I’ve had a few people ask me about my bio line “I used to do other stuff.” Usually, it’s the obvious question what other stuff?
This is going to be unbelievably self-indulgent, but consider it a form of disclosure (though you could just get that at LinkedIn). Here goes.
I currently have two jobs. One is Assistant Professor at Ivey Business School, in the Business, Economics and Public Policy group. I teach two HBA2 (4th year undergrad) courses at Ivey. One is Global Macroeconomics for Managers, and the other is Business, Government and Globalization, both of which I’ve taught roughly two dozen times each. The latter is a course I designed, on nine types of political risk that “takes a single bottom-line perspective to understand how the international policy environment affects firm profitability and how companies can alter their external environment to their advantage.” It borrows heavily from Ian Bremmer’s MBA course at Stern, Introduction to Political Risk Analysis and Amy Zegart and Condolezza Rice’s Stanford MBA course Managing Global Political Risk.
My other job is Senior Director, Policy and Innovation, at the Smart Prosperity Institute (SPI), at the University of Ottawa. I lead our policy (think-tank) research team, which is devoted to practical policies and market solutions for a stronger, cleaner economy. Here’s some of our research. I spend most of my time managing, though conduct some research of my own. Here are a few things I’ve authored or co-authored nearly two dozen papers since I’ve been there, on everything from housing policy to manufacturing to sustainable agriculture. Full list of my publications is available on LinkedIn. I also spend a lot of time on TV and radio talking about this research. Too much time for someone who always looks like he needs a haircut.
Not only do I have two jobs, but they’re in two different cities (London, ON and Ottawa). Fortunately, I do all of my teaching in the fall, so I’m in Ottawa about 80% of the time.
Past Think-Tank Work
Prior to joining SPI, I was the Senior Director, Policy and Innovation, at Canada 2020. The work I’m proudest of from that time is our (goofily named) podcast, Wonk with Mike, where I’d talk diplomacy with Ronan Farrow, the role of Mayors with Kate Graham, the Great Financial Crisis with Wayne Swan (who was Australia’s Finance Minister during that time) and gun violence with Liz Plank. Lots of fun episodes. Prior to that was involved with Canada 2020 off-and-on for the last few years, including co-authoring the book Towards an Inclusive Innovative Canada with Hannah Rasmussen and David Watters.
In 2017, I was on secondment at Innovation, Science and Economic Development (the Department formerly known as “Industry Canada”) as the Chief Innovation Fellow for the Government of Canada. It was a position modeled on Finance’s Clifford Clark Visiting Economist where I advised the Deputy Minister and did other Director General-esque tasks to help out the government with their Innovation Agenda. A fair bit of the job was international diplomacy, including representing Canada at the OECD and Organization of American States (OAS). The thing I’m proudly proudest of was the all-female team of innovators I put together to represent Canada at the G7 meetings in Turin, in my role as Government of Canada “focal point”. I’m biased, but I think we had the most talented squad!
Before that, I was the Director (Interim) of the Lawrence National Centre for Policy and Management where I had to fill the very big shoes of the outgoing Director, Paul Boothe. In my few months at Lawrence, we put out the report We Make Things Together: Potential Impact of Changes to NAFTA on the Great Lakes Region.
Prior to that, I was the Chief Economist at the Mowat Centre at the University of Toronto. While there I wrote the research report Making it Simple on tariff reform; some of our suggestions made it into subsequent budgets. I also pitched in on our study of Energy East.
I could probably write a book on Canadian think-tanks. Feels like I’ve worked for half of them!
Government Advisory Work
From 2019 to 2021, I was a member of the Canadian Environment Domestic Advisory Group (CEDAG) for the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), an unpaid, volunteer position. Here’s what CEDAG does:
The purpose of the CEDAG will be to foster dialogue and to allow Canada to seek views and advice on issues related to CETA’s Trade and Environment Chapter. More specifically, members on the CEDAG will have three key functions:
Members will be responsible for advising, making recommendations and expressing their opinions on such issues, including on their own initiative.
Members will be expected to participate when possible in the Civil Society Forum with EU counterparts, an annual forum to conduct a dialogue on sustainable development issues, including the environment.
