2023 in Review

Our team is looking back on a year of unprecedented conversation and action, as our shared progressive values have been under threat in far too much of the world. Year after year, it is increasingly important for us to come together in common cause. With your support, we’ve done just that – but there’s so much more for us to achieve together in 2024.

Roundtable on the health of Canada’s small businesses, May 2023
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the 2023 Global Progress Action Summit in Montreal

Enabled by partners, supporters, and leaders like you, our year has been packed with everything from major summits to intimate round-tables that have catalysed conversation and action on the biggest challenges facing Canadians, including the net-zero transition, growth for all in a fast-changing world, food insecurity, reconciliation, and so much more.

“Food as Medicine” – Exploring the connections and opportunities across food and health care, April 2023
Jennifer Welsh, Mark Carney, and Caroline Cochrane on stage, Net-Zero Leadership Summit, April 2023
Minister Steven Guilbeault delivering a keynote, Net-Zero Leadership Summit, April 2023

Our team is as committed to this work as ever. In addition to our major Economic Reconciliation Summit and a spring and autumn Net-Zero Leadership Summits, in September, we hosted a marquee edition of the Global Progress Action Summit. Co-hosted with Center for American Progress Action, this gathering featured leaders including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Tony Blair, UN Special Envoy on Climate Action & Finance and former governor of the Bank of Canada and the Bank of England Mark Carney, former Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern, former Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, former Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, UK Labour Party Leader Keir Starmer, and so many more, collaborating on how together we can work to renew trust in democracy, ensure shared prosperity over deepening inequality, and accelerate action towards addressing the global climate emergency.

Current and former Prime Ministers Jacinda Ardern, Jonas Gahr Støre, Sanna Marin, and Justin Trudeau on stage with Surpriya Dwivedi,  2023 Global Progress Action Summit
David Miliband, Magdalena Andersson, and Patrick Gaspard discussing democracy in an age of impunity,  2023 Global Progress Action Summit
Anna Gainey speaking with Tony Blair, 2023 Global Progress Action Summit

This summer, we were also thrilled to announce the members of our 2023-2024 Advisory Board chaired by Mark Carney. This group of expert public policy leaders will continue to help guide Canada 2020’s work, focused on the pillars of promoting growth for all, accelerating the transition to net-zero, advancing economic reconciliation, driving innovation for health, building government that delivers, and strengthening Canada’s leadership in the world.

Canada 2020 Advisory Board Meeting, September

Looking ahead, we’re planning many more opportunities for connection, new research, and the sharing of bold and necessary ideas with a full calendar of events for 2024, including a comprehensive policy conference on Canada’s future, as well as our signature annual summits, events, and research. These projects position us for continued leadership in key Canadian policy debates and decisions that will make real progress a reality on priorities like economic growth that leaves no one behind, net-zero leadership, economic reconciliation, strengthening democracy, the Canada-US relationship, and so much more.

Shannin Metatawabin, Alika Lafontaine, and Minister Patty Hajdu, Economic Reconciliation Summit, May 2023
Douglas Sanderson, Chief Crystal Smith, and Minister Marc Miller, Economic Reconciliation Summit, May 2023
Anne McLellan and Minister Seamus O’Regan in discussion, Net-Zero Leadership Summit, October 2023

Your support allows Canada 2020 to continue as an essential voice in Canada’s public policy discourse, and a focal point for helping to shape a better, fairer, cleaner, and more prosperous future for Canada and the world – and we’re so grateful that you’re a part of it. 

Thank you for the ideas and involvement.

Canada 2020 announces new Advisory Board

Canada 2020 has announced today the nine public policy leaders who will serve as its Advisory Board for 2023-24, focused on innovative policy solutions for Canada’s future and a better world. The Advisory Board is chaired by Mark Carney, United Nations Special Envoy for Climate Change and Finance, and former Governor of the Bank of Canada and the Bank of England. 

“Profound forces are re-shaping geo-politics, the economy, energy, health care, and intelligence itself.  How these changes will affect the jobs, prospects and well-being of Canadians depends on us,” said Mark Carney, Chair of Canada 2020’s Advisory Board. “Nowhere in the world can match what Canada brings to the table: our people, resources, ingenuity, and values. The extraordinary group of leaders in Canada 2020’s Advisory Board will help generate innovative ideas and spark debates about how to seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity to build a better future for all Canadians.”

