Last month, I mused about the entirely fictitious #EconomistParty of Canada’s election platform.

This generated some thoughtful reactions (thanks Mike Moffatt), but to the best of my knowledge, none of those 17 recommendations have since been implemented.

The GST rate is still 5%. No new toll roads are planned. One glimmer of hope was a bill to restore the mandatory long-form census. Sadly, that was defeated 147-126. I could go on…

But now is not the time to admit failure. Now is the time to try a different approach.

Lots of policy changes pass a cost-benefit test, but the ones that get enacted are usually government priorities.

So let’s go back to the drawing board. Before policy implementation, let’s first choose policy priorities.

Appeal to the grass roots of the Economist Party. Appeal to authority — the authority of policy wonks, wonkier than myself — to identify those priorities.  And finally, use the age-old trick of putting distance between yourself and the process. That way you can cherry-pick the recommendations you like and ignore the rest.

Well, I’m happy to report that the IRPP’s Policy Options magazine has now consulted a dozen Canadian economists and policy experts on the following question (and responses were limited to 300 words, which itself requires prioritization):

Regardless of political stripe, Canadians will elect a new federal government in 2015. As it takes office, what economic issue do you think should be made a priority, and what should the new government do about it?

Importantly, we didn’t seek predictions of what government priorities will be, but rather what they should be. This table captures only the headlines of who wrote what.

I see at least three interesting take-aways from this exercise.

1) This is a tough question and a tough task. Setting priorities is hard because there are so many important policy areas that could be improved.

2) Our policy experts didn’t narrowly put ”œeconomic” issues into a single conventional box (i.e., only taxing and spending or improving aggregate incomes). These were included of course, but their ”œeconomic” concerns were inter-twined with various broader issues, such social policy and inclusiveness, health care, climate, and others. They push us to think beyond conventional metrics like GDP and the current budget balance — to look not only at overall economic growth but distributional concerns, and not just to today but tomorrow.

3) One recurring theme in these responses was the call for better cooperation among different levels of government in Canada — federal, provincial/territorial and municipal. Such an approach is needed now more than ever to address complex 21st century policy issues that cut across jurisdictions and that matter most to Canadians.

Read the detailed responses here. Tell us which ones you like or don’t like. Blog about what you think Canada’s policy priorities should be. Tweet us @IRPP. Use the hashtag #EconomistParty. Happy policy prioritizing!

Stephen Tapp
Stephen Tapp était directeur de recherche à  l'IRPP, où il a dirigé une initiative de recherche sur les échanges commerciaux, dont les travaux seront publiés dans un ouvrage intitulé Redesigning Canadian Trade Policies for New Global Realities. Auparavant, il était économiste principal auprès du directeur parlementaire du budget du Canada. Il a travaillé à la Banque du Canada et à Finances Canada dans le secteur de la recherche ; il a été chercheur à l'Institut C. D. Howe et chargé de cours en science économique à l'Université Queens. Twitter : @stephen_tapp.

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