Alex Paterson

Canada 2020 Think Tank Round-up: Nov 12 – 26

November 26, 2012

This edition: Have we mentioned the fiscal cliff?

Canada 2020 is a hub for forward-looking, progressive ideas about the policy challenges and opportunities that will make Canada a better, more modern place by the year 2020.

As our mission statement says, we achieve this goal by convening leading authorities from at home and abroad, mindful that a global perspective leads to better domestic solutions.

In this series, we take a look at some of the work being done by organizations around the world – think tanks and networks like Canada 2020 that are actively pursuing a new progressive agenda.

The New Third Way

As our own Eugene Lang can attest, a new era of Clintonomics kicked off in London two weeks ago with the reigniting of the ‘Third Way’ dialogue of the 1990s – a transatlantic conversation of progressives seeking to identify and coordinate strategic policy priorities. Hosted by the US-based Center for American Progress and the UK-based Policy Network, Canada 2020 was the only Canadian organization in attendance. More to come later this week.

The Fiscal Cliff

Meanwhile, our American counterparts are, understandably, preoccupied by the imminent fiscal cliff that threatens to plunge the U.S. economy – and quite a few others – back into deep recession. Dr. Larry Summers, echoing his progressive counterparts, staked his claim on the issue at a Canada 2020 special event just two days after the U.S. election. Dr. Summers insisted that everything should be done to avoid the removal of over $600 billion of demand from the economy – a sentiment shared amongst both CAP and the people at Brookings Institute.

CAP offers a primer on the current budget battle in a fine report, carefully crafted and published this November. Brookings offers a compromise in an opinion piece from Will Galston, but doesn’t exactly mince words with the stakes in another perspective from visiting scholar Bill Frenzal: Going off the fiscal cliff is fine – if you like unemployment.

The U.S. based Economic Policy Institute has stepped back from the fray and has outlined a list of ‘guiding principles’ for the debate going forward. It’s a good read if you’re looking to for a bird’s eye view on the situation.

The Institute for Policy Studies – which focuses primarily on peace, justice and the environment – is more skeptical of the choices on the table, saying the private sector push to address the fiscal cliff is a ‘trojan horse’ for substantive and advantageous changes to the tax code.

Poverty in focus

While the fiscal cliff may be taking up a significant amount of both oxygen and ink, spin-off issues demand attention too. CAP has published a substantial amount of work on poverty and its systemic causes. The right choices to cut poverty and restore shared prosperity is a quality read on the way forward for reducing American income inequality. If you’re a fan of lists instead (and hadn’t had enough of the fiscal cliff), CAP also offers ’10 reasons why cutting poverty programs to resolve the fiscal is a bad idea.’

And if you happen to be in London this week, Demos is hosting an event called Poverty in Perspective, calling for a new typology on poverty. Looks very interesting, and very much in line with the global focus on ‘modern poverty.’

The global cities agenda takes shape

Rapid urbanization is also rapidly bringing together the global cities agenda. As part of our Rising to Meet the Asia Challenge policy stream, we will be hosting an event called Asia’s Cities, Canada’s Opportunity, a panel talk as a part of our Canada We Want in 2020 Speaker Series. As our own Diana Carney writes,  “Approached strategically, this urban build-out represents a huge opportunity for Canada, especially in infrastructure, construction and related services, agri-foods and and green technologies.”

Following suit, the Canadian International Council has published an excellent essay – Urban Diplomacy – which focuses on the city-to-city exchange currently happening all over the developed and (rapidly) developing world.

In a similar vein, Demos has done some thinking around ‘What Makes a Good City?’. Hint: it involves trade-offs.


The world of think tanks is always interested in the state of education, both at home and abroad. Today, we’re happy to welcome the Canadian Bureau of International Education (CBIE) has replaced its flagship report, A World of Learning. It is available for purchase here and covers the opportunities and challenges for Canadian students and educators as we open our boarders to global modes of learning. I have written previously on the innovation benefits of international education, which you can read here.

To conclude, here is a list of other education thinking from around the horn. In no particular order:

That’s the wrap for this week. If there’s something we missed, post it in the comments below.

Alex Paterson is Canada 2020′s Communications Coordinator.

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