Fraser Institute

The Fraser Institute is a Canadian public policy think tank and registered charity. It has been described as politically conservative[1][2][3] and libertarian.[4][5] The Institute is headquartered in Vancouver, with offices also located in Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal, and ties to a global network of 80 think-tanks through the Economic Freedom Network.[6]

The Fraser Institute
MottoIf It Matters, Measure It
Formation1974 (1974)
TypePublic policy think tank, charity
Headquarters1770 Burrard Street
Coordinates49.2700°N 123.1453°W / 49.2700; -123.1453
Niels Veldhuis

According to the 2014 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report (Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, University of Pennsylvania), Fraser is number 23 (of 100) in the "Top Think Tanks Worldwide (non-U.S.)", number 19 (of 150) in the "Top Think Tanks Worldwide (U.S. and non-U.S.)" and number 1 (of 30) in the "Top Think Tanks in Mexico and Canada".[7]


The Fraser Institute was founded in 1974 by Michael Walker, an economist from the University of Western Ontario, and businessman T. Patrick Boyle, then a vice-president of MacMillan Bloedel. It obtained charitable status in Canada on October 22, 1974, and in the United States in 1978.[8] Its stated mission is "to measure, study, and communicate the impact of competitive markets and government intervention on the welfare of individuals."[9] The Institute is named after the Fraser River.[6]

Sir Antony Fisher, previously instrumental in setting up the UK's Institute of Economic Affairs, was appointed acting director in 1975, until Walker became executive director in 1977.[8] In its first full year of operation, 1975, the Institute reported revenues of $421,389.[8] In 1988, revenues exceed $1 million, and in 2003, $6 million.[8]

Political stance

The Fraser Institute describes itself as "an independent international research and educational organization",[10] and envisions "a free and prosperous world where individuals benefit from greater choice, competitive markets, and personal responsibility".[9]

Forbes has referred to the think tank as libertarian.[11] The New York Times has described the Institute as libertarian[12] and conservative.[2] The Calgary Herald called it conservative,[3] Langley Times classified it as right-of-center libertarian.[5]


As a registered charity with the Canada Revenue Agency, the Institute files annual registered charity information returns. In 2010, the Institute reported having $4.5 million CAD in assets and $10.8 million in annual revenue.[13]

The Institute depends on contributions from individuals, corporations, and foundations. It does not accept government grants or payments for research, however individual donors may claim tax credits for donations and corporate donors may claim tax deductions.[14]

The Institute has received donations of hundreds of thousands of dollars[15] from foundations controlled by Charles and David Koch, with total donations estimated to be approximately $765,000 from 2006 to 2016.[16] It also received US$120,000 from ExxonMobil in the 2003 to 2004 fiscal period.[17] In 2016, it received a $5 million donation from Peter Munk, a Canadian businessman.[18]

In 2012, the Vancouver Observer reported that the Fraser Institute had "received over $4.3 million in the last decade from eight major American foundations including the most powerful players in oil and pharmaceuticals". According to the article, "The Fraser Institute received $1.7 million from 'sources outside Canada' in one year alone, according to the group's 2010 Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) return. Fraser Institute President Niels Veldhuis told The Vancouver Observer that the Fraser Institute does accept foreign funding, but he declined to comment on any specific donors or details about the donations."[19]

Research and publications

The Institute self publishes a variety of reports:

