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77th Annual Summer Conference, August 7–10, 2008


Video On Demand  

The 2008 Couchiching conference is pressing the pause button for three days while we explore the implications of the proliferation of knowledge and its far-reaching effects on every aspect of our lives, from small personal details to great global events. We have access to information about what is going on in other parts of the world, about the way the human body works, about ecosystems, and about new engineering and production techniques. Our ability to translate all that into knowledge is limited only by our capacity to keep up with the flow. The state of flux is now permanently at high speed, driven by almost unfettered access. Even what we think we already know is subject to constant revision.

This explosion of knowledge is changing the nature of global economics, politics, material life, work and the ways in which we interact. The swift pace of this revolution, driven by new technologies and almost unlimited knowledge, dramatically alters even the way in which knowledge and information are exchanged.

So we will ask fundamental questions: How does this affect us? Who benefits and who doesn’t? Is knowledge a private commodity or a public good? We’ll question the significance of our present directions and decisions in the global context and for the future: What infrastructure does Canada need to succeed as a knowledge economy? What is the effect of our expanded knowledge on our political institutions? How will the ever-changing landscape, with unequal access, inform public policy and investment, competitiveness and regulation?

Indeed, there are endless ramifications to consider. What gains can the economy make to raise the standard of living and to close the productivity gap? What of the public investment required to create knowledge and its relation to the private sector? Can we balance the tensions contained in the concept of copyright?

In true Couchiching fashion, at the end of the conference, you will have been challenged by creative, bright and unusual ideas and you will have contributed some of your own. After three days of provocative questions, stimulating discussion and divergent positions, you will have made new connections – both intellectual and human – and will return to your regular life both enlightened and befriended. Indeed, you may leave with many questions still unasked, but you’ll have many new perspectives from which to draw on to find answers. And we will have fulfilled our mission: to make sure that each of us – speaker, moderator and delegate – leaves at the end of the weekend full of new perspectives and ideas to ponder.

As a special feature this year, BRIAN GABLE, the witty and talented cartoonist for The Globe and Mail, will have his sketchpad at the ready all weekend to capture the essence of the conference – and track the development of our knowledge – for posterity.

More cartoons by Brian Gable

Tree-planting Ceremony in Memory of Stephen Probyn and Madeline-Ann Aksich

Photo   Photo



Stephen was a Past President, Past Conference Chair and a dynamic presence in the Institute over many years. His style, impact and influence continues on – he is missed greatly.

Madeline-Ann, a Board and Executive Committee member based in Montreal, almost single-handedly developed the Institute’s base of members and supporters in that city. She also left us too soon and is remembered fondly.



Speaker Biographies

2:00 Registration

3:30 Youth Forum

Zahra Ebrahim


The Youth Forum of the 77th Annual Couchiching Institute of Public Affairs, in collaboration with archiTEXT, will be presented using a new model of innovation – the IdeaFactory – a Swiss model of rapid idea generation. The process is aimed at generating answers at high expediency in order to generate the greatest volume of answers while focusing on ideas that are at their core, the most honest responses to the proposed questions.

A set of questions are presented, one at a time, to a group of participants who are divided into groups of eight to ten people. Questions are focused on a topic, but broad in reach, so as to not tailor responses. Participants are given three to five minutes to produce as many associations, words, colors, people, places, ideas, as they can and these ideas are color coded and input into a software model that articulates a relevant aesthetic articulation based on the most frequently repeated responses (the software also generates the top five most frequent responses to the questions). By generating ideas at such a rapid pace, there is the potential of generating anywhere from several hundred to several thousand ideas over the course of a twenty to thirty minute session.

IdeaFactories are a unique model of inciting dialogue through the often-surprising associations made with the questions. In the case of the topic for the 77th Annual Summer Conference – knowledge as the new global currency – a set of questions will be presented to the delegates at the Youth Forum, input into the software, and the visual will be displayed as a point of discussion in the lounge adjacent to the auditorium for the duration of the conference.

For more information, visit


5:00 President’s Reception

6:00 Dinner

7:30 Opening Keynote Address

Helen Walsh with Bill Buxton

The Uncertain Path from Noise to Wisdom
We will open up the conference with a careful consideration of whether it is possible to create a population of informed citizens through a networked world that fosters understanding and communication, ideally creating a population of informed citizens, or whether that’s a naive notion. Bill Buxton is an artist, an innovator and a wide-ranging thinker, a technology savant who believes that technology and the information it enables promote the flourishing of human life. But what will be the nature of that human life, and what will it mean to each of us?


