Will the G8 and G20 summits mark a high-water mark for Canadian involvement in international affairs, or a moment when Canada repositions itself at the centre of the action? Everyone knows massive changes are sweeping aside the old ways. It's pretty well assured we won't be hosting a G8 again, and Canada's next G20, should it continue to exist, comes around in 2030.
As Canada moves down the ranks, from the world's seventh-largest economy to 10th and lower, it must navigate the rise of Asia, the relative decline of the U.S. and the sudden creation of a new multilateralism, among other game-changers. How do we play this once-in-a-century period of global disruption?
The Canadian International Council asked a panel of Canadians, a post-Cold War digital generation largely in its 30s and 40s, to come up with a new blueprint. Our report, Open Canada: A Global Positioning Strategy for a Networked Age, offers bold and original policies and strategies within the realm of the possible.
By far the biggest game-changer is that the United States will not continue to be the engine of global growth. Policy experts' standard response has been a Grand Bargain in the form of a customs union, common market or security perimeter. We must attack the problem in new ways.
We need to deepen relations with the U.S. while broadening away from it at the same time. We need to be better friends with our best friend and we need to have more friends in a world where power, wealth and knowledge are widely dispersed. It's time to walk and chew gum at the same time.
Among our recommendations:
- In the North, we should be leading a co-operative governance regime through the Arctic Council, a Canadian invention and model for the new multilateralism. And we should team up with our long-term defence partner in patrolling the region through an expanded NORAD. We simply can't afford to go it alone.
- After Afghanistan, we should specialize at getting failing states up and running. To send our revitalized military back to the barracks would squander a great asset.
- We need to build a human bridge to and from Asia. Brain gain is better than brain drain, but policy must adjust to the fact of a life-long brain chain. We recommend measures to make Vancouver the Asian business capital of North America.
- We should invest heavily in being at the centre of knowledge networks, starting with a stretch R&D target of 3 per cent of GDP, up with the best. Currently, we are below the OECD average.
- We recommend playing a bigger role in helping Mexico stabilize. A successful Mexico, with its 111 million consumers, is in Canada's interests. A failing democracy on the doorstep of our closest partner is not.
- We need to get serious about protecting the oil sands from political attack. The first step is pricing carbon and creating mechanisms to finance a great technological leap forward. We need made-in-Canada solutions before we negotiate outside.
- A pipeline from the oil sands to the West Coast is vital. We talk of ourselves as an energy superpower, but 99 per cent of our oil exports go to the U.S., making us a captive supplier and the weaker party in any dealings.
- We want to move beyond the tepid welcome of Investment Canada to create an Invest In Canada, which would tell our story to investors and the world's highly mobile creative classes.
The old way of doing things isn't going to cut it. We can't talk about clean energy without cleaning it. We can't tolerate development programs without results. We can't indulge in anti-Americanism, nor keep falling short in the rest of the world. We can't allow partisanship and narrow interests to distort the national interest.
We call our report Open Canada because we think we can prosper by being the most open country in the world: open to ideas and investment; open to newcomers and new ways; open to partnerships and networks at home and abroad; open to competition and the uncompromising pursuit of excellence.
Edward Greenspon is chair of The GPS Project and former editor-in-chief of The Globe and Mail. The report can be read at www.onlinecic.org/opencanada.