  • Economic Freedom Index: The Institute's annual Economic Freedom of the World index ranks the countries of the world according to their degrees of economic freedom.[20] The Institute has also published regional and sub-national reports ranking the economic freedom of North America, Latin America, the Arab World, and the Francophonie.[21] These reports are distributed worldwide through the Economic Freedom Network, a global network of 80 think-tanks.[6]
  • Human Freedom Index: Along with the Cato Institute and the Liberales Institut at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, the Fraser Institute publishes annual Human Freedom Index, which presents the state of human freedom in the world based on a broad measure of 76 distinct indicators that encompasses personal, civil, and economic freedom.[22] The index presents a broad measure of human freedom, understood as the absence of coercive constraint. The index covers the following areas: Rule of Law, Security and Safety, Movement, Religion, Association, Assembly, and Civil Society, Expression, Relationships, Size of Government, Legal System and Property Rights, Access to Sound Money, Freedom to Trade Internationally, and Regulation of Credit, Labor, and Business.[23] The Human Freedom Index was created in 2015, covering 152 countries for years 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012.[24][25][26][27][28] In January 2016 data for 2013 was added, covering 157 countries.
  • Waiting Your Turn: Wait Times for Health Care in Canada[29] is the Institute's annual report on hospital waiting times in Canada, based on a nationwide survey of physicians and health care practitioners. The twentieth annual survey, released December 2010, found that the total waiting time between referral from a general practitioner and delivery of elective treatment by a specialist, averaged across 12 specialties and 10 provinces surveyed, had risen from 16.1 weeks in 2009 to 18.2 weeks in 2010.[29]
  • Survey of Mining Companies: Published annually, the global Survey of Mining Companies ranks the investment climates of mining jurisdictions around the world, based on the opinions of mining industry executives and managers.[30]
  • Global Petroleum Survey: An annual survey of petroleum executives regarding barriers to investment in oil- and gas-producing regions around the world.[31]
  • Canadian Provincial Investment Climate: A series of reports measuring the extent to which Canadian provinces embrace public policies that contribute to, and sustain, positive investment climates.[32]
  • Firearms reports. The Fraser Institute issued a number of articles and statements opposing Canadian gun control laws,[33][34] including firearms registry.[35]
  • School Report Cards: Every year, the Institute publishes a series of School Report Cards ranking the academic performance of schools in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, and Washington state based on the publicly available results of standardized testing mandated and administered by the provinces.[36] The website allows anyone to compare up to five schools at once, based on a variety of performance indicators.[37]
  • Tax Freedom Day: The Institute's annual Tax Freedom Day report calculates the day the average Canadian family has paid off the total tax bill and royalties imposed on them and corporations by all levels of government.[38] In 2016, Tax Freedom Day was June 7 with $45,167 (42.9 per cent of income) having been collected per family.[39] The Institute also offers a personal Tax Freedom Day calculator.[40]
  • The Institute publishes three magazines: Fraser Forum, a bi-monthly review of public policy in Canada; Perspectives, a French-language review of public policy in Quebec and la Francophonie; and Canadian Student Review, a look at current affairs written for students, by students.[41]
  • In March 2010, the Institute released Did Government Stimulus Fuel Economic Growth in Canada? An Analysis of Statistics Canada Data,[42] a report critical of the Harper government's Economic Action Plan, concluding that the stimulus package did not have a material impact on Canada's economic turnaround in the latter half of 2009.

Education programs

The Institute periodically hosts free seminars across Canada for students, teachers, and journalists, focusing on key economic concepts and timely issues in public policy.[43] In 2010, the Institute hosted eight one-day student seminars, attracting more than 775 participants.[44]

The Fraser Institute also offers an internship program, to which more than 431 individuals applied in 2010.[44]

Other initiatives

Children First

Canada's first privately funded program of its kind, Children First: School Choice Trust,[45] offers tuition assistance grants to help parents in financial need send their children to an independent school of their choice. The program was discontinued in 2012.

Donner Awards

Canada's largest non-profit recognition program, the Donner Canadian Foundation Awards for Excellence in the Delivery of Social Services[46] recognize non-profit social service agencies that, despite budget limitations, excel in terms of management and service delivery. Winners are selected every year in a variety of categories, and share in $60,000 prize money.[46]

School Chain Showcase

A global database of school chains, the multilingual website allows anyone to connect with school chain operators around the world.[47]


In April 2012, economist Niels Veldhuis was appointed president.[48] The Institute is governed by a board of trustees. Current members of the board include Peter Brown (chairman), Mark Mitchell (vice-chairman), and Edward Belzberg (vice-chairman).[49]

Associated people

The Institute has attracted some well-known individuals to its ranks, including politicians such as former Reform Party of Canada leader Preston Manning,[50] former Progressive Conservative Ontario premier Mike Harris, former Progressive Conservative Alberta premier Ralph Klein, and former Liberal Newfoundland & Labrador premier Brian Tobin. From 1979 to 1991, the Institute's senior economist was Walter Block.[51] Former Alberta Wildrose Party leader, now talk show host Danielle Smith.


According to an article published in CBC News Online, some people allege that Michael Walker helped set up the Institute after he received financial backing from forestry giant MacMillan Bloedel, largely to counter British Columbia's NDP government,[52] then led by premier Dave Barrett.

