A Canada Day (01/07) tradition is for Canadians to celebrate the moment and indulge in a congratulatory review of our past. This year, on Canada’s 155th anniversary, I’m breaking this old habit, and asking: where is Canada going?
Yes, Canadians can be proud of their achievements since 1867.
The Economist Intelligence Unit recently published a survey on quality of life, ranking 3 Canadian cities – Calgary, Vancouver, and Toronto – among the top 10 in the world to live.
We have a highly educated citizenry.
Abundant natural resources.
A robust banking system.
A system of governance admired by the rest of the world.
A multicultural society with deeply diverse communities living in relative harmony. A thriving population of immigrants seeking to join us from every part of the world.
And entrepreneurs determined to make Canada an innovation economy.
Why worry, you might ask?
Despite this success, the past decade also shows symptoms of serious problems.
Hundreds of thousands of public servants fell victim to the Phoenix Payroll fiasco; causing many who serve our country with fervour to go without salary for months – sometimes longer – while experiencing financial precarity through no fault of their own.
Not a single person was held accountable for this negligence.
Public procurement is so messy that PPE, testing, and vaccination suppliers were reluctant to do business in Canada even during COVID – driving up our costs compared to countries with more sophisticated systems. In the longer term, our national security also suffers, with our Navy and Air Force falling into obsolescence in part because of the snail’s pace of our antiquated procedures.
The government even struggles to deliver far more basic services.
We are faced with unprecedented backlogs in the issuance of passports and the processing of immigration applications. Far too many Canadian families have no family doctor.
Our health system showed its weakness during COVID – revealing that our hospitals lacked sufficient beds and staffing resources to handle unexpected peaks in demand.
First Nations still lack safe drinking water.
If you think the domestic picture is concerning, imagine what is happening internationally.
Our foreign policy has faded dangerously close to irrelevance over the past fifteen years.
Our contribution to NATO falls short of our commitments, becoming a source of embarrassment vis-à-vis our allies. Donald Trump proved that our once unshakable partnership with the USA can no longer be taken for granted. American disruption could easily spill over into Canada.
Tensions with Russia over Ukraine once again pose a challenge to the sovereignty of our Arctic.
In other words, the world is changing rapidly as the environment, and Canada seems incapable of catching up to the pace of either geopolitical or climate change.
At times, we seem oblivious of our responsibility to help shape world affairs. Conversations about how Canada can adapt – and help others adapt – are fewer and farther between, even though the challenges get bigger and bigger.
How do we manage a volatile USA?
What role does our relationship with Mexico play in stabilizing the region?
How do we mitigate China’s evolution into a Superpower?
How can Canada mobilize others to meaningfully fight climate change?
Can Canada leverage platforms such as the G7, the G20, the Commonwealth or La Francophonie to secure better alignment between the developed and developing world?
Canadian History – both domestic and international – is rooted in cooperation. We thrive socially, culturally, and economically based on our ability to build communities of shared interests.
Historically, those efforts have been strengthened by the leadership of those bold enough to remind us how far we must still go, and generous enough to remind us of what we are capable.
Cooperative leadership with the ambition to explore innovative solutions to increasingly complex problems by looking creatively at the world and the different voices who make it go round.
May this 155th Canada Day inspire us to unleash the leaders within ourselves, and recognize the other leaders who understand our problems can best be solved through cooperation and imagination.
They’ll be easy to recognize, since they will be the ones finally engaging in open dialogue about the most difficult questions. It is time…
On governance, on public health and essential services, on the world stage, and on the environment:
where should Canada go?
Jean-Paul Ruszkowski is a general practitioner with 40 years of professional experience. He has held high-level positions in the private sector, the public sector and most recently as CEO of an NGO, the Parliamentary Centre, dedicated to strengthening the legislative power of the institution that represents citizens of various political leanings, legislates and oversees the executive.
His experience is multidisciplinary and multicultural. In addition to his duties in Canada He has worked in Africa, Latin America and Europe.
He is recognized by his peers as a team builder and a promoter of empowerment. He has contributed to the dialogue and harmonization of multiple interests in the implementation of governance-strengthening projects.
Throughout his career he has sought to innovate.
He is a strong supporter of the importance of leadership in the sustainability of institutions.
As CEO of the Parliamentary Centre, he has participated in numerous knowledge exchange seminars with multiple stakeholders in governance.
He works in English, Spanish and French.
He likes to hike in the mountains and travel.
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