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Video: The New Economy Series: Leading in an Era of Disruption

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In the last event in the series, our distinguished panellists identify and look back on key insights raised throughout the series and consider their implications for the new economy defined by accelerating change and increasing complexity.

Duration: 01:30:56
Published: January 13, 2022
Code: LPL1-V10

Event: The New Economy Series: Leading in an Era of Disruption


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The New Economy Series: Leading in an Era of Disruption

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Transcript: The New Economy Series: Leading in an Era of Disruption

[The animated white Canada School of Public Service logo appears on a purple background. Its pages turn, opening it like a book. A maple leaf appears in the middle of the book that also resembles a flag with curvy lines beneath. Text is beside it reads: "Webcast | Webdiffusion." It fades away to a video chat with four people. In the top right panel, a man with a goatee, Mark Schaan, wears a headset in a room full of window light. In the top left, a bald man with a trimmed beard and glasses, Taki Sarantakis, sits in a home library. In the bottom left panel, a grey-haired woman with red glasses, Armine Yalnizyan, sits in front of an album collection on shelves. On the the bottom right, a balding, white-haired man, Rohinton Medhora, sits in front of a white background with the repeated words "Center for International Governance Innovation]

Taki Sarantakis: Welcome to the final instalment of the New Economy Series, a partnership between CIGI, which is one of Canada's top think tanks, and the Canada School of Public Service.

[Taki's panel fills the screen. A purple title card fades in for a moment, identifying him as being from the Canada School of Public Service.]

The final event in this series is kind of informal. It's just going back and doing some reflections and talking with some people about some of the big issues that are facing Canada going forward. This has been a remarkably well attended series. We have had, on average, over a thousand people attend each of the substantive nine events before us. We have over 500 people on the line today as we speak. Really, really heartening to see Canada's federal public servants take the time to think about some of the issues that they will be facing in their current, or in their next job, or during the course of their career in serving Canadians.  I'm really happy today. We have three guests with us. We're going to do a little bit of a different format this time.

[The other panelists return.]

Taki Sarantakis: We're going to start with a little bit of a fireside chat back and forth between myself and Rohinton Medhora, who is the President of CIGI. I'll give him a formal introduction in a moment. And then, about 15/20 minutes in, we're going to be joined by Mark Schaan—I will also give him a formal introduction—and Armine Yalnizyan, who is one of Canada's better-known economists these days. I don't want to give away a big secret, but she's actually the person that coined the term "she-cession." If you hear that bandied about, and you have heard that bandied about from the Minister of Finance, from Deputy Ministers, and from the usual plethora of media pundits, here's the source. We will be talking to the source of the she-cession today.

[Armine shakes her head and mouths "I'm not."]

Taki Sarantakis: I'm going to start with Rohinton. Rohinton is the President of CIGI, which he joined in 2012. His fields of expertise are monetary and trade policy, international economic relations, and development economics. He currently serves on two international expert panels directly connected with CIGI's work. The first is on the Global Economic Transformation, which is co-chaired by Nobel Laureates Michael Spence and Joseph Stigler. The second is on New Technologies in Global Health, sponsored by The Lancet and The Financial Times. Our second guest, who will be joining us in about 15/20 minutes, is Mark Schaan. He is the Associate Assistant Deputy Minister of Marketplace Framework Policy at Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, where he leads several policy files associated with strong ties to the key themes that we have explored throughout this series. Mark has been very generous to—I don't know how many of these you've hosted or participated in, Mark, but we thank you because you have been a big part of this series. Our last participant, who will also join us when Mark joins us, is Armine Yalnizyan, who is an Atkinson Fellow on the Future Worker at the Atkinson Foundation. She's doing collaborative research on the future of workers in a period of technological change. We are seeing a lot of technological change. Her work focuses on social and economic factors that determine our health and wellbeing. She was a Senior Economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives from 2008 to 2017. That's also one of Canada's better think tanks.

We need more think tanks in Canada because the world is becoming a changing place by the minute. A lot of countries around the world have the benefit and support of people getting together and talking about applied issues like we're talking about today. Kudos to the think tanks that are out there. For those of you who are not in a think tank or are thinking of joining one, maybe come and help us a little bit because Canada needs ideas. Rohinton, let's start. Rohinton, I'll start by talking—Is Rohinton's screen...

Rohinton Medhora: I'm here.

[Rohinton waves.]

Taki Sarantakis: Terrific. Great. I didn't see you on my screen. Sorry.

