#Can2020 Preview: A new era of progressive politics in Canada

Second Annual #Can2020 Conference Kicks-Off in Ottawa November 18

by Canada 2020. Posted November 18, 2015


The election of a new government in Canada provides us the opportunity to engage in a new discussion about the future of our country and policy challenges facing our country and the world.

A progressive think tank, Canada 2020 has been a convenor of choice and a central actor for building the blocks of a new progressive era in Canada. Last June, we released a book “Setting the New Progressive Agenda” that aimed at framing and tackling some of the most important policy issues our country is facing.

On climate change, foreign policy, democratic reform, economic growth and inclusiveness and many other topics, the book challenged us to look at a new horizon of progressive ideas and public policy. As we engage on this new path, the opportunity to engage in a different type of politics and policymaking is also there for us to seize. In other words, it’s not just about the what, it’s also about the how.

Our democratic institutions and processes need to be revitalized, they need to adapt to our time. Not because they have not been resilient but because the time has come to raise the bar on democratic standards as well as what it means to be open and transparent governments. Sound democratic Governance also matters for inclusiveness. Inclusive institutions ensure that markets are functional and open to competition, and allow for broad citizen participation, pluralism and an effective system of checks and balances, leading to better access to services and opportunity.

There are many global challenges facing us. Our capacity and ability to tackle some of these challenges will be fundamental to our continued success as a nation.

  1. Governance and Diversity

The pillars of governance of contemporary democracies such as the rule of law and constitutionalism have endured and provided us stability and resilience. But citizens expectations vis-à-vis elected officials, disruptive technologies and globalization have changed the game. Stable institutions and polities are not enough to guarantee good governance in the 21st century. A rethink on the relationship between citizens and governments is long overdue. Democratic standards have evolved and will require a new era of open and transparent government. Institutions such as Parliament and the public service will be at the forefront of rebuilding the trust and democratic legitimacy required.

Countries who will succeed will be the ones which can deal effectively with diversity. Canada is surely one of the most successful multicultural societies in the world. But the challenges ahead will be overwhelming. Security concerns, terrorism, the magnitude of the refugee crisis around the globe and the interconnected nature of the new world order are forces we can’t ignore. They will force us to make informed choices about how we can continue to best integrate those who we welcome in our country.

There is a broad consensus, supported by evidence, that good governance is vital for a number of key outcomes at the national and subnational levels, including social cohesion, public expenditure efficiency and control of corruption. In addition, governance matters for achieving sustainable, inclusive economic growth.

  1. Sustainable growth

One of the biggest and most important public policy challenge of our time will be able to reconcile economic growth and environmental sustainability. The world is slowly but surely moving to a low-carbon economy. The path is clear. What Canada does next to show the world we’re serious about climate change will have a great impact on our capacity to export natural resources, and on our future economic success. Countries like ours have considerable economic incentives to move in that direction. The world biggest emitters, China and the United States, have started moving in that direction.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850. The period from 1983 to 2012 was likely the warmest 30-year period of the last 1400 years in the Northern Hemisphere, where such assessment is possible.

  1. Equality of opportunity and economic inclusiveness

With income inequality at its worst in the US since the 1920s and President Barack Obama calling widening income inequality the « defining challenge of our time” there has been an expansive push to address the issue.  In report released in June entitled Causes and Consequences of Income Inequality: A Global Perspective, the IMF aimed to show why policymakers need to focus more on the poor and the middle class. When the rich get richer, a country’s economic health can suffer. But if the poorest members of a society start climbing the wealth ladder, then national growth can receive a boost. In a 2014 paper, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development came up with similar results for OECD countries: It found that lowering inequality would translate into an increase in growth over the medium term.

Middle-class economics has proven to be popular in the ballot box both in the United States and in Canada. Expanding opportunity and restoring middle-class progress is now at the top of the political agenda for progressives.

The Canada 2020 Second Annual Conference

Given the timing of this year’s gathering we want the conference to be about big, disruptive ideas and what they mean for a modern Canadian federal government. Our central question for this year is: What are the 5 Burning Platforms for Canada’s Future?

We are convening around five main platforms that a new federal government needs to address:

1 Supporting Innovators & Entrepreneurs

2 Reclaiming Climate Leadership

3 Embracing Disruptive Technologies

4 Building Smarter Cities

5 Re-energizing Our Foreign Policy

To  follow the conference, please go to the event homepage for photos, video and a livestream of all the speakers.