Edward Greenspon: ‘Canada does best when it initiates’
President and CEO, Public Policy Forum
Thank you, Yolande. And good evening, friends of Public Policy Forum and congratulations to this year’s PPF Honour Roll members. We’ve heard from Naila, which is terrific, and you will hear this evening more from Harold, Janice, Laurent, John, Lisa and Stephanie, my former colleague, Stephanie. And I think you’ll learn that these are not people who wait for the parade to form. They create parades and they inspire others to join them in these parades. Now, if you’re with us tonight and there’s a lot of you who are you are also placing important trails on behalf of on behalf of PPF. I want to extend our thanks for all your contributions to making a better Canada. I also want to thank our dynamic team of PPF for making tonight and today possible.
And, Yolande beat me to this, as she often does. But I do want to say to those gotta-believe Leaf diehards with us tonight, that we hope to feel your happiness tonight. And I say that has a Habs fan, and I say that, you know, with 10 Cups under our belt since 1967. But, you know, I actually I’d love to see a Canadian team even from Toronto or Edmonton or is Winnipeg still in? I don’t know. Now, I also thought about wearing my John Beliveau jersey. But I decided instead that I would wear this tonight and I wanted to clear to make sure that it was OK. So I have that kind thumbs up from Ambassador Kovaliv who said that she thought she gave me a good fashion view and thought that I had a nice vyshyvanka. I hope I pronounce that right in my own expression of solidarity with Ukraine. Now, some would say that Canada’s true pastime, way more than hockey, is obsessing over our place in the world, and we’re good at that. But if you are the 39th largest country by population and the 10th largest country by GDP, you would better be pretty consumed by how you enter the bigger picture. Even more so today when everything is in such flux. For decades, Canada’s foreign and trade policy has shifted weight from one foot to another, whether to deepen relations with the United States or whether to diversify away from our overdependence on that famously twitchy elephant. At PPF, we increasingly see deepening and diversifying as complementary, not competing strategies, in a world in which security has become intertwined with supply chains and with energy transition and with technological advances. Deepening and diversifying can’t be separate compartments. Mattering more to the U.S. is about mattering more to the world and vice versa. I know a lot of us have been puzzling over our most important relationship. Today’s United States is a less hospitable market and a more divided society, and this creates obvious risks for Canada. Yet there is no denying that geopolitical tensions are drawing us ever more deeply into the U.S. orbit, no matter how unstable that orbit may seem. This is not the liberalising United States in the Cold War era, nor will its domestic politics allow it to become so. So we need to be an indispensable partner. Critical minerals, times 10, times 20. Pessimism, which many people are feeling, isn’t the policy, nor is it really justified. Nearly all of Canada’s friends live in more problematic neighbourhoods, and we’ve already discussed one of those things would be thrilled to be where we are in the world. Ours is also an incredibly prosperous neighbourhood. Last week, The Economist reported that the U.S. accounts for fully one quarter of the global economy, the same proportion as in 1990, despite the rise of China and the rest, still 25% of the global economy and within the G7, its share of goods and services has grown to 58%. Six in $10 of activity in the in the G7 is from the United States. So it’s not just foolish to bet against the States, as people say, why would you want to? How to matter more to the United States while being more engaged with others will be a major theme of our work at PPF over the next couple of years. We’ve started speaking and working with partners about designing and looking at what the most promising ways are to up our relevance quotient to deepen and diversify in mutually reinforcing ways. And I don’t want to presume where this will take us, but here’s a few opening thoughts.
One. When Canada contributes to the physical security of Ukraine, or the energy security of allies like Japan and Korea, we advance the interests of everyone dedicated to depriving Russia of money and leverage. In helping our allies to take pressure off the United States and other members of the Club. That’s part of our contribution. The same with the development and processing of critical minerals vis-a-vis to China.
Two. Global warming is raising the strategic value of the Arctic in both economic and security terms. We need to finally get serious about safeguarding our sovereign territories, knowing who’s under them, on them, and over them as we counter Russian and Chinese encroachments. This will involve working out innovative solutions on sovereignty with the U.S. again. We share interests, and this should be a no-brainer for Canada because it allows us to pursue what’s good for Canada while making a unique contribution to North American and global security.
Three. In many of our projects as well, PPF is exploring a concept that we’re talking about strategic tradeables. And by that we mean goods and services and assets that confer national advantage while we’re talking about helping our friends increase their objectives. This is the route to relevance. Our natural gas provides a case in point. Canada’s LNG is the lowest in carbon intensity in the world when it displaces coal or even other gas, our trading partners both increase their security and reduce their emissions. Win-win.
Number four. Our powerhouse agrifood sector also produces strategic tradeables. Climate change is expanding our arable footprint. And I’d say, as a former agriculture reporter at the Regina Leader Post, where I did not know at the beginning what the difference was between I thought wheat and grain were two different crops that were grown in different place. I say that I know that, you know, Canada can provide that global leadership. I know our farmers are ready to do them if we give them a chance.
Fifth, finally, is around life sciences. And, you know, we’re doing a lot of work there with our Life Sciences Forum as well. It’s hard at work identifying the strategic tradeables that will help move us up the queue the next time our health security is threatened. But the door is open to be even more ambitious. A continental energy approach was the centrepiece of the 1989 Free Trade Agreement with the United States with an automatic NAFTA re-examination due in the next couple of years, it is time to lay the groundwork for a new comprehensive energy and environment pact. It could take in everything from electrical grid integration to shared carbon capture and storage, to common carbon border adjustments and much, much more. We can find inspiration in what we’re looking for. A remarkable document signed at Placentia Bay, Newfoundland, in August 1941. I’d like to get the Politico people here to answer our trivia questions. I think it’d be fair after torturing me all day. There in that in that summer of 1941 aboard a naval vessel, Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt held the first of their face to face wartime conferences. And the Atlantic Charter came out of that, which spoke both of war aims and a post-war economic order. It said once the battle was won, “all states great or small victor or vanquished, would enjoy access on equal terms to the trade and to the raw materials of the world which are needed for their economic prosperity.”
Canada does best when it initiates, not reacts. This can be our guiding light. Now we need to get in front of the parade. Thank you and have a very good evening.