Canada’s economic future depends on critical choices in the face of disruption
Jonathan Goodman shares Deloitte’s new Canada at a Crossroads report at PPF’s Growth Summit
Canada is at a critical period in its history and must make big decisions on how to grow its economy while confronting the tidal wave of technological disruption heading its way, the Public Policy Forum’s economic Growth Summit was told.
On its best days, Canada is compassionate, fair-minded and welcoming, Jonathan Goodman, global managing partner at Monitor Deloitte, said as he kicked off the summit.
“But I think this is a moment in time where the choices we make or forgo are going to determine our economic future, and therefore our capacity for compassion and our capacity to become the country we aspire to be,” he said.
So is Canada ready for the future and the massive labour force upheaval that could result from technology?
Goodman tried to answer that question by sharing his firm’s report Canada at a New Crossroads: 25 Years Later — and he grimly pointed out that there’s been scant progress in terms of fostering innovation and boosting competitiveness since a 1991 report called Canada at The Crossroads.
“It was a clarion call for the future,” Goodman said.
Video: Which of four scenarios does Goodman describe as the “Zombie Apocalypse”?
But many of the recommendations made in the 26-year-old report could be made today, Goodman said as he outlined the erstwhile calls for more global trade, more investment in the training and education of workers and for businesses to become more innovative.
“If I hadn’t told you that these words were written in 1991, you might have said they were written in 2017,” he said, pointing out that Canada had done a “crappy job” in addressing its economic shortcomings.
“We didn’t make the progress that we had hoped or expected or aspired to over the course of 25 years,” he said.
Prosperity is stagnating in Canada, Goodman said, and “I don’t think anyone in this room aspires to be sluggish.”
The new report outlines four possible scenarios in the face of widescale technological disruption:
Closed nationalism, featuring increased inequality, social strife and job-destroying disruption;
Supportive disruption, characterized by robust economic growth, rapid wealth accumulation and increased social supports from government;
Fragmented decline, featuring an erosion of liberalized trade and the stalling of technological advances; and
Open growth, characterized by an increase in global trade, a robust middle class that spurs economic growth and technological disruption that evolves gradually.
“We have time as a country to evolve, we have time as businesses to evolve,” he said.
“But we better be creating and supporting winners in a more protectionist world, and we better have as robust a national economy as we possibly can if we’re going to create the wealth and redistribute it.”