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Five questions with economics professor Dr. Frank Strain
2012-03-19 10:48:41

Dr. Frank Strain, economics professor and the Edgar and Dorothy Davidson Chair in Canadian studies, conducts research in public policy.

1- What are you currently researching?

I have several projects on the go. The one which might be of most general interest focuses on the impact of the financial crisis and the subsequent recession on Atlantic Canada. I hope most people know that the impact on Canada was much smaller than on most countries. But what most people will not know is that the impact on Atlantic Canada was smaller still. Indeed, immediately prior to the crisis unemployment in New Brunswick was two percentage points higher than in the United States, which was the smallest gap ever. By October 2009 the unemployment rate in New Brunswick was three percentage points lower than the unemployment rate in the United States. Other economic indicators tell a similar story and the obvious question is 'why?' I am currently exploring a variety of hypotheses using a sub-national data set. One hypothesis – that combined federal, provincial, and municipal spending being relatively large and strongly counter-cyclical contributed to stability – is directly relevant to most debated topics in economics today, which asks 'does fiscal stimulus actually achieve what is hoped?' I am hoping this research will have impact well beyond the region.

2- Which is the most pressing policy issue in Canada at this moment?

I would put climate change at the top of my list. There is almost universal agreement among economists that probability of very bad consequences is high enough to warrant a price for carbon emissions. It is more than a little depressing to watch Canadians reject this policy because they do not want to admit that climate change potentially has disastrous implications down the road and/or because they do not want to be encouraged to adopt less carbon intensive lifestyles via higher prices for carbon intensive activities.

3- You were the department head of economics for 12 years. What changes did you see the in the department over this time period?

New faces and a much improved national reputation for research and excellent students. In my opinion, hiring is the most important part of a department head’s job. We were exceptionally lucky when filling vacancies created by retirements. Although good luck was key, it is always nice to hear other economists say we have one of the best departments in the country.

4- What are some of your students doing now?

Most of our honours students go on to graduate studies in economics. Several have positions at universities and many others have very successful careers in the public service, finance, or management consulting. A number of our graduates have also pursued a career in law. Some have even ended up back at Mount Allison, including manager of ancillary operations Dan Wortman and economics professor, Dr. Craig Brett. Network analyst Bill Evans and Paul Berry, Dean of Social Sciences, are also grads of the economics program, but a little before my time.

5- You play guitar. How important is this hobby to you?

I really enjoy it. For me it is a mindless activity in the sense that I just like to play and never study or practice scales or even songs. I would not be a good music student. It has also given me opportunity to meet a lot of people with an interest creating music. Students may not know this, but there are a lot of faculty and staff outside the music department who are talented folk, roots, and/or rock players. The list would include Peter Brown, Jane Dryden, Nick Estabrooks, Berkeley Fleming, Owen Griffiths, David Hornidge, Steve Law, Kellie Mattatall, Steve Melanson, Curtis Michaelis, Mark Payne, and Will Wilson. My interest in music also led to involvement in Conduct Becoming, a project to showcase Mount Allison student talent through the production of annual CD of original songs. Every year I get to see and hear some amazing performances from our students.

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