Tag Archives: Conference Board of Canada

As we build it, they do come


A simple stroll down Moncton’s Main Street reveals the incongruity between the cloistered and the prodigal.

If you dare to see, you will notice entire blocks of historic edifices falling into disrepair, vacant and lonely but for the ghosts of past prosperities they must surely host, even now.

You will perceive the empty storefronts; the blinkered windows, the shuttered doors and the pigeon poop almost everywhere. You will witness what the sedentary rarely observe behind their towers of glass and concrete: an urban core begging for meaningful renewal.

What shape, then, shall it take?

I press my face to the fence that traverses Main from the bottom of Highfield Street and west to Vaughan-Harvey Boulevard. I watch the builders clear the ground for a foundation, from which girders will soar, on which a new chance for some sort of urban renaissance might take root.

I travel down the byway awhile and find a small café at which to ruminate. Here, over a small cappuccino, I dip into the local paper. “Construction on the first phase of Moncton’s new downtown events center has already generated more than $16.5 million in building permits,” the story reports.

Richard Dunn, the city’s economic development officer, is effusive. He says, “We expect the whole downtown center project will spur development in the vicinity of the building. There are a lot of developers who have been waiting for it to start.”

That’s not all, he assures. “It’s not just the events center. We are expecting big changes along Main Street as we have redevelopment grants available for the downtown core and heritage buildings,” he says.

I hope he’s right. So does the Conference Board of Canada, which recently staked at least a minor portion of its vaunted reputation as a reliable economic prognosticator on the efficacious effects of a new multi-use facility in Moncton’s urban core. (That organization predicts a 3.7 per cent, year-over-year growth rate in the Hub City, thanks to construction activity, alone).

In 2013, real research told the tale of this major build in, arguably, New Brunswick’s most commercially successful city.

David Campbell, the province’s current chief economist (who was an independent economic development consultant at the time) told Moncton City Council that the new downtown center, will annually “attract between 317,000 and 396,000 people. . .generating between $12 and $15 million in spending.” In the process, it will “support retail, food service, accommodation and other services in the downtown,” where it “should also support residential growth.”

The important point, which Mr. Campbell argued rigorously and cogently, was that a new centre is not – as some have proposed – a luxury; it is quite nearly a necessity. “Downtown – only 1.5 per cent of the city’s land area – generates nearly 10 per cent of the total assessed tax base and over 14.4 per cent of property tax revenues,” he pointed out. In fact, the urban core “generates nearly 11.5 times as much property tax revenue, compared to the rest of Moncton, on a per hectare basis.” What’s more, “the cost to service the downtown is much lower compared to many other neighbourhoods around the city.”

Nearly five years later, these facts ring true. Yet – though the downtown hosts 800 business, 3,000 bars, restaurants and cafes, 18,000 workers, and anywhere from 1,200 to 5,700 residents – the area is in a state of disrepair.

Perhaps this will change in the coming months, as those who have been cloistered walk out their doors and imagine the civic life that could be, sometime soon, all around them.

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The Moncton Miracle strikes again

To the surprise of precisely no one in New Brunswick’s Hub City, Moncton has scored another top finish in the race to be known perpetually as the pluckiest, little urban area in Canada.

It is, perhaps, unbecoming to dwell on one’s civic greatness, but what the heck. . .let’s do it anyway.

According to the Conference Board of Canada’s latest Metropolitan Outlook, “Moncton and Saint John are among the five fastest-growing medium-sized (municipal) economies in Canada this year. . . On the other hand, St. John’s, Newfoundland, is on track to post the slowest economic growth among the 15 cities covered in the report.”

Specifically, the analysis finds that Moncton’s real “GDP is forecast to rise by a 10-year high of 3 per cent this year, thanks to healthy gains in manufacturing and the broader services sector. In particular, the local transportation and warehousing sector, whose outlook is closely tied to that of manufacturing’s, is expected to expand at a vigorous clip. The solid economy will translate into decent job and income gains, which should encourage consumers to continue spending.”

Meanwhile, up the highway a piece, Saint John will benefit from “a recovery in manufacturing and in resources and utilities sectors.” This will push economic expansion the Port City to about 2.3 per cent this year.

In fact, manufacturing and resources and utilities will rebound thanks to a comparatively weak Canadian dollar (relative to its U.S. counterpart) as well as “stronger housing demand south of the border.”

As if to invite a chorus of “We Told You So,” St. John’s economy is forecast to tank, dragged down by plummeting oil prices and steady declines in resource investment and production.