  • BILL BUXTON, Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research

Moderator: HELEN WALSH, President, CIPA


10:00 Evening Reception


Speaker Biographies

8:00 Breakfast

9:30 What Knowledge Explosion?


     Photo      Photo

Ian Wilson


Jim Stanford


Janet Rossant

Whether the current knowledge explosion is actually part of a paradigm shift will be decided by future generations; in the meantime, our panel members will consider that possibility in today’s terms. For example, in the traditional industrial sector, the business model has been transformed by technology-fuelled knowledge; in the field of genetics, technology keeps refining our knowledge of the human genome so quickly that what we knew last year may already be out of date.

  • JANET ROSSANT, Chief of Research at the Hospital for Sick Kids
  • JIM STANFORD, Economist, Canadian Auto Workers
  • IAN E. WILSON, Librarian and Archivist of Canada

Moderator: GORDON McIVOR, Canada Lands Company Limited


12:30 Lunch

2:00 Globalization and Competitiveness


Much of the rhetoric referring to a knowledge-based economy draws on promise and expectation. This session will sharpen our focus with an examination of the needs of a knowledge-based economy and the gains the economy can make to raise the standard of living and to close the productivity gap.


  • KEVIN LYNCH, Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet

Moderator: DON McCUTCHAN, Program Committee, CIPA


3:30 Discussion Groups

5:00 Reception

6:00 Dinner

7:30 A Debate: Citizen Journalism or Amateur Hour?

Paul Sullivan, Angus Frame, Andrew Keen

The means of cultural production and communications are open to greater numbers of people than ever before. Will the consequent rise of citizen journalism and artistic creation bring a potential utopia from which a new global sense of citizenship will emerge? Or does the rise of unmediated publishing raise critical questions about the reliability of information that is too easily taken as fact? In one corner, Paul Sullivan will defend citizen journalism as the future for democracy, and in the other, Andrew Keen will question whether wisdom is possible without intellectual authority.

  • PAUL SULLIVAN, President and Director of Strategy of Sullivan Media
  • ANDREW KEEN, author of The Cult of the Amateur: How the Internet Is Killing Our Culture

Moderator: ANGUS FRAME, The Globe and Mail

10:00 Evening Reception


Speaker Biographies

8:00 Breakfast and Annual General Meeting

9:30 Beyond Copyright: Liberators or Thieves

Stephen Stohn, Howard Knopf, Abraham Drassinower

User-generated content has emerged as a creative force on the internet. YouTube, FanFiction, the Harry Potter Lexicon … these and myriad other websites make up a whole new media environment, now that digital technology has put sophisticated production tools within reach of anyone with a modem. Many users create their content with material they find in the mainstream media. Does this new participatory culture demand more elbow room in the law, so that individuals can remix and mash up others’ works to their art’s content? Is this fair to the original creators? Where should we draw the line?


  • HOWARD KNOPF, Chair of the Copyright Policy Committee of the Canadian Bar Association
  • ABRAHAM DRASSINOWER, Director of the Centre for Innovation Law and Policy at the University of Toronto
  • STEPHEN STOHN, Epitome Pictures

Moderator: GRACE WESTCOTT, Program Committee, CIPA

12:30 Luncheon with Keynote Speaker


Creating Knowledge: Creating Value
When you can e-mail a project to someone on the other side of the globe and retrieve the completed assignment with a few keystrokes the next morning, what are the implications for the Canadian worker? Are we on the brink of a virtual workplace in a global economy that will change the nature of work as we know it? This session explores the role of investing in knowledge production and innovation, in attracting and keeping knowledge workers, and in making Canada competitive globally in an era of rising superpowers such as China and India.

  • CINDY GORDON, Founder & CEO, Helix Commerce International Inc. (Presentation PDF)

Moderator: WENDY FELDMAN, CIPA Board Member

2:00 Discussion Groups

5:00 Reception

6:00 Dinner

7:30 Intellectual Property: Patents, Profits or People

Doug Gibson, Scott Jolliffe, Michael Clarke, Chidi Oguamanam

Let’s look at a specific area of controversy in the realm of intellectual property: public investment in creating and regulating knowledge. Do we need a strong legal regime that protects the private ownership of knowledge in order to encourage investment in creativity and research? Or do we need to find new ways to ensure that the fruits of our research are available to all and that the results of publicly funded research are not for private profit. Should, for example, genetic information and life forms, not to mention pharmaceuticals, remain in the public domain to reduce inequity? And where does traditional knowledge fit into this spectrum – can mainstream intellectual property rights apply to indigenous knowledge?

