Nice Work If You Can Get It

The head of a Finance Canada-friendly think tank has again been hired to moderate meetings on the government’s austerity budget at thousands of dollars per appearance.

Brian Lee Crowley, managing director of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, confirmed he is contracted to appear at budget roundtable meetings at a five-figure talent fee.

“I don’t host the meetings, I moderate the discussion,” Crowley said. “It’s purely a chairing role.”

Crowley was paid $13,257 to host budget roundtable sessions with business groups last winter, according to accounts tabled in Parliament. The payments included $1,500 for a single appearance at a half-day meeting in Ottawa; $3,526 in fees and expenses to moderate a meeting in Burlington, Ont.; and $2,755 for a one-day appearance in Montréal.

The Department of Finance said Crowley’s flat fee for a teleconference was $1,500. “Mr. Crowley is uniquely qualified to carry out this assignment,” a finance spokesperson said.

In an email exchange with Blacklock’s, Crowley said he expected to be paid the same talent fees this winter.

“This is a personal contract and has nothing to do with the institute,” said Crowley, who added that as a former visiting economist with the department he “designed this format of consultation” with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

“It arises from a longstanding connection with the Minister,” Crowley said.

Flaherty’s office declined comment.

Crowley’s Macdonald-Laurier Institute has published documents and opinions in support of Department of Finance policies, including a recent study endorsing Flaherty’s refusal to regulate $5 billion in credit card fees paid by Canadian merchants.

By Tom Korski  

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