Still, the Conference Board chirps optimistically, “things will be better than last year when total output fell by 2.3 per cent. This year, St. John’s (GDP) is forecast to grow by 0.5 per cent, as solid gains in manufacturing, in wholesale and retail trade, and in finance and real estate are offset by declines in resources and utilities and in construction.”

All of which should comprise a heady argument for steady, efficacious diversification in mid-sized metropolitan economies. This is, of course, the not-so-hidden secret of Moncton’s success over the past 25 years. Hard experience has taught this city that one-horse towns are just fine until the horse breaks a leg and has to be shot.

Instead, this greater urban area has worked assiduously to develop a broad array of economic clusters, any one of which can, and does, imbue this region of the province with business and employment opportunities without – it should be emphasized – a disproportionate degree of help from provincial and federal governments.

As a consequence, Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe’s entrepreneurial verve has placed it first over the finish line repeatedly in KPMG’s annual survey of the most likely and winsome communities for economic growth in North America.

Our urban dynamo is also, by deliberate design, one of the “smartest” cities on the continent – if we measure intelligence by the sophistication and coverage of our telecommunications and information technology infrastructure and services.

Indeed, as other communities in this province suffer from their dependence on seasonal, resource-based industries, Moncton’s economy remains buoyant year-round.

There is, perhaps, no better reason than this to expect steady, self-perpetuating success from a new, multi-purpose downtown events centre – for if any community in this province can build a solid business case for such a project, it’s this one.

And it’s with our characteristic foresight and determination that we must proceed without delay, if only to preserve our reputation for promise and pluck.

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Juggling N.B’s balancing act


For public leaders, the great challenge in stewarding an economy like New Brunswick’s is not, essentially, crafting jobs-vows and packaging promises for economic growth.

The great challenge is learning how to walk, chew gum, sing, dance, buy the groceries, and cook the dinner – all at the same time.

Of course, to prove to the common weal that they are, indeed, multi-tasking geniuses – gifted beyond reasonable doubt in the calculus of actually getting things done – young governments are inevitably tempted to issue a bevy of so-called “prosperity plans” and “opportunity programs”, which they insist clearly present the key that unlocks the door to durable progress.

It never does, of course. 

In fact, in every case, these “plans” and “programs” are anything but – more wish lists than articulate frameworks. But, they make great copy for newspaper editorialists; lamentably for everyone else, that’s about the sum total of their value.

Still, a government such as freshly minted Brian Gallant’s in this province owes itself and voters a valiant, mold-breaking exercise in economic specificity, in which plans really are plans, programs really are programs and vision is more than a talking point for a chamber-of-commerce audience of jaded luncheon rats. 

Happily, the early signs here are promising.

The new appointees to the province’s Jobs Board (notably David Campbell and Susan Holt) have, in recent days, made useful points about the ways and means of building and sustaining industrial capacity.

In effect, these boil down not to one ingredient, but many, operating in concert to slowly, incrementally, convincingly improve the conditions for commercial growth, innovation, expansion and, naturally, job creation.

These necessarily require Government to hone its juggling skills just as they require public shepherds of long-term prosperity to focus more on the steak of their proposals than the sizzle of their pronouncements.

The traditional temptation is, however, to stray from this noble, difficult purpose. Often, it’s the sweet, low-hanging fruit that distracts.

In this context,  alone, the ostensibly good economic news about New Brunswick from the Conference Board of Canada this week is actually troubling.

For the first time since 2007, the organization insists, the province is set to surge ahead, posting better year-over-year GDP growth than the nation as a whole. This, the argument goes, will surely boost employment, reduce labour shortages and go a long way towards narrowing the wage-and-skills gap, especially in natural resources and goods-producing industries.

The problem with this rosy forecast is that it relies entirely on factors beyond New Brunswick’s control: an uptick in export business with the re-emergent American northeast and the consequent effect of depressed oil prices, i.e., a low Canadian dollar.

When things are fertile, who thinks about the inevitable drought?

Who thinks to leverage the good times (with, for example, ground-breaking, world-beating product and service innovations, strategic infrastructure, advanced training and education) to ameliorate the bad?

Similarly, the promise of better days ahead might lure policymakers into believing that the timing for a general tax grab has rarely been more efficacious. Several economists and, at least, one poverty group, have issued strong injunctions against such a move.

They are correct. Rash increases in income or consumptions taxes are not the way to go at the moment.

But neither is hand-wringing.

Everything must be in play in this province, and everything is of a piece – a piece of every other.