Taki Sarantakis: Let's start a little bit, Rohinton. Let's start at the beginning. Why did you want to do this series? I know why I wanted to do the series, but I'm curious to have you tell the audience why you thought it would be a good idea that we do a series of events and themes around the notion of the new economy.

[Rohinton's panel fills the screen. A purple title card fades in for a moment, identifying Rohinton P. Medhora of the Centre for International Governance Innovation.]

Rohinton Medhora: Right. Taki, first I should say, if I jump to the end, how much of a pleasure and privilege it has been working with you and your team and the school's audience more broadly, which actually that thank you contains the elements of my answer. We live in a world which is driven by knowledge and by learning and a world in which, as you know, I'm sure Armine will attest, given her work, the learning has to be continuous. We don't have the luxury of being able to graduate and then work, so to speak.

That, in many ways, is the basis for having the Canada School, right? Continuous re-skilling, mid-career upgrading, and so on. At CIGI, we began 20 years ago—in fact, this is our 20th anniversary year as a think tank devoted to addressing gaps in global governance. Twenty years ago, there were many big gaps and there still are, but the big one was: how do we make global governance more inclusive? Specifically, how do we bring in the so-called emerging powers? At the time, the world was still basically a G7 driven world. The G20 was a gleam in then-Prime Minister Paul Martin's eyes. CIGI was devoted to the creation and understanding of the G20 at the leader's level.

Now, once that was created in 2007/08, because of the financial crisis, not because of the great work done by think tanks—its crisis that drives these kinds of shifts—the question became: what should CIGI do next, as it were, without forgetting its roots? We thought long and hard about it. Given my professional background that you alluded to, and that of my colleagues, my board, we quite quickly centred on the fact that new technologies, broadly, and the digital era, more specifically, is raising a set of policy challenges for which, frankly, no one is particularly well prepared. There is no best practice out there. That isn't the same as saying we shouldn't be critiquing Mark and his colleagues in the things they do, but, frankly, there is no best practice out there. We have to understand this new world in its theoretical dimensions and then apply that to practical applied things as it comes to policy. CIGI's been spending the better part of the last three or four years working on different elements of security, economics, and global institutional structures.

One thing that strikes me about this is how in this world more than any other, the domestic and the international bleed into each other. Good trade policy actually ends up being something that should be, ideally, driven by domestic welfare, social safety net, labour, or strengthening of democratic considerations. When we put all of that together—and that's when, Taki, you and I met, I'm going to say about three or four years ago at various events. We struck up a conversation and I think the best relationships begin with that human connection, and that human and intellectual connection. One thing led to another and we quickly realized this is not about doing one lecture or two and it's absolutely not about lecturing. That's what led to our colleagues creating this 10 part series, which was directed at civil servants like you. I'm amazed by the numbers of people attracted to it. I think with our partnership of CIGI doing the research side and the CSPS helping us sharpen the questions and sharpen the answers and then providing this wonderful audience, we're on to something.

[Taki's panel fills the screen.]

Taki Sarantakis: Thank you. And if you think- Rohinton, you mentioned that CIGI is 20 years old and I've been in the government- I've just clocked 24 years.

[Both Taki and Rohinton's panels fill the screen.]

You think back to that period 20 years ago, the commercial Internet was about five years old. Facebook didn't exist. Google was, I think, two years old. Facebook, I'm not sure existed. Amazon, I think was either still in Jeff Bezos' garage or was just about to jump from his garage to a proper office. If you think about the world when a lot of us joined the public service, that's a lot of change. As you said, Rohinton, you can't stay with the skills that you came into and be effective. We're all here because we want to be effective. We're all here because we want to serve the people of Canada. And serving the people of Canada with the skills that I came in with 24 years ago, in 1997, in the world of 2021 is not serving the people of Canada and the dynamic in the past.

I don't know when the past was, but at one point in time, it was: you were born, you went to school, you got a job, you retired, and you died. Now, it's very different. Now, it's: you go to school, you take a break, you do a work term, you do a co-op, you go back to school, you get a masters, you do a micro-credential, you go back to school, you upscale this, you upscale that, you go back, you throw things away. It's critically, critically important that public servants who are in a position of trust, of guardianship, and of stewardship of public resources, that they take the time to stay current. That doesn't mean that you have to understand every fad. That doesn't mean you have to understand every single thing that's happening in the world, because nobody does. But it is important that you stay curious. It is important that in those areas you're responsible for, whether it's safety, transportation, social services, or child welfare, what have you, you need to constantly interface with your environment. Your environment isn't just your minister, your minister's office, the people at PCO, and the people at finance. Your environment is the real world. If you're not at least focusing on that a little bit, I would argue that you're not being a good public servant. We all want to be good public servants. What are some of the things that you see happening in the world, Rohinton, more specifically? I know I see a lot of things. I'm curious, what are the big two, three, four things that you're seeing that are hitting us? Not only that they're hitting us in 2021, but they're going to likely continue to have ramifications post-2021 for maybe a generation, maybe two. Who knows?

