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History Table of Contents
1998 Summer Conference
 
Summer Conference 1998
Rethinking Canada for the 21st Century

Searching for a preferred Canadian scenario

Micheline Bouchard, Chairman, President and CEO,
Motorola Canada Ltd.

What I’d like to do is share with you some of my observations and experience as a member of the round table, the group that actually developed the scenarios.

It was not an easy road. The road was treacherous. It was frustrating at times, but rewarding at the end.

We were some 30 Canadians, men and women from various parts of the country with different backgrounds, different origins and, in principle, we didn’t have much in common.

But, we recognized that we had all a good education and our sense of commitment to our communities.

We were told that we had been selected because we were leaders in our communities, whether it was business, unions, arts, sports, student organizations, charitable organizations, community groups. We were told we were leaders.

But we were asking ourselves, are we representatives of the average Canadian? In one way we could say, no.

The other way, we could say, yes, because we were so diverse in our views, in our opinions and for the first session it was not obvious that this group of Canadians — some came from China, other parts of the world, some Aboriginal people, young people, students, older people closer to retirement and baby boomers — that we could come to any kind of agreement.

But, finally we were able to achieve that conversion. And in my view what allowed us to do so [was] not as much the content of our discussions, it was our attitude.

What I’d like to do is share with you a note that one of our members read to us during one of our sessions. It came from his executive assistant. She had just learned that she had a terminal disease. She’s no longer with us.

She said: "The longer I live the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude to me is more important than facts; it is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think, or say or do. It is more important than appearance or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, a home.

"The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past; we cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10 per cent what happens to me and 90 per cent how I react to it."

And so it is with you. We are in charge of our attitudes. And at the end of our scenarios process what allowed us, as Canadians, to succeed in the development of the scenarios was our attitude. There was a will to succeed; a respect for each and a trust in our leaders.

Let me say just a few words about those attitudes.

The will to succeed. When we accepted to actually spend five long weekends, intensive weekends of discussion, that was a major personal investment.

We were prepared to do so because we believed in the process at that time and we believed that we could make a contribution to Canada, we could make a difference, we could actually develop scenarios that would be helpful in developing a preferred future for Canada; what we actually labelled at that time that part north of the United States, because we didn’t want to be too much framed to our mental maps. We wanted to be able to think beyond the box.

We actually felt that we contribute, we felt like we could help. I must say that at times we oscillated between hope and fear.

Hope that we will make it and at some point we would come and converge on a number of scenarios and would come to some agreement.

Fear that the process would not lead us to that end. But, we did not give up. We continued our discussions. We actually listened to others and finally we succeeded.

The second attitude was the respect for each other.

We had at times violent arguments. We would actually challenge the ideas of others, but never the individual. We would not attack the person. We would attack the ideas.

And that was quite important in the way we progressed as the process of the scenarios developed.

One night we were invited to say a few words — to share with the group — a personal experience that related to some of the certainties or uncertainties that would impact our future in the next 15 to 20 years.

We all came up with our own little life experience. What we did was, we had a wood stick that we would hold as a speaker and that gave us the right to speak and only that person could talk and the others had to listen.

That comes from an Aboriginal tradition. We respected that. We waited until the person who had the stick passed it on to another person and until we had it we wouldn’t speak.

There was no chairperson, no moderator. It was only us respecting the Aboriginal tradition.

We learned a lot and we learned why we were so different. And then we gave some perspective to what we were actually hearing from others and that helped us. Respect was a major element of attitude in our discussions. And finally the trust in our leaders.

We had superb leaders; Michael Adams, the promoter of the project [is] well respected in the community in Canada. And we had Adam Kahane who actually had worked with Shell, the company that developed the scenarios methodologies.

Although at some point we sensed it was going to fail, because the process was not as rapid; it didn’t bring us to consensus as rapidly as we would have wished. We had them telling us, that’s normal, you’re going through three phases: diversion, and probably we stayed there too long, emergence, finally we saw something come out of our discussions and, finally, conversion.

Conversion happens pretty rapidly.