The Gallant government’s approach to date has indicated that it knows this. Temporary upticks in the economy are no more promising, in the long-term, than are sudden, socially irresponsible hikes in levies on citizens.

The future is in the long game – in the simultaneous chewing of gum, walking, singing, dancing, grocery buying and dinner cooking.

Let’s see that the big-picture plan contains enough meat to nourish future generations of this province.DSC_0005

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Are we becoming a nation of political quitters?


It is entirely possible, if stunningly depressing, that mainstream politicians in Canada are finally listening to those they purport to represent: the disenfranchised us.

For years, the disenfranchised us have spoken from all points on the political spectrum about the fundamental corruption of ideas sacrificed at the altar of partisanship; about the seedy incompetence that infects all levels of elective office; about the unseemly horse-trading of democratic principles between ancient interests that masquerades as fair, just and equal representation.

For years, the disenfranchised us have voted with our voices and our feet: Loudly decrying the steady perversion of a system that no longer appears to be built for us and steadfastly withholding our mandates at the ballot boxes by refusing to participate in a process we consider rooked and ruined.

Now, many who have thrown their hats into the political arena in recent years are scooping up their dusty, battered head-toppers and loping home in rueful agreement with the great unwashed they all-too-often ignored.

Some quietly.

Some, not so much.

“Looking back, I, like so many people, got into politics thinking I knew a lot,” Graham Steele, Nova Scotia’s former NDP finance minister in the defeated Darrell Dexter government, told the Globe and Mail’s Jane Taber last fall.

“What I knew a fair bit about was public policy – and what it takes you a long time to learn is how public policy gets twisted and distorted and eventually you get taken over by the desire to win, to be re-elected.”

Taber’s interview coincided with the release of Steele’s memoir, What I Learned about Politics, and her excerpts from that work were as equally revealing as was her intrepid report of the man’s late-season remorse and regret:

“There was hardly any point to who sat in my chair or who was on which side of the House. None of us was dealing with the real issues. There was no fundamental difference between us. . .Like the sex drive among primates, the drive to be re-elected drives everything a politician does. . .Spend as little time as possible at the legislature. There are no voters there, so any time spent is wasted.”

What’s more, he writes, “Keep it simple. Policy debates are for losers. Focus on what is most likely to sink in with a distracted electorate: slogans, scandals, personalities, pictures, image. Find whatever works, then repeat it relentlessly. . .Fight hard to take credit, fight harder to avoid blame.”

Finally, “Deny that these are the Rules of the Game.”

The irony, of course, is that none of these tactics actually calibrate to enhance voter confidence in the political process or in public institutions. And, so, they amount to an elaborate shell game elected representatives kid themselves into believing is winnable. The electorate knows better, but without a valid alternative, it, too, plays along; the losing streak broadens and becomes structural.

After all, if everyone’s a sucker, isn’t everyone a winner?

Today, the political horizon is brimming not with losers or winners or even suckers; but with quitters.

A recent report from the Conference Board of Canada observes that “Canada scores a ‘C’ and ranks 14th out of 17 peer countries (in terms of voter turnout). Only 53.8 per cent of adult Canadians voted in the 2011 federal election – the second-lowest (showing) in history. The decline in voter turnout in Canada may be due to lower participation of young people.”

No kidding, Sherlock.

Meanwhile, the Board perseveres: “A. . .study for Elections Canada noted the decline in voter turnout in recent elections is mainly due to lower participation of young people, and that ‘it is part of a demographic trend that shows every sign of continuing well into the future.’ In 2011, only 38.8 per cent of the population aged 18 to 24 voted.”

Under these circumstances, should there be any great wonder that the negative feedback loop between electoral confidence and elected representation continues to spiral downwards?

There goes Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale. Farewell Wildrose Danielle Smith in Alberta. Who takes over from Prince Edward Island Premier Robert Ghiz? No one in his caucus; that’s for certain.

We, the disenfranchised us, finally salute you – for you have finally become us.

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Running to the end of our rope



In the race to nowhere, few places in Canada perform better than dear, old, fusty New Brunswick. In fact, when it comes to crossing the line that separates progress from perdition, ours is the Kenyan marathoner of provinces.

Don’t let a recent forecast from the Conference Board of Canada (CBC) fool you, either. That august body now predicts that New Brunswick’s economy is preparing to mount a turnaround, of sorts, this year.