The Advisory Board brings together a cross-section of leaders to help generate the ideas and infrastructure needed for Canada to confront the intersecting challenges facing today’s world and start new conversations about forward-looking Canadian public policy priorities. With today’s announcement, the 2023-24 Advisory Board will include:

Mark Carney (Chair)

UN Special Envoy for Climate Action and Finance; Former Governor of the Bankof Canada and the Bank of England; Chair of Brookfield Asset Management and Head of Transition Investing

Michael Wernick

Former Clerk of the Privy Council of Canada; Jarislowsky Chair of Public Sector Management at the University of Ottawa

Sarah Goodman

Former Director of Policy and Senior Advisor, Climate Action and Sustainable Economy, for the Prime Minister of Canada; Partner and Associate Director, Climate and Sustainability, BCG Consulting Group

Jean Boivin

Head of the Blackrock Investment Institute, Former Deputy Governor of the Bank of Canada

Supriya Dwivedi

Director of Policy and Engagement – Centre for Media, Technology, and Democracy at McGill’s Max Bell School

Mark Podlasly

Chief Sustainability Officer, First Nations Major Projects Coalition

Eme Onuoha 

Managing Director, Global Public Affairs, CPP Investments

Jennifer Welsh

Canada 150 Research Chair in Global Governance & Security, and Director, Centre for International Peace and Security Studies; McGill University

Mike Moffatt

Senior Director, Policy and Innovation at the Smart Prosperity Institute; Former Chief Innovation Fellow for the Government of Canada; and Founding Director of the PLACE Centre

The main areas of policy focus will include: 

  • Promoting growth for all, 
  • Accelerating the transition to net-zero, 
  • Advancing economic reconciliation, 
  • Driving innovation for health, and 
  • Building government that delivers.

“These new Advisory Board members bring together a remarkable array of proven Canadian public policy leaders at a key moment to help shape a fairer, greener, and more prosperous future,” said Braeden Caley, Interim Executive Chair of Canada 2020. “Canada 2020 has a long track record of helping generate bold and impactful progressive policy solutions. This accomplished group of proven leaders will begin an exciting new chapter in our work together to shape a better Canada and a better world.”

Founded in 2006, Canada 2020 is a leading independent non-partisan think tank that produces original research, hosts wide-ranging events, and starts meaningful conversations about Canada’s direction, with the goal of building a forward-looking community of ideas and people that will move and shape governments.

A post-pandemic policy agenda for rural and smaller Canadian communities

Many of us know someone who, at the height of the pandemic, picked up and moved from an urban centre to a smaller, more rural Canadian community. Though small and rural communities face unique challenges across this country, we know one thing: inclusive and sustainable growth principles are becoming foundational to economic decision-making across the country. We need systems that create opportunities for all, regardless of the size of community each one of us chooses to call home.

With this in mind, Canada 2020 has undertaken a one-year project of research and convening to identify what we can learn from global and local efforts to build wealth and well-being in these small and rural communities. Led by Canada 2020 Senior Fellow Matthew Mendelsohn and with key support from TELUS, we’re thrilled to share the results of this project, intended to sketch out a practical policy agenda that can be implemented in the next three years.

“The twin transitions taking place across societies – towards net-zero and digital – will be at the heart of rural and community economic development in Canada over the next decade,” writes Mendelsohn. “Canada should expect and plan for growth, and policy-makers should design and deliver programs in ways that invest in the quality of life and unique assets of smaller communities.”

Canada has the opportunity to implement an ambitious new policy agenda for rural and smaller communities that plans for this transition, and for long-term growth. 

From this research, a four-pillared agenda can guide our path forward:

  1. Aggressively adopt legislative, regulatory and reporting frameworks to direct more capital into local communities, even when the short-term business case isn’t there.
  1. Build the connective tissue necessary for well-being, with a focus on policies that build digital infrastructure and subsidise transportation, and use new tools to build and repurpose social and economic infrastructure for community and entrepreneurial purposes.
  1. Embed reconciliation into rural development strategies, with a focus on capital, Indigenous ownership, and self-government.
  1. Invest in the capacity of local communities and devolve resources and power so that communities can invest in their own assets and make allocation decisions that they think align with their vision for the future of their communities.

There are innumerable reasons this policy agenda should be of highest priority. Not only are reconciliation, climate change, and economic growth amongst the most important issues to many Canadians, but as this report points out, uneven growth – often exploited by malicious and anti-democratic actors – is destabilising.

"This new report is an opportunity to learn from local stakeholders and experts on how to improve the quality of life in our smaller communities,” said Minister Gudie Hutchings. “I’m glad to see the need for digital infrastructure in rural areas was highlighted. We are well on our way to reach our goal to connect 98% of Canadians to affordable and reliable high speed Internet by 2026 and all Canadians by 2030. Investments in connectivity creates jobs, enhances safety, and keeps folks connected to their loved ones.“

The most important challenges we face manifest themselves differently in rural and urban communities, and so our policy responses must privilege place, community, and local assets. A high quality of life in communities of all sizes must remain our guiding principle as we look ahead to Canada’s future.