The CEDAG will be a formal mechanism through which ECCC will be able to inform stakeholders and Indigenous organizations of submissions received from the public, including complaints, on matters under that Chapter.
Prior to that I was a member of the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs’ Advisory Committee on Trade for the Government of Ontario. This was also an unpaid, volunteer role.
Policy Advisory Work
From 2013 to 15 I was an outside economic advisor to Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, as part of his Economic Council of Advisors.
It was an outside, advisory position, where I’d attend meetings, write lots of policy 2-pagers and give advice wherever I could. I don’t know if it was useful, but I enjoyed it. I played a small advisory role on a few policies, including the creation of the Canada Child Benefit and did some costing and economic forecasting work for the platform. All of which was unpaid, outsider work.
I’ve provided advice and support to political parties in Canada, the U.S., New Zealand, Australia and the U.K. Again, all in an unpaid, outsider capacity. Usually to centre-left parties, but my door is open to all. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been occasionally providing advice to municipal, provincial, and federal politicians, including Prime Minister Trudeau, all in an outsider capacity. Here is a piece in Politico about some of the advice I and others have been providing.
I’ve voted for pretty much everyone at one time or another. I’m not particularly ideological, though I am pretty environmentally minded, so I’ve voted Green more than any other party. I look for two things in a party:
- Will their policies actually work? Will they solve the problems they’re trying to solve? The Public Policy Keltner List is helpful here.
- Is the leader and their party competent enough to pull off what they’re promising? I’m a big believer that logistics trump tactics.
In other words, I’m not particularly ideological, but I am absolutely allergic to incompetence and mindless populism. Just give me a plan and government that works.
From 2013–17, I did a lot of freelance writing for Rogers, mostly for Macleans and Canadian Business. Most controversial piece I ever wrote for them was Why so many temporary foreign workers in southwest Ontario? It didn’t get a ton of attention in Ottawa, but it went absolutely viral in Southwestern Ontario. Phone didn’t stop ringing with media interviews. I did get a nice letter from then Minister of Employment and Social Development, Jason Kenney. I still have it somewhere.
From 2012–2013 I wrote for the Globe and Mail’s Economy Lab, where my piece on “the iPod tax” caused the federal government to change the regulations regarding the importation of consumer electronics. The government claimed there was no tax. A bunch of retailers ended up saying “uhh.. then why have we been paying millions in these taxes for years?” The electronics industry and retailers got a $27 million settlement from the government based, in part, on my piece. I ended up parting ways with the Globe. I still find it funny that I was the only person who ended up having to change jobs because of a mess where I was largely right. No good deed goes unpunished.
For 7+ years between 2002 and 2010, I was About.com’s Guide to Economics. During that time my articles were being read over one million times each month, which at the time made me the most widely read economist online.
Private Sector Work
Back in 2005, Mike Harvey and I founded Nexreg Compliance, a consulting firm that helps chemical companies navigate environmental and safety regulations. Let’s say you’re a soap company from Japan that has landed a big distribution contract in Mexico. Nexreg’s there to help you navigate the rules, to make sure your product (and its packaging) is compliant with Mexico’s rules and regulations. While I was at Nexreg, I worked with hundreds of companies, from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, in over 2 dozen countries, on a variety of issues, though my specialty was aerosol products. I have not worked in an active capacity at Nexreg since January 2017, though am still a co-owner of the company.
I spent most of my 30s playing dodgeball all over North America, and was Head Coach of Canada’s national team in 2013 and 2014 (yes, we have one). We won gold in both years, beating the U.S. in the finals in 2013 in New Zealand and 2014 in Hong Kong. I retired from coaching in 2014 with 2 gold medals in 2 attempts and an international coaching record of 11–2.
I managed to find a guy who has recorded the score of every international dodgeball match ever played. Here’s the score of all of the matches I coached; I had forgotten that our two losses in two years were only by a single point.
The only match I appeared in as a player was the 2013 match vs. Australia, but that’s a story best told at a pub.
I’ll probably add to this over time, but that’s enough for now.