In late 1997, the Institute set up a research program emulating the UK's Social Affairs Unit, called the Social Affairs Centre. Its founding Director was Patrick Basham. The program's funding came from Rothmans International and Philip Morris.[53] When Rothmans was bought by British American Tobacco (BAT) in 1999, its funding ended,[54] and in 2000 the Institute wrote to BAT asking for $50,000 per year, to be split between the Social Affairs Centre and the Centre for Risk and Regulation.[53] The letter highlighted the Institute's 1999 publication Passive Smoke: The EPA's Betrayal of Science and Policy,[55] "which highlighted the absence of any scientific evidence for linking cancer with second-hand smoke [and] received widespread media coverage both in Canada and the United States".[53] At this time the CEO of BAT's Canadian subsidiary, Imasco, was also on the Fraser Institute's Board of Trustees.[54] The Fraser Institute ceased disclosing its sources of corporate funding in the 1980s.[54]

In 1999, the Fraser Institute was criticized by health professionals and scientists for sponsoring two conferences on the tobacco industry entitled Junk Science, Junk Policy? Managing Risk and Regulation and Should Government Butt Out? The Pros and Cons of Tobacco Regulation. Critics charged the Institute was associating itself with the tobacco industry's many attempts to discredit authentic scientific work.[52]

In 2004, the Fraser Institute issued a statement of support for the legalization of cannabis and its sale on the market.[56]


