Volume 19, Number 3
As new Director of the Lawrence Centre, Paul Boothe is setting his sights on the future of Canadian manufacturing.
Ottawa recently announced it will spend $250 million on Canada's troubled auto industry. Still, some observers are wondering whether this will be enough to make the industry globally competitive.
Professor Paul Boothe, Ivey's new Director of Lawrence National Centre for Policy and Management, knows Canada's automotive sector at first hand. While Associate Director of Industry, he oversaw Ottawa's negotiations in the restructuring of General Motors and Chrysler. Boothe believes that this experience will be valuable as the Lawrence Centre undertakes a large new research project: the future of Canadian manufacturing.
The Lawrence Centre was created in 2001 to bring together government and business leaders to explore public policy with a view to building a more efficient economy. As Director, Boothe brings to his role a unique combination of research experience and practical public sector management and policy-making. "When I was in government I saw all kinds of opportunities where business and government could work together better, and also where business could play a more active and constructive role in the development of public policy."
Prior to his career as a senior public servant, Boothe was a long-serving faculty member of the University of Alberta's Department of Economics. Here he also acted as an advisor to the Alberta government. When Premier Roy Romanow read Boothe's work on deficit reduction in the Western provinces, he invited him to become Saskatchewan's Deputy Minister of Finance. Boothe moved to the federal government in 2004, where his appointments included Associate Deputy Minister of Finance and G7 Deputy, Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Industry, and most recently, Deputy Minister of the Environment.
Boothe describes the research focus of the Lawrence Centre as "the places where business and government intersect." One such place is Canadian manufacturing, a sector of immense importance to the Canadian economy but one facing big challenges and choices. "Are we going to keep doing what we are doing in traditional ways and compete on cost with jurisdictions like Mexico?" says Boothe. "Or are we going to try to move up the value chain and position ourselves in the areas of higher value-added advanced manufacturing?"
He hopes to focus the Centre's research on best practices: what Canadian manufacturers are doing successfully at home and abroad, and which public policy environments in the world are creating effective and efficient private and public sectors. In addition to manufacturing, Boothe is very interested in exploring aspects of government regulation that affect business.
Boothe will bring together senior policy makers and business leaders to work with Ivey researchers. "We hope to be tackling the things that matter the most to them," he says. "They will help us get access to the data we need, give us their insights, and then review the results of the research and translate them into practical actions."
One of the great assets of the Ivey School is its research capabilities, and Boothe is looking forward to working with Ivey researchers on projects undertaken by the Centre. In addition, he believes that the Centre has a significant role in promoting public policy research elsewhere in the School. "We have other very important research centres at Ivey, whose research often has policy implications," he says. "Helping my colleagues draw those implications and disseminate them to policy makers is a key service of the Lawrence Centre."
Boothe is excited about another of Ivey powerful assets - its extensive alumni network. This offers a wonderful opportunity to tap into Canada's business leadership. Boothe also hopes to bring to the table his own network of policy makers at both the provincial and federal level.
Part of the mission of the Lawrence Centre is to help students contribute to the building of sound public policy. Boothe has begun an internship program that exposes students to public policy issues from the perspectives of government and business. He recently took a group of interns to the Chrysler Windsor auto plant, where they toured the assembly lines, and met with the CEO and the leadership of the CAW.
Boothe's ultimate goal is to be true to the original vision of founder Jack Lawrence - that effective collaboration between business and government is good for both the Canadian economy and Canadian society. "Business schools have a lot to contribute to public policy discussions and public policy formulation," he says. "This could be a great benefit to business because it's very much affected by public policy decisions."