Nova Scotia

Dalhousie University launches new Allan MacEachen think tank

The MacEachen Institute for Public Policy and Governance will focus on Atlantic Canada and the world, health systems, smart infrastructure and civic engagement.

Think tank named after famed Liberal politician, but it will be non-partisan

Allan MacEachen, 94, couldn't make it to the think tank launch. (CBC)

Dalhousie University launched a new think tank Monday named after famed Nova Scotia Liberal politician Allan MacEachen.

The MacEachen Institute  for Public Policy and Governance will focus on Atlantic Canada and the world, health systems, smart infrastructure and civic engagement.

Scholarly director Kevin Quigley says the Institute will be "progressive" but strictly non-partisan.

"We have representation from across the parties, public sector, private sector, not-for-profit. Working on big policy challenges for this region," Quigley told reporters.

He said MacEachen, now 94, was unable to travel from Cape Breton to Halifax. Hailing from Inverness, MacEachen was a cabinet minister in the governments of Lester Pearson, Pierre Trudeau and John Turner, and was known in his heyday as the "Laird of Lake Ainslie."    

Chrétien headlines opening

Former prime minister Jean Chrétien and many other Liberals attended the think tank launch. (CBC)

Monday's launch was very much a Liberal event, in more ways than one.

Former prime minister Jean Chrétien was featured at the launch. Chrétien lauded his federal cabinet colleague.

"He was a man pre-occupied with job creation," Chrétien said during a campus "fireside chat" with Bob Rae.

Big laughs

Chrétien drew laughs from the audience when he greeted Rae with a "Shawinigan handshake," playfully choking the former Liberal parliamentarian and NDP premier of Ontario.

The audience included recently defeated Halifax-area federal New Democrats Megan Leslie and Peter Stoffer.

There were also a number of prominent Liberals who worked with MacEachen or the Pierre Trudeau PMO, including John Young, Brian Flemming and Robert Pace.

Treasury Board President Scott Brison was present, as was current federal official Jack Graham and Stephen McNeil operatives Chris MacInnes and Kristin Hynes.

Trust Fund saga closes

Luminaries were not the only Liberal connection.

The institute is being founded with $2.3-million from a trust created by the Nova Scotia Liberal Party several years ago. The fund contains what is left over from the party's notorious trust funds, amassed through kickbacks when the party was in power in the 1970s.

Successive Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative governments gradually limited how much the fund could be used to the point where the Liberals eventually disposed of it in 2011.

Quigley says the Liberals set up the "for the public good trust" in the name of MacEachen to do policy research.

"The trust considered doing a policy institute itself and realized it didn't have the resources and they thought about how can we have good positive policy research in this community and the best way to do it was to give it to a university that has the infrastructure and can pursue those big public policy research agendas."

About the Author

Paul Withers

Reporter

Paul Withers is an award-winning journalist whose career started in the 1970s as a cartoonist. He has been covering Nova Scotia politics for more than 20 years.