, it was comforting to return to my home away from home in Halifax.

Twenty two hours of travel ensured and I missed work Monday. I was met at the office Tuesday morning with a barrage of assignments; namely assisting Michael Zwaagstra, a local academic, in researching the history of Standardized Testing for school students in Canada. Strong rhetoric opposing such tests has been circulating recently, despite their proven benefits. Originally introduced in the late 1980’s to ensure accountability for the use of government resources, it was understandable why bureaucrats and public school teachers opposed the tests implementation. This research kept me busy for the next two days.

On Thursday I was asked by Marco, AIMS’ President, to gather some information regarding the current state of International Trade in Canada. America easily proved to be Canada’s largest trading partner, followed by Europe, and the United Kingdom. Australia was just in the top thirty.

After a months experience with the Halifax public transit system, and despite the prevalence of rare Pokémon among its patronage, I considered myself to have been inconvenienced enough by Metro Transit Halifax to write an article for AIMS suggesting possible reform. A proposal for a Commuter Rail system had recently been resubmitted to the local government following its rejection last year, so alternatively I suggested incorporating aspects of a Bus Rapid Transit system into the existing bus network. I’m hoping for the article to be published next week.

Pride week in Halifax

The Halifax Pride parade.

It was Pride Week in Halifax, and with this came an abundance of events and wonderful a parade. I was fortunate enough to see two gigs this week, both amazing, and to see the Pride Parade take over the city on Saturday. It was reassuring to see the enthusiasm with which the parade was greeted. Thousands lined the streets and cheered while being shot at with super-soakers and lollypop guns.

A great way to top off another week in Halifax.

The Hydrostone centre. My local cafe stop in Halifax

The Hydrostone. My local cafe strip.

Justifying an extravagant breakfast by telling myself I'm on holidays, so it's ok.

Justifying extravagant breakfasts by being on holiday.

Ryan Scarth – Week 3

Ryan Scarth, 20 July 2016

My time at AIMS this week was cut short in order to attend Freedom Fest in Las Vegas. Devoid of expectation prior to attending (other than that drawn from the slogan “The Worlds Largest Gathering of Free Minds”), any assumptions that I may have had leading into the conference would certainly have been in vein anyway. The ensuing talks, debates, presentations, and general conversation was enough to spark intrigue of Libertarian views amongst even the most apathetic of groups. The variety of viewpoints, speakers, and topics covered within the world of free market economics and conducive policy options touched on everything from “Why Drink Driving Should Be Legal” and “Why Wall Street Recovers and the Economy Never Does”, to an immensely passionate debate between supporters and opponents of Donald Trump.

The city itself truly does have to be seen to be believed! On face value, one could perceive Las Vegas to epitomise American consumerism. Upon further analyses however the city utterly encapsulates what is possible when government allows entrepreneurs to pursue their visions without government intervention. Seldom have I been so blatantly struck by the shear magnitude of what free markets can offer.

The ideals on which Las Vegas is based invariably allow the economic forces at play to operate with inescapable freedom; a truly fitting location for such minds to have gathered and such a conference to have been hosted.

Viva Las Vegas!

Ryan Scarth: AIMS Week 2

Ryan Scarth, 11 July 2016

Week two exposed the rather unreliable nature of Halifax’s weather. Thankfully my work at AIMS kept me more than busy enough to worry about getting wet. Away from the office I have become rather obsessed with the sport of Bouldering (indoor rock climbing of sorts), and with the rain settling in I was afforded the perfect opportunity to hone my skills at Seven bays, the local Bouldering hang out.

My week’s work efforts primarily consisted of researching for Dr. David Murrell (Professor of Economics at the University of New Brunswick) on a couple of economic research papers he is writing. This included conceiving the best possible way to quantify local Labour Quality information to create an index that would allow us to compare Atlantic Canada to the rest of the country.

With the help of Jackson Doughart, I was also able to write an article for the Prince Arthur Herald; an Atlantic Canadian based alternative newspaper with classical liberal leanings. The PAH provides an excellent platform for young writers to gain exposure and I was immensely grateful to be able to contribute. The article can be found here: http://princearthurherald.com/en/politics-2/who-voted-for-brexit-and-why-712

As I meet more people, and discover new things about the city, Halifax continues to grow on me. After a busy week at the office I look forward to getting out and seeing a bit more of the lusciously green countryside and sampling a few more local ales.

