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Conference 
 

75th Annual Summer Conference, August 10–13, 2006

Canada Looking Forward: Making Progress Happen

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Anne Golden

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John Ibbitson

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Salimah Ebrahim

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Michael Chong


Giles Gherson

Summary by Andrew Reeves

Anne Golden

  • Progress has made many things possible, but it is important to know how this it’s defined.
  • Economics define progress in terms of sustainable prosperity – high paying jobs, growing tax coffers, etc.
    • I am uncomfortable with this definition in spirit – it leaves too many people out who fall below the economic radar.
  • Any form of progress will be bound up in how successful we are in attacking three economic challenges, which I will discuss later.
  • Canada is not used to aiming very high in our economic goals.
    • Subsequently, we are lucky to have natural resources, a good location geographically, and a large pool of human talent to thank for our success.
      • We coast along complacently, missing huge opportunities to do better for our citizens and for ourselves.
    • We cannot speak of progress with so many people, citizens and recent immigrants leaving Canada because they cannot get the jobs they are trained for abroad.
  • OECD data highlighting six categories of growth: economy, innovation, environment, education, health, and society.
    • Highlighting top twelve performers in each category creates a yin yang score card of all OECD nations.
    • Canada is the only G7 nation that performs in the top ranking of each category.
    • Canada has been losing ground consistently for years, mainly due to weak productivity growth – 1.1% last year, dropping us from 3rd to 12th internationally.
    • Our public image in health is slipping – an area of pride for Canada.
    • Canada is not devoted to life-long learning, losing ground coming out of high school.
  • Canada in the last ten years is still in the top 12 of all OECD nations, but not as well as we once were – we are stalling in areas essential to competing globally.
    • Many Canadians see the statues quo as good enough, but is it?
    • Complacency about our national progress in holding us back, and has been a common Canadian characteristic for too long.
  • 1. The need to address long-term competitiveness internationally:
    • This is fundamental for a trading nation like Canada, which must invest in global supply chains and development to prosper.
    • Canada has no policy framework for dealing with foreign investment in Canada, and must boost innovation and commercialization.
      • By cashing in on creativity and changing the tax system, we can support that.
    • We need to promote major cities strategically in those hub cities that demand more attention and money than other dying cities.
  • 2. Implications of an aging and shrinking population:
    • We are shrinking and aging, and rely on immigration to fill the gaps in our workforce, but so are other nations – how can we attract immigrants over other nations?
    • We must change our attitudes towards older workers, to keep people in the workforce longer.
    • Must use human capital better.
    • Must face aboriginal education.
  • 3. Must develop a resource development strategy.
    • This will take tough thinking through, but we must be serious about a environment policy shift towards sustainability.
    • Canada must provide better ways to manage water, and resist pressure to sell our water to the USA and regulate it in an unsustainable way.
  • Canada needs genuine intergovernmental leadership to coordinate Canadian efforts nationally and internationally.
  • We must get the non-government sectors to help drive policy agendas, and embrace excellency, as supposed to mediocrity.

John Ibbitson

  • Talks about progress become talks between pessimists and optimists.
  • Writing The Polite Revolution forced me to think in detail about some of the things I had been writing about for years – it allowed me to realize that I am optimistic about the future of Canada and its progress.
  • Canadian cities are at the forefront of what the 21st century can become.
  • Confederation laid out a terrible way to define and run a nation, based on the idea of leaving each side alone – it didn’t allow the formation of a national identity.
    • But this became a great boon to Canada, allowing us to integrate so many different kinds of people without feeling like we were shaking the very foundations of the nation – integration was easy enough without a national notion of what Canada was to conform too.
    • This has produced Canada’s great cities – a polyglot society that we must strive to reproduce on a larger scale if we hope to succeed in the future.
  • We have a marvelous tradition and foundation in Canada, steeped in a strong history of more than just people living together without purpose.
  • The biggest challenge is that of cities vs. rural areas in the future.
    • We are becoming a country of six or eight big cities with not much in between.
    • How to accommodate old Canada (rural) while providing the new Canada (urban) with the resources that it needs to flourish in the future will be our nation’s largest challenge, and the biggest strain on our traditions.
  • We are on the frontline in the war on terror, and must not compromise our principles in the attack against terrorism – we have no imperial past, and so are not subject to specific attack by any one large group coming to Canada with memories of past wrongs.
    • This is the virtue of delusion.
  • We are already seeing the renaissance of Canada – and the problems that we are facing are not unmanageable.