Rohinton Medhora: The ramifications are not all predictable and they will, in fact, evolve in that period. So, it's a huge- I mean, there's no longer inflection points. Every inflection point leads to another. On the point you made, Taki, about the change just in CIGI was founded and that's a daunting picture you portrayed. I actually agree with you, but it's worse. Let me just give you two examples of what I mean by that. In CIGIs world, which is of international governance—you said, 20 years ago, did Facebook exist? Most of the architecture we face internationally was created in 1944 and 45 at San Francisco and Bretton Woods. Now imagine what the world was like then compared to what we faced. Technological change meant something completely different. Climate change. I don't even know if the phrase—I haven't done one of those Google searches of how a term evolves and when it's used and so on, but I doubt very much that that term existed in any meaningful way. We've got an architecture that has evolved slightly, but, frankly, not that much. Institutions that weren't designed for a previous generation, but for about two generations ago.

The second example I'd give you from my own world is economics and academic economics. We still teach economics as if consumers and producers are rational, behaviour is rational, we have what's called full information, markets are broadly, if not absolutely, competitive, strategic behaviour and politics barely exist, and then having constructed that edifice, everything else is an exception. Now, I come to your question, what's facing? Everything that's facing us is an exception to the way we've been creating generations of security, economics, or business students. The main thing that I think we should be looking out for is what kind of citizen and what kind of student do we create through our educational and other systems for this new world? I think that's the macro challenge that we all face. Within that, and then I'll stop on this point, I think the current discussion we're having on vaccines and access to vaccines, and in fact, you referred to Armine's coining of the she-cession. The fact that this is a health issue, but it's cleavages are entirely along standard socioeconomic lines.

All the questions we face have a prior, which is: what kind of innovation system generated these vaccines? It's not enough to say, "let's purchase and donate as many of them as we can." I think we're going to be in an era in which innovation is unbalanced and not as decentralized as it should be for some time. New technologies are going to be created in only a few parts of the world—huge amounts of wealth through IP accrue there. I think the big challenge for policy is going to be "A:" to make that system more equitable, frankly, more decentralized, and create policy mechanisms in which the wealth that is created isn't centred the same way. There's also implications for labour markets and the way we design social safety nets that we could get into, but I think—to use an overused term—we have to be thinking in terms of a new paradigm and not tweaking an existing one. I think that's where we are. I'll stop on that point. There isn't that much difference in understanding or dealing with climate change or the pandemic. There are some core issues to do with IP, long-term thinking, and strategic behaviour which remain the same. This, I think, is the challenge for your students for, as you say, a generation or two.

Taki Sarantakis: I'll play off that a little bit. I'll try to say some of the themes that you've said in slightly different ways. I think one of the first things I heard you say was there's institutions and there's problems and our institutions were designed in the past and the problems are today. We know that. There's always institutional lag. But one of the things that's happening today is the rapidity with which things are changing is completely, completely outstripping the capacity of institutions to adjust in real time and we're starting to move—we're not starting to move—we are in a world of real-time actionable data, and we can't be working in institutions that take weeks to get information to decision makers or to the factory floor, or to the thing.

Number one: things are changing rapidly. The other thing that's really fundamentally important to me is: if you're overwhelmed today by China, digital, data, and AI, this is as slow as the rest of your life will ever be. Here, today, right now. The world will never be slower. Broadband won't get worse. Artificial intelligence will not get dumber. After 5G—this is just a wild guess—I think there might be 6G. After 6G, there might be 7G. We're never done. What's happening though is, I think, the length of time between the thing and the institutional reaction to the thing is compressing to the point that we almost have to work in real-time. I think our successors in the public service will actually drop the almost qualifier and will have to work in real-time.

The second thing I heard you say is that the domestic and the international are kind of becoming one. That's a really interesting thought because domestically, we have a set of apparatus to serve our country and then internationally, we have a second set of apparatus to serve our country beyond our borders. I'm not sure that's something that is optimal going forward.

