Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Attended the Environmental Scanning Practices Group presentation given by Dr Thomas Courchene from Queens.

The presentation was titled: Tectonic Shifts: Toward a New Canadian Political Economy.

He outlined three Societal Transformations:

• Digitization and the Technological Revolution

- Internet, biotech, globalization (global supply chains)

• Shift to Knowledge-Based Economy (KBE) and Society

- The information revolution privileges Human Capital in the same way that the Industrial Revolution privileges physical and financial capital

• The Green Revolution

He characterized the US as a country shaped by common law and individualistic capitalism in comparison to the EU which is shaped by communitarian capitalism under civil law. Thus Canada has been shaped by its attempt to integrate the best of both the dynamism of the US economic system and the social cohesion of continental Europe.

Preserving and promoting economic competitiveness and social cohesion are the proximate goals for societal success in the new global order.

• With knowledge progressively at the cutting edge of competitiveness

• With enhancing skills and education as the key to addressing income inequality and social solidarity

• With information empowerment as the sine qua non of meaningful citizenship

It follows that a commitment to a human capital future for Canadians is emerging as the principal avenue by which to promote both cohesion and competitiveness.

Courchene offers as a ‘Mission Statement for 21st Century Canada”:

Design a sustainable, socially inclusive and internationally competitive infrastructure that ensures equality of opportunity for all Canadians to develop, to enhance, and to employ in Canada their skills and human capital, thereby enabling them to become full citizens in information-era Canadian and global societies

Here I would amend this mission statement to replace information-era with knowledge-economy and network Canadian and global societies.

Courchene’s presentation outlined some of the history of the Canadian regulatory regime that enabled Canada to escape the worst of the financial/banking melt down, but also how Canada overcame its deficit crisis by offloading expense onto provincial domains.

This set a type of precedent as well for how the Federal handled the stimulus package – for instance:

• The $51 billion of stimulus includes $12 billion of required provincial money – 50% of provincial and municipal infrastructure, 42% of municipal housing and 35% of the auto bailout.

Given the KBE challenge on one hand and the staggering amount of money involved – the stimulus aimed at ‘shovel ready’ and thus was ‘shovel heavy’ – too much emphasis on physical (boards and motar) infrastructure and too little on social (mortarboards) infrastructure.

Example – Australia’s ‘Building the Education Revolution’:

• 500 new science labs; $ for library upgrades; $200,000 for each school for renewal of infrastructure; a $980-per-child ‘back-to-school’ bonus to support 2.8 millions kids from low/mid income families; similar grants to students and persons outside labour force for study or training.

Courchene discussed the need to reform EI both for the stimulus but especially for the KBE.

In his presentation he spoke at length about the impact of different approaches to climate change and the ‘green revolution’ on Canadian economics. He concluded the presentation with a discussion of trade and currency policies.