Here’s the quote from the organization that’s setting certain politicos and pundits in the province all a twitter: “New investment is boosting the forestry sector. . .The provincial labour market, which has been hemorrhaging jobs over the last four years, is beginning to recover. Along with an improved investment outlook, consumer demand should pick up, allowing real GDP to advance by a modest 1.1 per cent this year.”

Note the preferred diction: The Board said “modest” growth, not “buoyant” or “great guns” or “blistering” or “spectacular” or even “moderate”. Other jurisdictions showing similar expansionary tendencies include the Czech Republic and Portugal.

Still, it was enough to encourage Blaine Higgs, the province’s minister of finance, who told the Saint JohnTelegraph-Journal, “We do see those same economic trends that are starting to turn. We bottomed out a few months ago. We saw the trends start to flatten out and start to shift upwards.”

Of course, that’s what GDP trends do; they. . .well, trend. The direction they take depends on the level of capital investment governments and/or the private sector pour into the economy, export performance and consumer spending. 

Fortunately, these indicators have been improving. But for how long?

New Brunswick’s ups and downs are nothing new. Still, over the years, we’ve grown inured to, even complacent with, certain conditions in our broad, social mosaic that contribute both directly and indirectly to our persistent economic vulnerability.

We have, for example, a real chip on our shoulder about what we think we have a right to receive from our various levels of government. Our ecosystems of entitlement are spectacularly intertwined and breathtakingly intricate. This has, in no mean way, pushed our long term public debt to an absurd $12 billion and our annual deficit to an effectively permanent $500 million.

Then, naturally, when governments start taking away our toys and begin cutting our playtime, we complain bitterly about the quality of political leadership, a habit of mind that inevitably leads to Premier David Alward’s ignoble showing in a recent Angus Reid Global poll on his popularity, compared with others in his class across Canada: second to last, at 29 per cent, behind Greg Selinger of Manitoba (26 per cent).

That level of acrimony reflects how stunningly distrustful we have become; how wary we have grown over the years of governments as faithful economic stewards. The consequences are almost tediously predictable.

A difficult, yet worthy, proposition four years ago to sell the province’s power utility and settle, in one fell swoop, $4 billion in longterm debt, mutates into a ridiculous debate over corporate patriation and sends the reigning Liberals into the wilderness.

The victorious Tories fare hardly better during their first term as they work to warm public attitudes toward hydraulic fracturing in the nascent shale gas industry – an industry that could one day employ hundreds of people and contribute millions of dollars to the economy and to provincial coffers in the form of taxes and royalties.

The issue literally blows up by the side of the road as protestors, echoing the views of many New Brunswickers, insist that the government can’t be trusted to mitigate the risks of the drilling technologies.

Meanwhile, we chug along, stupefyingly oblivious to the fact that we are now the proud owners of the highest outmigration rate among young people in Canada and one of the highest adult illiteracy rates in North America.

Oddly enough, New Brusnwick is also home to one of the highest concentrations of successful mentoring agencies in the country. 

Perhaps, then there’s hope. It may yet be within our means to turn the tide of this perennial race to nowhere.


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And now for something completely different: good news for New Brunswick. . .sort of



New Brunswick may be drowning in debt. In fact, practitioners of the wooly science of fiscal forensics may have already pronounced this province dead on arrival. But don’t we just do a bang-up job reporting our woes to the rest of the world?

The C.D. Howe Institute says we deserve a little praise for a change. Specifically, Colin Busby of The C.D. Howe Institute tells the Saint John Telegraph-Journal that, according to his annual study on government spending overruns in Canada (also known as “The Pinocchio Report”), this province does “reasonably well” predicting its financial condition. We are, in a phrase, “middle of the road”, which is better than road kill, I suppose.

What’s more, we’re brutally honest with ourselves and the rest of the country about the hobo clothes we’re forced to wear. “New Brunswick is one of the jurisdictions where you can clearly find comparable numbers,” Mr. Busby says. “You simply find what the budget promises were and then find the numbers in the public accounts and compare them. That’s a positive story for New Brunswick.”

Still, he adds, “When it comes to spending overruns and the ability to hit budget targets, either overshooting or undershooting (New Brunswick) is not in the range of Ontario and the federal government who have done a significantly better job in terms of holding to what they promised in their spring budgets.”

Here’s how the numbers shake out: Over the past 10 years, cumulative overruns, expressed as fractions of 2013/14 budgeted spending, were highest in Saskatchewan (36 per cent), Alberta (26 per cent) and Manitoba (22 per cent), lowest in Canada, overall (one per cent), Ontario (five per cent) and Nova Scotia (seven per cent).