Salimah Ebrahim

  • Couch has been energizing for my sense of citizenship.
  • We now have an opportunity to reshape the issues defining our nation, including: what does Canada stand for?
  • Crossroads are always met with ways forward, and so progress is definable as a measure of our efforts to meet the challenges and uphold the values of our world.
  • No society can collapse without affecting other societies – this means there can be no genuine progress without genuine security for all people.
    • Canada must invest in the new frontier of demographic change, and the power of people to make a difference.
    • Politics of disengagement are no longer an option, but there is not other nation in the world capable of making these strides than Canada.
    • We are a microcosym of the world, and Canadian youth know better than anyone else what it’s like to live with difference.
  • Genuine progress, a balance of the economic and the social, is possible.
  • The Spirit Bear Youth Coalition now has more than 6 million members worldwide, regular young people capable of enacting grand change.
    • After Sept. 11, 2001, environmental issues were off the agenda, and security issues were more important than ever – this threatened our campaign more than anything else.
    • Jane Goodall gave us some advice: that when the last war has been fought, we need a world to live in – the environment is as important now as it ever will be.
  • The challenge was to find an economic way to make saving the spirit bear possible – to offset the costs of logging jobs and the revenue generated from it.
    • They turned to Hollywood, to generate an animated movie from which the profits would go directly to diversifying the communities threatened by stopping of logging.
    • It will be released in 2008, and a portion of every ticket sale will go directly to helping to save the Spirit Bear and the communities threatened by logging.
  • It’s best for youth to progress in areas of their interest, something they feel passionate about.
    • Hope is the essential enabler of their dreams, allowing it to happen.
  • We must bring back a community of hope in Canada, to allow passion to guide our actions in relation to social activism.

Michael Chong

  • Progress in the Canadian context.
  • Canada has achieved both economic growth and development process.
    • Seen as a leader in the G7 – low debt burden.
    • Socially, progressed since WWII – welfare, pension, respect for diversity.
  • The bar is very high in Canada for progress.
  • Progress – having a better society tomorrow then we have today: cleaner, safer, more effective and prosperous, higher quality of life.
  • What challenges does Canada face?
    • Rapidly changing communities.
    • Canada of today would be unknowable to Canadians of years ago.
    • 80% now live in urban areas with rapid economic growth.
    • Dynamism in major cities, transformation of farmland into subdivisions.
      • Poses both challenges and opportunities.
  • Environment:
    • Intricate relationship between quality of the environment and our own health.
    • Neither problems nor solutions lie in things like Kyoto – too far away from Canada.
    • Transit tax credit, tax breaks, new legislation for smog, 5% renewal in fossil fuels by 2010.
    • Individual actions: people need to challenge themselves to do more.
  • Infrastructure:
    • Must be economically sustainable for us to progress.
    • Governments face pressures to spend infrastructure money wisely across both soft and hard needs of the populace.
    • Regardless of what levels pays for what, there is only one taxpayer – fed government must play a role in infrastructure, setting aside $16.5 billion.
      • Environmentally friendly, sustainable infrastructure needs to be of utmost importance.
  • Productivity:
    • The concept we need to increase per capita input in Canada – major key to long-term prosperity.
    • Must increase per capita input of our economy – Canadian markets must grow peoples money and be looked upon as trustworthy.
    • Canadian business community has criticized government for having too high taxes for businesses – government now has lowered business tax breaks.
    • Must support education system to produce adaptable workers in post-secondary education to help support the economy.
    • The key question is attacking all three at once: can we protect the environment while increasing productivity? Can we help save the environment and infrastructure through increased productivity?
  • The federal government has focused on priorities to get Canadian families and businesses ahead.
  • Maximize trade for opportunities for all: immigrants, families, minorities.
    • We can either progress or watch as our cities dwindle into decay.

Copyright © 2006 Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs
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