PEF at the 2011 CEA Meetings

The ubiquitous Ish Theilheimer of the left-wing on-line news site Straight Goods has written a very generous profile of the Progressive Economics Forum.

He hung out at last weekend’s CEA meetings at the University of Ottawa for a while, and caught a few PEF members (including myself, David Robinson, and Brendan Haley) on the way into various sessions.

He filmed those interviews, and a film version of his coverage will also appear on his site at some point (

I had to cut out early from the CEA meetings in Ottawa due to an unexpected family matter that came up.  But the day I spent there was highly gratifying, and I think a fine testimony to the success of the PEF.

Remember, the PEF was founded at the U of O back in 1998, at the CEA meetings there that year.  So there we were back at our “alma mater,” so to speak, 13 years later.

In the meantime, the PEF has grown to 100+ dues-paying members, we have a high-profile presence at the CEA meetings each year, we support critical-thinking economics students (including through our essay contest — fortuitously, our two winners this year were able to attend the meetings in Ottawa and accept their prizes in person!), and I believe that we have broadened the debate.

I think in particular of the PEF panel that Armine Yalnizyan organized this year on household debt: it was one of the best-attended of the whole CEA conference, it featured a lively and constructive dialogue between Armine and several mainstream economists (including Umar Faruqui from the Bank of Canada … representing the first time to my knowledge that the central bank has participated in a PEF panel), and a lively question period — concluding with a pledge by a Statistics Canada official that the agency would indeed undertake another incarnation of the Financial Security Survey (for the first time in several years).

Another example was the PBO’s panel on debt and deficit issues where PEF members asked over half of the questions … and where the consensus emerged that maybe Canada is not in such a fiscal “crisis” after all!

There were lots of other ways in which the PEF’s presence was visible and recognized at the event.  This is ratification, in my view, of our non-sectarian approach to participating in these mainstream meetings.  We build bridges, we engage, and I believe after attending these sessions that we truly influence the profession.  I remember Lars Osberg encouraging us very strongly, when we first started the PEF (and he was incoming President of the CEA), to make sure we always had non-PEF speakers at every possible PEF panel for that exact reason, and he was 100% correct.

Congratulations and special thanks to Nick Falvo for taking on the main duties of coordinating our sessions, to everyone else who pitched into making the U of O events a success, to Mike McCracken for hosting that awesome BBQ, and to everyone else who has helped the PEF come so far in the last 13 years.


  • that’s good to hear Jim!

  • Denise Freedman

    I had the opportunity of attending all the PEF events at the Canadian Economics Association meeting–well, not the Sunday one.

    I also attended the PEF Summer School on Thursday.

    One of the most interesting things I learned was the breadth of what is called economics, in particular heterodox economics.

    I also asked a number of questions in the events, and engaged speakers, and others, in discussion after the events and at the post-event gatherings.

    It was both enjoyable and enlightening.

    One thing, though, I was quite gratified to hear Jim say, at the PEF events he introduced, in describing the Progressive Economics Forum, quite unselfconsciously he called it “a multi-disciplinary network of economists and others.”

    Je suis definitely une autre.

  • Jim:

    This wasn’t the first time a Bank of Canada official participated on a PEF panel. Remember this baby back in 2003?

    PEF/CSLS Panel Discussion: Whatever Happened to the Canada-US Unemployment Rate Gap?

    Chair Andrew Sharpe (Centre for the Study of Living Standards)

    Panelists Geoff Bowlby (Statistics Canada)
    Tiff Macklem (Bank of Canada)
    Craig Riddell (University of British Columbia)
    Jim Stanford (Canadian Auto Workers)

    If we ever play PEF Trivia, my friend, I’m gonna burn you! 😉

  • Thanks for that correction Nick, you are hereby appointed official PEF archivist!!!

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