  • SCOTT JOLLIFFE, Chair and CEO of Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP
  • CHIDI OGUAMANAM, Professor of Law and Technology at Dalhousie University
  • MICHAEL CLARKE, Director of the International Development Research Centre’s Information and Communication Technologies for Development Program

Moderator: DOUG GIBSON, Doug Gibson Books

10:00 Evening Reception


Speaker Biographies

8:00 Breakfast

9:30 The Annual Couchiching Award for Excellence in Public Policy Leadership


Each year, we present the Couchiching Award for Public Policy Leadership to a nationally recognized Canadian who has demonstrated a particular kind of leadership: someone who has made an impact on public policy for Canada or for a community, often in the face of public opposition.

This year, the Couchiching Institute of Public Affairs is proud to present its Award for Excellence in Public Policy Leadership to J. FRASER MUSTARD, founder of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, who has devoted the better part of his career to emphasizing the importance of early childhood development.

10:00 Security: Government, Openness and Connections

Gwen Burrows, Jennifer Stoddart, Richard Smith, Carol Dumaine

How is today’s knowledge expansion, with its new technologies, changing our relationship to our public institutions, especially government, and between public institutions and citizens? Where do we get knowledge now that its ownership is less certain than ever? Is “co-development” of knowledge involving public/private partnerships possible? How are our assumptions changing about people’s right to know, people’s right to privacy and government’s responsibilities?

  • RICHARD SMITH, Professor, School of Communication, Simon Fraser University
  • JENNIFER STODDART, Canada’s Privacy Commissioner
  • CAROL DUMAINE, Head of the Energy and Environmental Security Directorate in the Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence at the U.S. Department of Energy

Moderator: GWEN BURROWS, Program Committee, CIPA

12:00 Checkout and Lunch

1:00 Closing Keynote


GERRI SINCLAIR, Executive Director of the World Centre for Digital Media

Moderator: GERALD FILSON, Conference Chair




AIM Powergen Corporation
Association of Power Producers of Ontario
Canadian Association of Income Funds 
Canadian Heritage 
CNW Group 
Enermark Inc. 
Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP
Henry of Pelham
Hill & Knowlton
Human Resources and Social Development Canada 
Industry Canada 
Northland Power 
Paramount Energy Operating Corp.
Pengrowth Management Limited 
Privy Council Office 
Reliance Comfort Limited Partnership
TD Bank Financial Group 


Jackman Foundation
The Burton Charitable Foundation


Catherine Aczèl Boivie & Janos Aczèl
Dorothy and Roel Buck


Michael Adams
James Baillie
Bill Bilsborough
Roel Buck
John Butcher
Denise Cheung
Adrienne Clarkson
Maurice Copithorne
David Crane
John Desmarais
David Dodge
Jordan Dupuis
Harold Dynna
John Faris
Barbara Feldman
Martha Hall Findlay
Beatrice Fischer
Robert Fulford
Monica Gattinger
John Gibson
Alastair Gillespie
Karen Goldenberg
William Graham
John Gregory
Nadine Guy
Hillary Haggan
Mary Harmer
Nona Heaslip
Peter Herrndorf
Joan Hind-Smith
Anne Hutchinson
George Jonas
David Klug
Madeline Koch
Horace Krever
Margaret Lefebvre
David Lever
Mary Lewis
Jeannine Locke Reilly
Henry Lotin
K. Lyons
H. Ian MacDonald
Delmar Mackenzie
Danielle Martin
Laura Mayne
Frances McElroy
Roderick McFadyen
Desmond Morton
J. Fraser Mustard
Knowlton Nash
Candida Paltiel
Paul Paton
Alan Pearson
Frank Peers
Vivian Rakoff
Anthony Robinow
Arthur Siegel
Andrew Simon
Katherine Smalley
Bobbi Speck
Eileen Swinton
Stephen Vizinczey
Christopher Waddell
R. Wagner
Anna Whitley
Michael Wilson
Rose Wolfson
Frank Zingrone