Ryan Scarth – Week One

Ryan Scarth, 4 July 2016

I regard the purpose for which I find myself in Halifax to be one of the few things more encapsulating than the beauty and intrigue of the city itself, and for this I am very fortunate.

Where on earth’s that? Halifax is the capital of Nova Scotia, one of four provinces comprising the Atlantic Canada region on the country’s eastern coast. With a population of roughly 400,000 people and four universities (plus many more educational and arts institutions), it truly makes for a diverse populous with a wide base of intellectual capital that seems to make the most random of bar chats and chance encounters all the more interesting.

As for the purpose of me being in Halifax, I am interning at the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS), a Halifax based research institute focused on economic, social and political issues in Atlantic Canada and abroad.

With a couple of people out of the office, a quieter first week has provided me with the opportunity to catch up on local issues and compare points of mutual interest held between our two countries’ people and governments. I started off the week with a fellow intern, Leo Plumer, cataloguing provincial budget data from each of the Atlantic provinces (Nova Scotia, Newfoundland & Labrador, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island). The remainder of my time was put towards helping Dr. David Murrell, an economics professor at the University of New Brunswick, as a research assistant for a paper he is working on.

Truly a magnificent opportunity, to turn something only imaginable years in the future into a reality, in my first week of interning; all thanks to the kind folks at Mannkal.

I can’t wait to see what the rest of my time with AIMS holds… and Happy Canada Day!!!

Jordan Armstrong- Week 9

Jordan Armstrong, 29 February 2016

I arrived in DC on Monday night after a somber day’s flying from Canada. I checked into my AirBnB apartment and promptly fell asleep. The next day, Dean messaged the scholars’ group chat asking if anybody would like to do something. I had missed out on the team’s shenanigans for the two days prior so naturally, I was quite keen to get out. I took a cab to his house and then we went to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, which looked relatively small upon entering but branched out to be an enormous building with many parts, my personal favorite being the Egyptian section.

Once we had finished up there, there was still time left in the day to check out the Air and Space Museum, where one can find such things as the Wright brothers’ plane and the Hubble Space Telescope. We also managed to find Ramin, who until recently didn’t have a Facebook account or a phone number and was therefore difficult to contact. It was a touching reunion. Dean went to the Manning Centre conference on Wednesday so Ramin and I decided to go and explore the capital. We met at the Washington monument, of which we took a guided tour. Following this, we went to the Lincoln Memorial. I rather enjoyed this exhibit as there is an evident Libertarian worldview in many of Honest Abe’s quotes. We finished the day by having a look at the Jefferson Memorial before going to an NHL match between my favorite team, The Montreal Canadians, and The Washington Capitals. I thoroughly enjoyed being told to “Go back to Canada, you hoser” when I celebrated them scoring each of their four goals and eventually, winning the game. Ramin and I had planned to get a lot done on Thursday. However, we didn’t quite predict how much we’d both love the National Gallery of Art, where we managed to spend the entire day. The gallery contained paintings by such known artists as Da Vinci, Picasso and Monet. I could have spent a week there if I wanted to. Friday was the start of the conference but before we headed to the Marriott, Ramin and I paid quick visits to the Holocaust museum and the International Spy museum. The former was, as expected, extremely morbid but It teaches an important lesson nonetheless. The latter was a cool blend of technology and role-play. My favorite speech of the conference came on Saturday when I watched Yeonmi Park talk about her experiences living in and fleeing North Korea. I look forward to sharing more detail about this in my ISFLC report. After the conference finished on Sunday, I went to an NBA game with Thomas and Ramin. Right now I am sitting, waiting for a flight to Abu Dhabi, so it is here that I will sign off!

Many thanks to Mannkal for a profoundly enjoyable few months!

