Nine New Takes on Canada’s International Future

Natalie Brender on the breadth of ideas aired at the recent Ottawa Forum.
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June 3, 2014

On May 23-24, CIPS and the Canadian International Council (CIC) co-hosted the Ottawa Forum, which brought together a remarkable array of presenters, commenters and attendees to the University of Ottawa to discuss the future of Canada’s international policy. The conference was emphatically forward-looking, covering a range of topics from international commerce, innovation and cities to environment, energy, development, and the Arctic.

The ‘listicle’ format is no way to explore ideas in-depth—but as a first report on the striking breadth of ideas aired at the conference, a tour d’horizon via list is hard to beat. Here, therefore, are nine bold takes on Canada’s international future offered by Ottawa Forum presenters:

1. Canada is designed for the challenges of the 21st century

According to Robert Greenhill, Canada has a proven capacity for making “pivotal interventions” on critical issues when others are stuck, and for shaping major strategies through leadership in ideas and convening power. This gives it the potential for outsize global influence.

2. Ideas constitute the cutting edge of Canadian export financing.

A major challenge for Canada’s international trade, said Danielle Goldfarb, is to go beyond promoting trade in physical goods to promote trade in services and ideas. Banks should figure out how to give export financing to intellectual property.

3. The mining sector is Canada’s Silicon Valley.

Andrea Mandel-Campbell noted that Canadian mining companies may not be very innovative, but they’re very good at what they do—and hence Canada should do everything possible to maximize the sector’s global competitive advantages.

4. ‘Made in Canada’ should become a global brand for responsible environmental leadership.

To make this happen, said Stewart Elgie, Canada’s resource industry should go ‘clean and green’, helped by major public investment as well as carbon and resource taxes that can drive innovation.

5. Just 2% of national growth gets Canada a front seat at the global development table.

Earmarking two cents on each dollar of new economic growth over the next decade, asserted John MacArthur, will bring Canada to the forefront of countries leading the way in international development.

6. Canada’s biggest international challenge is managing relations with the growing global South.

According to Louise Fréchette, Canada’s main task abroad is to get beyond aid relationships with developing countries by promoting shared values and efforts to shape their growth in directions we’d like to see happen.

7. Canada has trouble seeing what our global assets really are.

Canada’s biggest potential, in the view of Joe Clark, lies in using re-energizing the use of its ‘soft power’ assets—people, connections, ideas  and initiatives—to lead global advocacy and reform.

8. Cities are the next big frontier of human rights and development efforts.

As David Petrasek noted, the conditions of people living in the world’s rapidly-growing urban slums demands that municipal as well as national governments be engaged in promoting human rights in these contexts.

9. Canadian innovation is Canadian diplomacy.

When Canadians take part in developing and sharing and scaling-up the use of health innovations such as the ‘Lucky Iron Fish’, said Peter Singer, it has the potential to forge profound links and shared interests with developing country partners.

This post was first published on CIPS Blog.