McArthur: Who is the most innovative thinker on Canada's place in the world today?

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April 23, 2012

I’ll answer in three parts. First, there are so many dimensions to Canada’s place in the world that I can’t pick a single most innovative thinker. Second, it is easy to think of many people providing leadership thinking on key elements of the equation – people like Mark Carney on the management of the global financial system; Elissa Goldberg on the practice of global diplomacy; Jim Balsillie on the business and economics of global sustainability; Chrystia Freeland on the rising tensions between global and local communities; Naheed Nenshi on the role of Canadian cities in global society; Bruce Jones on the role of multilateral institutions in fragile states. But the third part of my answer is a more sober critique. We need much more active public thought leadership on Canada’s role in the world – starting from the vantage point of the world’s interests rather than Canada’s interests. Too much of Canada’s foreign policy thinking has been anchored in an implicit premise of adjusting from what the country has been doing until now, instead of focusing on what the world needs Canada to do moving forward. Public opinion surveys consistently show that Canadians want to contribute to global problem-solving. Canadian thought leaders need to spend more time hashing out what that should look like.