Jordan Armstrong – Week 8

Jordan Armstrong, 22 February 2016

I’m not normally one to get emotional about anything but this week I had to force back tears on the bus home from work.
This was on Thursday. It suddenly hit me that the following day would be my last day at AIMS and that in a few days, I would be leaving this country and the friends that I’ve made here behind.
So, before I begin a recount of my week, I’d like to give shout outs to a few people who made me feel especially welcome during my time here. These are: Marco Navarro-Genie, Michael Kydd, Laraine Sleigh, Louise Andrews and Richelle Tobin. The first three people on that list are staff at AIMS and the other two are close friends that have made my Canadian experience so much better.
Monday was a public holiday here in Nova Scotia so I spent most of the day sleeping although I did manage to get some ice skating in. I’m getting surprisingly good at it! I only fell on my BACK once this time.
Tuesday I returned to work and began finishing off my projects. I’ve already discussed these in detail in previous blog entries and you’ll be pleased to know that the gasoline paper is just about finalised and should be released by AIMS in the coming weeks. On Tuesday night, I went for my first run in a while – the aim was to run 12 kilometres but I actually ended up running about four of the twelve and walking the rest.
My Wednesday was reasonably relaxed. The highlight of it was having my friend over in the evening and just chilling.
On Thursday night I caught up with my friend Richelle for the last time. We went for a drive around the perimeter of Halifax, which was a fitting way to say goodbye as this is what we did the first time I met her – it finished in the same way it started (although I do plan on keeping in contact with her).
Friday was my last day at the office. I had finished all of my work by 2pm and proceeded to say my final goodbyes to Michael and the incoming director of AIMS on Campus (an initiative to get students involved with free market ideas), Jackson Doughart. It was an emotional time although I left with a smile on my face.

Jordan Armstrong- Week 7

Jordan Armstrong, 15 February 2016

While Xavier (previous AIMS scholar) was interning at AIMS in July, him and a few other staff members began work on examining the effects of gas price regulation on consumer welfare. AIMS had previously done a study that found that, since the Nova Scotia Petroleum Products Pricing Act came into effect on July 1, 2006, prices have risen despite celings being in place- this raised the possibility of tacit collusion amongst firms, especially in rural areas.

The paper that Xavier and the others were working on was slightly different to the previous study because it accounted for inflation. They got about 60% of the way through their workings before Xavier left AIMS, which meant that I was given the task of picking up where he left off so that Marco could finally release the paper. I found that gas prices actually rose after the ceilings were put in place in all major Atlantic Canadian cities apart from St. John’s, Newfound and Labrador. Admittedly, the main goal of the regulation was to preserve the supply of gas in rural areas. However, this has come at a large cost to consumers but with very little gain for society a whole.

I went snowboarding for first time in my life on Saturday. My friend and I went to Wentworth to do so, this is a small town about two hours outside of Halifax. There are few times I can think of where I’ve feared for my life as much as I did then BUT looking back on it now, it was a lot of fun and I’m thankful to have gone there. My valentines day consisted of paying a visit to the Art Gallery Of Nova Scotia, which was a nice way to relax after an intense weekend.

Snowboarding!

On the chairlift!

Jordan Armstrong – Week 6

Jordan Armstrong, 8 February 2016

I was wrong, ladies and gentleman. After being taken to Musquodoboit Valley today, I discovered that Nova Scotia does in fact have beaches. Admittedly, the beach is far less pleasant when the temperature is only 5 degrees Celsius but it still made me feel at home.

It was nice to get out of the city after a long week at work. The main project I had this week looked at changes to the Nova Scotia Seniors’ Pharmacare program- a government plan that subsidizes the cost of prescription medicine for people over the age of 65. You see, a recent news release from the Department of Health & Wellness almost triumphantly stated that co-payments (the amount you pay at the counter) had fallen from 30% of the full cost of the drugs to 20% of their cost.

While this is good news for those enrolled in the program, it comes at the cost of higher premiums for those members who earn higher incomes, with the maximum annual premium rising from $424 to $1200.

Now, health minister Leo Glavine has been inconsistent in explaining his reasoning behind the changes. First, he claimed that it was about “sustainability” and then it was about “fairness”. Commentators, both left & right-aligned, seem to think that it’s about reducing the provincial budget deficit.

If this is the case, there are easier and less risky ways to go about it than to pick the pockets of Nova Scotian seniors. The changes are expected to save the province, at the very most, $5 million per year. This is assuming that nobody leaves the program as a result of the higher premiums. In the worst case scenario, the changes would actually cost the government $5 million per year more than it currently does. What do I suggest? Reductions in public sector employment.

The average yearly wage of a Nova Scotian government employee is about $60,000. This means that only 84 job cuts would be required to save $5 million per year. When there are 94,000 public servants in the province, this isn’t going to affect too many people.

Let’s see if the government makes the smart decision.

Nova Scotia rocks! literally!

We found an abandoned bus in the woods!

The bridge over the Musquodoboit river