James McNiven is Professor Emeritus at Dalhousie University and Senior Policy Research Advisor with Canmac Economics Ltd., a Halifax consulting firm. He has written widely on public policy and economic development issues and is the author or co-author of five books.
The eldest of 5 children, Jim was born in Flint, Michigan to Daniel and Catherine McNiven. His father, a Canadian citizen at the time, was a printer at the Flint News Advertiser, later at the Flint Journal.
Jim graduated as valedictorian of his high school and attended Michigan Tech and the University of Michigan. In 1963, he married Jane McNaughton, a classmate, and they have 3 children – Joan, Christine and Stephen – and 4 grandchildren. Remaining in Ann Arbor to do his graduate work in new programs in public administration and economic development, he received his PhD from the University of Michigan in 1972.
He was appointed an Assistant Professor in Political Science at the University of Winnipeg in Canada in 1968, where he collaborated with two colleagues on an introductory text on political science that remained in print for nearly 25 years. In 1972, he was appointed Assistant Professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, leaving in 1974 for an appointment at the University of Western Ontario, where he remained for three years.
Jim was attracted back to Halifax in 1977 to become President of the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, a private sector think-tank tasked with providing useful policy research for businesses and governments. He was appointed the Deputy Minister of Economic Development for the Province of Nova Scotia in 1981, where he helped lead the Provincial Government through the recession of 1981-84. He was then seconded to the Canadian federal government to support the Canada-US free trade negotiations that led to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
In 1988, he left government service to become the Dean of Management at Dalhousie, also forming the North American Policy Studies Group, (NAPG) which played an important research role supporting Canadian negotiators in the run-up to the NAFTA agreement in 1994.
Leaving the Deanship for a sabbatical in 1994-5, he began research on a major study of American economic development, focusing on the contributions of New England ‘Yankees’ through the 19th Century. This research and writing project has been ongoing, as time permitted, for two decades, producing The Yankee Road book trilogy. Volume 1 of The Yankee Road was published in the spring of 2015, with the second volume released in 2018. The third and final volume launched in October 2022. He was also a biweekly columnist for a digital magazine published in Vancouver for a number of years.
Until his retirement from Dalhousie, Jim held the R.A. Jodrey Chair in Commerce in the School of Business Administration and was also a Professor of Public Administration.
He has also been the Chairman and CEO of a small technology company and has been a member of a number of corporate and government boards, including the Blue Cross of Atlantic Canada and the federal government’s International Trade Advisory Committee. He was a member of the federal government’s Royal Commission on National Passenger Transportation (1991-3), as well as a member of the interim board during the Halifax airport evolution.
He was honoured with a Fulbright Research Professorship at Michigan State University’s Canadian Studies Center in 2010-11. He writes regular posts for his blog, Old Professor by the Sea and provides consulting with CanMac on an occasional part-time basis.