  1. R.-O. Schultze, R. Sturm, D. Eberle (eds.). Conservative Parties and Right-Wing Politics in North America: Reaping the Benefits of an Ideological Victory? Opladen 2003, p. 244
  2. Clifford Krauss (28 February 2006). "In Canada, private medicine spreads". New York Times.
  3. "Fraser Institute to pay tuition for poor Albertans". Calgary Herald. 18 January 2006. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.
  4. Kai Nielsen. Equality and Liberty: A Defense of Radical Egalitarianism. Totowa, New Jersey: Rowman and Allenheld, 1985, p. 216, footnote 13
  5. Dan Ferguson (13 July 2011). "Passing grade for LMH". Langley Times.
  6. Economic Freedom Network Fraser Institute
  7. James G. McGann (Director) (February 4, 2015). "2014 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report". Retrieved February 14, 2015. Other "Top Think Tank" rankings include #68 (of 85) in Defense and National Security, #45 (of 80) in Domestic Economic Policy, #5 (of 30) in Domestic Health Policy, #5 (of 25) in Global Health Policy, #18 (of 50) in International Economic Policy, #18 (of 50) in Social Policy, #8 (of 40) for Best New Idea or Paradigm Developed by a Think Tank, #5 (of 47) for Best Policy Study/Report Produced by a Think Tank (2013–2014), #24 (of 55) for Best Think Tank Conference, #16 (of 60) for Best Think Tank Network, #16 (of 60) for Best Use of Social Networks, #23 (of 50) of Think Tanks with the Best External Relations/Public Engagement Program, #16 (of 40) for Best Use of the Internet, #14 (of 30) for Most Innovative Policy Ideas/Proposals, and #27 (of 70) for the Most Significant Impact on Public Policy.
  8. The Fraser Institute at 30: A Retrospective Archived 2016-03-13 at the Wayback Machine Fraser Institute
  9. Mission Fraser Institute Archived December 30, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  10. Who We Are Fraser Institute Archived February 25, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  11. Tim W. Ferguson (September 20, 2004). "Competitive and Not". Archived from the original on January 18, 2012. Retrieved 2010-01-11.
  12. With Interest: Turning the tables on reform The New York Times
  13. 2010 "Registered Charity Information Return for The Fraser Institute" Check |url= value (help), Canada Revenue Agency
  14. Funding Overview Fraser Institute
  15. "Forget Trump – 'Dark Money' from Koch brothers is shaping Republican Party". CBC News. February 27, 2016. Retrieved February 11, 2017. Mayer says the Koch brothers have also given hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Fraser Institute, a Canadian think-tank.
  16. Bramham, Daphne (September 25, 2016). "Lessons for Canada from how the Koch brothers hijacked democracy". Vancouver Sun. Retrieved February 11, 2017. And the Koch brothers are connected to Canada as the largest foreign investors in Alberta’s oilsands and as donors to the Fraser Institute, which has reportedly received $765,000 from them in the last decade.
  17. "Climate-change 'skeptics' hopeful Harper accepts their view". Vancouver Sun. Canwest News Service. October 16, 2006. Archived from the original on October 25, 2012. Retrieved February 11, 2017. The Fraser Institute received $120,000 US from ExxonMobil in 2003–'04, according to the company's annual report.
  18. Fraser Institute, 2016 Annual Report. Retrieved 15 Sept 2017.
  19. "Charitable Fraser Institute received $4.3 million in foreign funding since 2000", Vancouver Observer, 30 August 2012 Retrieved 15 Sept 2017
  20. McMahon, Fred. "Economic Freedom of the World: 2010 Report" (PDF). Fraser Institute. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 August 2011. Retrieved 22 March 2011.
  21. Fraser Institute. "Economic Freedom Network Regional and Sub-National Reports". Retrieved 2013-12-11.
  22. "The Fraser Institute: Canada Ranks Sixth on Human Freedom Index, Far Ahead of United States in 20th". Yahoo! Finance. August 18, 2015.
  23. Tarik El Barakah (September 3, 2015). "The Fraser Institute: Canada Ranks Sixth on Human Freedom Index, Far Ahead of United States in 20th". Morocco World News.
  24. "The Human Freedom Index". CBC News’s New Brunswick First. August 20, 2015.
  25. "The Human Freedom Index". FOX's Outnumbered. August 20, 2015.
  26. "The Human Freedom Index ranking of Canada". CBC’s The Exchange with Amanda Lang. August 19, 2015.
  27. "The Human Freedom Index ranking of Canada". CTV AM. August 18, 2015.
  28. "The Human Freedom Index". CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS. August 23, 2015.
  29. Skinner, Brett. "Waiting Your Turn: Wait Times for Health Care in Canada 2010 Report" (PDF). Fraser Institute. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 August 2011. Retrieved 22 March 2011.
  30. McMahon, Fred. "Survey of Mining Companies: 2011/2012". Fraser Institute. Archived from the original on 9 March 2012. Retrieved 23 March 2012.
  31. Angevine, Gerry. "Global Petroleum Survey 2011" (PDF). Fraser Institute. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 August 2011. Retrieved 29 July 2011.
  32. Veldhuis, Niels. "Canadian Provincial Investment Climate 2010 Report" (PDF). Fraser Institute. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 March 2012. Retrieved 22 March 2011.
  33. "Gun Laws do Not Reduce Criminal Violence According to New Study". Retrieved 2013-12-11.
  34. "Some International Evidence on Gun Bans and Murder Rates". Retrieved 2013-12-11.
  35. "Misfire: Firearm registration in Canada". Retrieved 2013-12-11.
  36. School Report Cards Archived 2011-07-24 at the Wayback Machine Fraser Institute
  37. Compare School Rankings Fraser Institute
  38. "Tax Freedom Day in Canada", Fraser Institute
  39. Canadians Celebrate Tax Freedom Day on June 7, 2016 Fraser Institute
  40. Personal Tax Freedom Day Calculator Fraser Institute
  41. Magazines Archived 2011-07-23 at the Wayback Machine Fraser Institute
  42. Veldhuis, Niels. "Did Government Stimulus Fuel Economic Growth in Canada? An Analysis of Statistics Canada Data". Fraser Institute. Archived from the original on 7 August 2011. Retrieved 22 March 2011.
  43. Education Programs Archived 2011-07-28 at the Wayback Machine Fraser Institute
  44. "Fraser Institute Annual Report 2010" (PDF). Fraser Institute. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 August 2011. Retrieved 29 July 2011.
  45. Children First: School Choice Trust Fraser Institute
  46. Donner Canadian Foundation Awards
  47. School Chain Showcase Fraser Institute
  48. Gyarmati, Sandor (April 18, 2012). "Local now leads Fraser Institute". Delta Optimist. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  49. Board of Directors Archived 2011-07-27 at the Wayback Machine Fraser Institute
  50. Fraser Institute. "Preston Manning". The Fraser Institute. Retrieved 24 July 2019.
  51. Walter Block curriculum vitae on, p. 2.
  52. CBC News Indepth: Fraser Institute
  53. Fraser Institute letter of 28 January 2000 to British American Tobacco chairman Martin Broughton, Letter to Martin Broughton regarding research program in emulation of the social affairs unit, disclosed via Legacy Tobacco Documents Library.
  54. Donald Gutstein,, 14 October 2009, Following the money: The Fraser Institute’s tobacco papers
  55. John Luik and Gio Batta Gori (1999), Passive Smoke: The EPA's Betrayal of Science and Policy, Vancouver: Fraser Institute
  56. Eric Beauchesne, CanWest News Service. "Legalize Marijuana, Fraser Institute Advises $2-Billion Tax Source: Group Says Move Would Seize Control From Criminals", National Post, 9 June 2004. Southam Inc, 2004.
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