New Brunswick overspent by $1.2 billion over the past decade, which is bad. On the other hand, averaged out over the period, we came in less than 15 per cent off our annual targeted goals, which is good. Sort of.

For a finance minister, there is, I’m guessing, a certain comfort in knowing, with any degree of accuracy, just how badly off your jurisdiction is in the scheme of things. It’s a little like being sentenced to an indeterminate jail term. At least you know you have a cot; let’s just hope your bunk buddies in the bond market aren’t complete psychos.

But, in the larger context, how instructive or useful are these sort of statistical parlour games?

That New Brunswick manages to “present well” is vastly less important than its moribund economy, the structural instability of which makes accurate budget forecasting a near impossibility (a fact which suggests that the province’s reasonably fair reporting record is more a function of good luck than good prognostication).

Meanwhile, the Conference Board of Canada forecasts continued stormy economic weather for the province. “Prospects for New Brunswick’s economy will remain dim for at least one more year,” it said in its revised winter outlook earlier this month. “Cuts in the potash industry, and the closing of the Maple Leaf Food plant in Moncton, will limit economic growth to 0.8 per cent in 2014.”

How will this affect the next round of budget promises?

An even more intriguing question is whether a fully functioning shale gas industry, which should make us all filthy rich, will also make our elected officials filthy liars, though through no fault of their own.

The C.D. Howe Report notes the paradox common to provinces rich in natural resources: Their budgets are even farther from target than are those of patently poor provinces, such as New Brunswick. Economic instability, it seems, cuts both ways.

“Jurisdictions that are more dependent on natural resources showed sizable positive revenue biases: Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and labrador and Alberta all had biases of eight to 10 per cent,” the Institute noted. The natural-resource dependent jurisdictions that more affected by commodity-price swings also had low accuracy scores.”

So, then, the more money a jurisdiction has sloshing around in oil and gas wells, the less veracious are its budget forecasts.

What a delicious irony.

Still, if I had to choose, I’d rather the province I call home be recognized for the power of its industry, than the accuracy of its numbers-crunchers.

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How (not) to breed a culture of innovation

Think about tech at least once in your freakin' life!

Think about tech at least once in your freakin’ life!

Once again, a major Canadian think tank concludes that the nation’s private sector is not spending enough of research and development, on science and technology. Once again, the news runs buried in the tech sections of the day’s print organs, all but guaranteeing the predictable reader response of “so what.”

For decades – at least since the early 1980s – experts have warned that unless industry picks up the pace of innovation, the consequences for Canada’s productivity and competitiveness in the global economy will be dire. But what, exactly, does that mean and why should anyone outside the pearly gates of academe give a fig?

Not long ago, the Conference Board of Canada took a shot at answering the question. In a report entitled “How Canada Performs”, the organization had this to say about the country’s low ranking, compared to other economies, on innovation:

“Overall, countries that are more innovative are passing Canada on measures such as income per capita, productivity, and the quality of social programs. It is also critical to environmental protection, a high-performing education system, a well-functioning system of health promotion and health care, and an inclusive society. Without innovation, all these systems stagnate and Canada’s performance deteriorates relative to that of its peers.”

What’s more, the Board said, “With new key players – such as China, India, and Brazil – in the global economy, Canadian businesses must move up the value chain and specialize in knowledge-intensive, high-value-added goods and services. Although Canada has some leading companies that compete handily against global peers, its economy is not as innovative as its size would otherwise suggest.”

Now, the Science, Technology and Innovation Council (STIC) – a creature of the current federal government – adds its voice to the chorus. “Canada’s gross domestic expenditures on R&D (GERD) declined from their peak in 2008 and, when measured in relation to gross domestic product (GDP), since 2001,” it reports. “In contrast, the GERD and GERD intensity of most other countries have been increasing. Canada’s declining GERD intensity has pushed its rank down from 16th position in 2006 to 17th in 2008 and to 23rd in 2011 (among 41 economies). . .The more recent declines in the country’s total R&D funding efforts are attributable predominantly to private sector funding of R&D.”

The Council also notes, somewhat cheerfully that “Canadians understand that, if we want to create jobs and opportunity in a competitive world and address the key societal challenges that confront us in the 21st century, STI must be an integral part of the national agenda.”

But here’s the thing: I’m not at all sure Canadians do – understand, that is. If they did, then this conversation, which feels like a toothache, would be over. So would the chimerical debate, in government circles, about funding hard, “blue sky” science at the “expense” of applied, commercially viable research. Notice where these discussions almost never occur: Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, The Netherlands, and, yes, even the United States.