A third thing I heard you say is that we think of things as "this is economic, this is security, this is social, this is labour, or this is capital." More and more those distinctions are not helpful. In fact, those distinctions are causing us to see the world in a way that the world doesn't actually exist. That's to say the way that you see a problem and the way that you interface with a problem is the way that you ultimately start to tackle that problem. If you see a virus as a health problem, you react one way. If you see it as an economic problem, you react a second way. If you see it as a security problem, you react a third way. If you see it as a domestic issue, you react a fourth way. If you see it as an international issue, you react a fifth way. What's happening is the way we approach issues is almost coming back to what you said about the economics textbooks not being reflective anymore. Our mindsets haven't changed as quickly as the problems have changed. Is that a fair way of--

Rohinton Medhora: That's very well put. I want to make one point and see what your reaction to it is, because, again, it speaks to your school. I am not a big fan of generalization and hybrid programs. I'd much rather have a strong training in a discipline, any discipline, be it economics, poli-sci, socio—whatever, and understand that that's only one way to look at the world. The real world is full of issues, not disciplines. I apply my deep economics learning to an issue, and I function best when I'm with a team, where there's someone else, and we pool it. Which is, I think, the nature of governments. But them the question is: how do you teach people to think beyond their discipline? And I'm not sure schools, universities, or colleges are good at that. I think what the strength of schools in Canada and I think especially in France and elsewhere- these finishing school for civil servants—the continuous upbringing—is where you acquire that. I think one thing we've tried to do with you in this series is bring together these different disciplinary perspectives and apply ourselves to an issue, data, not so much as saying the economics of data as such. I know it's a huge challenge for you, but the way you're doing it and the way you've curated that discussion has been most impressive. If I understand some of the feedback you've received from the registrants, it has been that there's something the CSPS is doing well, which is bringing together these different specializations and bringing together different specializations is not the same as simply having three generalists on board.

Taki Sarantakis: Thank you for that. We'll bring Armine into the conversation shortly because a lot of the themes that you've talked about are: what is the future of work? In this particular case, we're talking about the future of work of public servants, policy people, program people, security people, or what have you. But, really, what you're talking about is the future of work. From my perspective, I see a couple of things happening. I think number one: we all need a deep learning in something. I don't mean a specialization, but I mean a deep learning, whether that's in learning how to read, write, think, or mathematics. We need something we have not mastered, but something that we have a really good, solid grasp on, because that's our base. As you go on, there's a couple of other things.

The first is the difference between learning and training. For me, it's critically important that the most important thing that you learn in life is that you're never done learning. How you learn is a skill that will separate you from the person beside you going forward. Learning—to get back to my distinction—is something that I always think about as your next job. Learning is something that will help your career. Learning is something that will help you as a civil servant, but it won't necessarily help you as an EX-02 at Transport Canada, an AS-07 at the Public Health Agency, or whatever the case may be. Training is, I think, specifically what helps you do your current job, what you're doing right now. How do you become a better AS-07 at PHAC? How do you become a better EC-04 at Transport Canada? To me, we need both. Learning now has broken out of the classroom and learning is now something that we have to do for the rest of our lives.

That's a little bit of the patina that we and the new management team at the school took on. Which is, you're just doing training, that's terrific. You have to do training. If you're just doing training, all you're doing is you're making sure that whatever horse and buggy you're building now, tomorrow you're building a better horse and buggy that's a little bit more efficient and a little cheaper. In addition to training, you have to start learning. One of our series is with CIGI. We're also doing another one with the Canadian Institute for Advanced Studies. We're doing one with Schwartz Reisman Centre on AI. We're doing another one with the Munk Centre. We're in negotiations with a few others that I can't mention because we're not done yet. We want to start exposing public servants, not just to training (i.e. what do they need to discharge their job today) but to what they need to learn so that they can grow as public servants in the Government of Canada.

[The other two panels return with Mark and Armine on the bottom row. The panels shuffle Mike to the top.]

We will now bring in our other two illustrious guests, Mark and Armine. Armine, let's start with you. You are one of Canada's top thinkers on the future of work. In some ways, Rohinton and I have been talking about the future of work. We've been talking about the future of work that you need between your ears. That is to say, your knowledge, skills, the way you interface with the world, the way you interface with ideas. Tell us a little bit about some of the big themes that you're seeing in the future of work and a little bit of where Canada is now and maybe what it needs to do to go to a better place than it is now—not that now is not a good place, relatively speaking.

[Armine's panel fills the screen. A purple title card fades in for a moment, identifying her as an Atkinson Fellow on the Future of Workers.]

