The following are the opening remarks made by PPF President and CEO Edward Greenspon at a PPF roundtable discussion on rebuilding Ukraine that followed the Rebuild Ukraine conference, on Nov. 22.

Congratulations to the organizers and speakers at this conference. I always like to be learning new things, and I have done so over the past two days.

It is a pleasure for the Public Policy Forum to be with you this afternoon, particularly those of you who while defending Ukraine against the forces of aggression and tyranny are simultaneously building a better Ukraine. Of course, they go hand in hand.

As a young Globe and Mail correspondent, I spent most of 1989-91 in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, bearing witness to one of the happier chapters of recent history as people reclaimed their identity, sovereignty and freedom.

I had the good fortune to be in Kyiv in August 1991 covering Ukraine’s declaration of independence.

I remember camping out in the Parliament building into the wee hours as Boris Yeltsin dispatched Anatoly Sobchak and Alexander Rutskoy to try to ensure sure that Ukrainian independence didn’t get …. well, too independent-minded. The crowd outside had made its views known earlier in the day with chants of “Ukraine without Moscow.”

My grandparents and aunts and uncles came to Canada from the Zhitomer region in 1929. As you know better than I, we were very lucky.

We did not identify as Ukrainian-Canadians, but as Jewish-Canadians with bad experiences. But that was then; my family and I identify strongly with today’s struggle. We accept and appreciate that Ukraine is fighting on behalf of all of us in defending not just your country but the values we all share.

And we at the Public Policy Forum feel a deep responsibility to make whatever contribution we can.

Ukraine, like Canada, has been gifted lots of space, arable land, resources and, increasingly and strikingly, resourcefulness. I have read that Ukraine graduates 130,000 engineers a year, more than twice Canada’s level. They are honing their skills in confronting extraordinary challenges, and opportunities. They will provide comparative advantage for decades to come.

We are here today to build greater understanding around this great project of post-war reconstruction of Ukraine. Of course, over the past couple of days, I have learned that some 80% of the economy remains up and running, and that it is already an economy in rapid transition and attracting foreign investment, as was so clearly demonstrated by Cameco CEO Tim Gitzel yesterday.

During the conference, someone said that those who want to make a lot of money should come invest in Ukraine. That’s the audacious spirit we have come to expect. The key to future success lies in figuring out how to move this from an act of charity into an act of self-interest. Building a better mousetrap is the best way to get the world to beat a path to your door.

At the one-year mark of the invasion, the World Bank put the cost of reconstruction at $411 billion. I recently did a rough calculation on the value of the post-Second World War Marshall Plan in current dollars. I should caution that I am not an economist, but I came up with $170 billion, less than half of what’s required.

And the Marshall Plan was promulgated in a very different time. The United States was unambiguously engaged in the world. It clearly saw that its interests were linked with those of a prosperous and democratic Europe. Remarkably, by 1948 it had already returned to fiscal surplus.

One more thing. Elite consensus still carried the day. When General Marshall, by then Secretary of State, spoke, people listened.

A Ukrainian Marshall Plan will face greater headwinds. Western governments are anything but fiscally sound. Populism is turning people inward. Attention spans are maddingly short.

So, yes, a modern Marshall Plan for Ukraine will have to be made attractive to the private sector.

Even before this conference, I was feeling confident that Ukraine is capable of providing a healthy return for anyone investing in its future. On top of its natural gifts and its location within Europe, the Ukraine that is being rebuilt as we speak will be a better Ukraine. It will be battle hardened and socially cohesive. It will, one hopes, have little or no tolerance for corruption. It will be entrepreneurial and technologically advanced and committed to equality, as we are already seeing. It will mix a willingness to take risks with the institutional mechanisms for managing those risks.

Wars change people and change societies; they change their expectations, their determination . . . their sense of destiny.

Sometimes, when I think of post-war Ukraine, I conjure up 1948 Israel – a young nation ambitious to develop yet condemned to existential threat from a larger and entrenched foe. The smaller adversary, therefore, must become heavily invested in building a better economy and a better society.

Nations like 1948 Israel and modern Ukraine win the peace by being more prosperous and more democratic. They win by being better places for people to live and to do business. They win by being more technologically advanced and by marrying the energy of growth with the resources of the diaspora.

They say necessity is the mother of invention. I see so much promise in the national purpose, common cause entrepreneurial spirit of Ukraine. We see it daily in the inventiveness around logistics, cyber, do-it-yourself drones, bionic prosthetics.

I see independence Ukraine undergoing a post-1991 rebirth, seizing opportunity out of crisis. I learned a new term here: Brain basket! This isn’t an either/or. The emerging Ukraine will be a breadbasket AND a brainbasket.

What we want to do today is continue to build momentum in how we in the West – and particularly we in Canada – can help, now and in future, to ensure this rebuild is truly a rebirth.

People speak a lot in diplomacy about special relationships. Back when I was covering the collapse of communism, I often teamed up with a buddy of mine from the New York Times. In Budapest or Brussels or Bonn, he would usually get an interview with the President or the Chief of Staff and I would get the vice president or deputy chief of staff.

Except in Ukraine. There, the Canadian reporter pulled even. My buddy was puzzled. I explained he suffered the disadvantage of not knowing anyone’s cousin in Edmonton.

Our countries have a special bond. So let’s figure out how to put that to work for the kind of outcomes we all desire. The Canadian imagination has a little catching up to do.