That’s because these nations, unlike Canada, have recognized the truth of their circumstances, which is, both simple and elegant: If you want an innovative culture, you have to breed a culture of innovation. And silos of self-interest won’t help you accomplish the task. All segments of society – government, industry, higher education – must pull in the same direction if we’re going to get anywhere.

Or, as the STIC observes, “The responsibility is shared: all participants in our STI ecosystem have a role to play in driving enhanced performance and lifting Canada into the ranks of the world’s leading innovative economies. It is not just about investing more, but about investing more strategically and coherently, focusing our resources and efforts, learning from the experience of global STI leaders and improving agility to seize emerging opportunities. That is how Canada will truly be able to ‘run with the best.’”

It’s also how you convince average Canadians, who may not often read the tech sections of their newspapers, that their material well being – their wages and standards of living – depends directly on the quantity and quality of the innovations they enlist in the service of their respective futures.

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Canada’s future isn’t what it used to be


When, exactly, the Conference Board of Canada decided it would serve the interests of policy makers better by dusting off its crystal ball and throwing caution to the wind is not immediately clear. But wonks and pundits of all stripes owe this sturdy think tank a debt of gratitude for producing its first report under its Strategic Foresight Initiative.

This slim study, which weighs in at only 12 pages, posits four possible “energy futures” for The Great White North, and each one makes for fascinating reading. But first, the obligatory disclaimer: “Unlike traditional economic forecasting that focuses on development of a probable or most-likely future, strategic foresight aims instead to develop a series of plausible futures. Its goal is not to predict the future – or even suggest which direction might be most desirable.”

Rather, the authors state, “The goal. . .is to offer insights to decision-makers in governments, businesses, and other organizations on how best to prepare for all possibilities, what they might do to shift toward a future they prefer, and how to recognize and adapt to events and trends that may point toward a specific future.”

That dutifully said, the Board can’t disguise the delightful fact that it had a ball conjuring four distinct scenarios for the shape of things to come “out to 2050” or that the document reads, in places, like Hugo Award-winning science fiction.

Consider scenario number one, also known as “Hockey Stick”.

It’s a world in which “the Greenland ice cap has shrunk, as has Antarctica. Rising sea levels and an increased frequency of extreme weather events are forcing coastal cities to build massive dykes, with low-lying countries suffering extensive damage from storm surges. The Gulf Stream has shifted south, leaving much of Europe to shiver even as former breadbaskets like the American Midwest have baked into desert. Extreme weather has become frequent – damaging crops, disrupting transportation, and eroding infrastructure.”

As for Canada, where “personal vehicles have become a luxury”, we’ve been hit hard. Fortunately, we anticipated “a world of energy scarcity and environmental trauma,” and so “recognized the need to shift” our economic centre of gravity beyond both resources and manufacturing, toward a competitive post-industrial base.”

The section entitled “Superpower” describes a somewhat happier condition for the nation. This is a world in which, “The opening of Arctic waters has enabled exploitation of other energy pools as well as easier access to mineral deposits, and Canada’s North has become a booming frontier. Canadian producers have been able to reap the higher world prices for oil and gas. But even as export pipelines were planned, reviewed, and built, Eastern provinces have moved quickly to build up their own energy sources.”

Life is, indeed, grand for Canadians. But, as the paper warns, it may be too grand: “For more than a generation, they have been getting rich by selling the world what it wants. But most of what they have been selling is finite. Eventually the party must end. The question now is whether Canadians are setting aside enough of their current income – and investing it well enough – to fund their future well-being in a post-resource world.”

Perhaps, a better, more sustainable, future for the country is the one outlined in “Green Machine”. This states that “Governments have quickly recognized the importance of supporting clean energy development through a combination of technology investments and regulation. Major breakthroughs have been made in energy storage technologies for variable energy sources and massive efficiency improvements for renewable energy generation and transmission.”

As a result, “there is a sense of balance across the country, and general optimism about the ability of technology to handle the continuing evolution of the global environment.”

Then, of course, there is the status quo of “Made in Canada” in which economic stagnation in formerly growing and emerging economies has secured Canada’s role as the world’s premier location for immigrants. Moreover, “With gas cheap and the economy strong, there has been little constraint on urban sprawl and lots of money for more roads in provinces with significant energy resources.”

Will any of these scenarios play out in the years to come? Crystal balls are notoriously cloudy. Still, the fun is in the peering.

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