Summary: The Indigenous-led Economy (2022)

Take-aways from our 2022 Economic Reconciliation Summit

Action toward reconciliation is essential to the shared future of all inhabitants of this land. This can, and must, include closing the gap in investment, infrastructure, and ultimately, quality of life between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians. The project of reconciliation has to include a deeper understanding of the economic inequality faced by Indigenous communities across Canada, the people and projects that are working toward closing the gap, and the opportunities this shift can foster for the Canadian economy.

On May 17, 2022, Canada 2020 hosted a day of conversation spotlighting the Indigenous-led Economy. Our first in-person gathering in over two years, this event brought Indigenous leaders and innovators together from across the country to take a close look at economic development in their communities, what’s working, and where we can all do better. You can find the full event agenda here, and hear the keynote conversation between Minister of Crown Indigenous Relations Marc Miller, Director of Economic Policy at the First Nations Major Projects Coalition Mark Podlasly, and Partner and National Leader of Indigenous Law at BLG Cherie Brant.

Minister of Crown Indigenous Relations Marc Miller delivering a keynote at the Economic Reconciliation Summit in Ottawa, May 2022.

There was lots to learn from this conversation. The headline? We are falling short on economic reconciliation if we’re only talking about money and profit. This is a conversation about being able to take pride in a quality of life. And in the words of Yukon MPP and Minister of Education Jeanie McLean: “Indigenous people are ready. We are ready. And Canada can only be stronger with Indigenous people taking their rightful place.”

So what does this mean for those looking to take action? Here’s what we heard:

  1. “Inclusion is not just the right thing, it’s the only thing,” Mark Podlasly reminds us. And as we heard time and time again, there’s more to inclusion than just having a seat at the table. Our goals shouldn’t just be limited to representing diversity, but building a culture of belonging, and a robust strategy of engagement. Projects involving Indigenous people, livelihoods, and land (that is, all land) need to involve Indigenous people from the very beginning. As Haisla Chief Crystal Smith puts it, “we just want a share and a say.”
  1. Beyond the engagement gap, there’s a serious finance gap. This includes a major disparity in wealth, in infrastructure, in investment, and in access to capital. Hillary Thatcher from the Canadian Infrastructure Bank knows just how to help address this: low-cost debt that is accessible and affordable, like the $1 billion in Indigenous investment that’s been committed by the federal government over the next two years. Often, this capital is inaccessible due to high premiums. “This is a barrier right now,” says Hillary. “The access to capital for Indigenous communities to own major projects in this country is significant. It’s difficult for communities to get affordable capital, to buy equity into projects. This demand is loud and clear.” Further to that, Indigenous-led projects and organisations should be prioritised when tax incentives, grants, and public funding are on the table.
  1. Whether you think of it as capacity building, or the Seventh Generation Principle: economic development is all about the long view. This means legacy planning in organisations, educating and training each new generation of workers (from executives to labourers, and everyone in between), and, like FHQ Development’s CEO Thomas Benjoe, knowing that sustainable projects take time to deliver dividends. But when they do, we all know that the projects have been set up for longevity, and the benefit of generations to come. This builds resilience and strength for the whole economy.
  1. All of these ideas feed into a simple, but revolutionary idea: we need to establish an Indigenous corporate culture. Margaret Kenequanash, Thomas Benjoe, and many others are leading by example in fostering a system that respects traditional protocols and customs – including ceremonies, blessings, and land use protocols – alongside government compliance requirements. They’re also building organisations that prioritise Indigenous ownership, governance, procurement policies, and more. There’s no reason this should not be the norm across all Canadian organisations, and we were reminded by all of our speakers: all non-Indigenous partners in projects should be doing their due diligence to this end.
  2. “Pay for success,” says Jeanie McLean. “We put a lot of money into systems that don’t work. But we struggle to pay for success. We struggle to pay for the initiatives that really change the lives of our people.” All of us need to be open to new solutions, complement one another’s strengths, and recognize the value everyone brings to the table: from culture, to communication, to guiding principles. In the words of Maragret Kenequanash, “People say it’s too hard to work nation-to-nation? I don’t buy it.” Instead, we can choose to invest in what works for everyone, not the old systems and structures that have left Indigenous communities behind.

Want more to explore more conversations on reconciliation? Check out the 2020 Network podcast Everyday Reconciliation, hosted by Elin Miller, as well as other events in our economic reconciliations series: Getting to Net Zero and The Workforce of the Future.

Tabatha Bull, Chief Crystal Smith, Hillary Thatcher, and Jeanie McLean at the Economic Reconciliation Summit in Ottawa, May 2022.