Armine Yalnizyan: I'm not going to say anything that most of your audience hasn't heard about digital. I'm probably going to say something about immigration and population ageing that some people think of when they think about the future work and most people don't. Let me just say one little envelope idea. I started working as a labour economist in 1985. My entire life has been dealing with labour surpluses and what that means for public policy—how public policy mitigates high levels of unemployment and high levels of inequality. When you lose your job, how do you get back in? How do you do retraining? How do we do labour market adjustment? How do we provide income supports? Yada, yada, yada, yada. Going forward for the next 25 or 30 years because of population ageing, we are going to be looking at two and a half to three decades of labour shortages. We were starting to see it before the pandemic hit. We are starting to see it amidst the pandemic on both sides of the border where employers can't get workers to come back to crappy jobs, essentially. There's just not enough workers that are willing to take the risk or do the work for such low pay.

We're starting to see a shift in bargaining power. In fact, today- no- yesterday, the G7 meetings that are taking place across the pond released the Cornwall Consensus and Recommendation 8 is about labour standards—aligning labour standards. Something is happening in the world of work that has never been seen before by any of us that have been working. You know, maybe has never been seen. We had a very short period of labour shortages when the baby boom happened. It lasted about four or five years. We are now looking at two and a half to three decades of an elevated dependency ratio where we're asking the smallest working age cohort in history to lift up the quality of life, not only for themselves and their families, but for everybody that's too young, too old, and too sick to work. Something really big is happening. No, the robots are not eating all of the jobs. We are going to be looking at widespread labour shortages and skills shortages. That brings me to: how does that relate to the work of the public service in Canada?

When you were giving the introduction, some of your audience will know that I was Senior Economic Policy Adviser to the Deputy Minister at Employment and Social Development Canada from 2018 to 2019. While I was there, one of my files was the future of work. While I was there, I was trying to say, you need to be working more closely with IRCC. What I learned when I was in the DMO is that everybody sticks to their lanes. You're talking about learning? Yes. Fine, but you need actually an all-of-government approach to this issue of labour and skills shortages. Otherwise, ESDC is going to be rowing in one direction, and IRCC is going to be rowing in another direction, which is what has been happening in Canada since 2006. We will not have enough people to meet the labour and skill shortages that are already starting to emerge, particularly in places that are depopulated. People will still need basic public services. We are looking at more immigration. Immigration comes in two flavours: permanent and temporary. Temporary has eclipsed permanent since 2006, and there was no public policy discussion about that. That happened because employers said, I can't find anybody to do this job (at these wages) in many cases. In other cases, a totally legitimate skill shortage, but with no plan on how we transmit those skills to Canadian residents. Come here, do the job, you can go. We're creating a global nomadic workforce that is high skilled, without imparting those skills. We have to do a way better job of dealing with that element of the future of work. I'll leave it there for right now.

[Taki's panel fills the screen for a moment. Armine's panel joins his.]

Taki Sarantakis: You've brilliantly illustrated a key point of what Rohinton and I were getting at in a more general sense earlier. If you just take what you just did, which is demographics, the totality of our public policy suite across the Western world and probably throughout most of the Eastern world is based on the population going this way,

[Taki points up diagonally.]

not this way.

[He points down diagonally.]

We spend our time thinking about daycares and elementary schools and not a lot of public policy has been focused on aging and on the health care of aging. Have been focused on...You know, there are some societies now—South Korea is one of them—where there are more adult diapers being sold than diapers for infants. Think about that for a moment, those of you in the audience. That's going to hit everything you do that we are aging. We are growing as a population much more slowly than we did. In fact, if it weren't for immigration, we would actually be shrinking as a country. A lot of the world is starting to shrink. China is actually starting to shrink. Some demographers are saying that the population of the United States might surpass that of China at some point because China has dropped off the map demographically. You've seen that in Japan where you have an aging society, and if it weren't for robotics and things like that, they would be having fundamental challenges in daily life.

[All four panels return to the screen.]

Mark, you have a really cool title. Translate your title into English for us. What is it that you actually do? What are you responsible for? I think a lot of this in some ways touches on ISED, but tell us in English how it touches on ISED.

Mark Schaan: It's the predecessors of my job who made a determination that we would be the first strategic policy shop in the city to go from being a strategic policy shop to being a shop about strategy.

[Mark's panel fills the screen. A purple title card fades in for a moment, identifying him as being from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada.]

We are strategy and innovation policy. In theory, we are not supposed to just be strategic about innovation. We're actually supposed to be devising a strategy for how we can grow the innovative and inclusive nature of the economy. And so my job is a bit of a weird mix of coordination, integration, and the normal bits of trying to understand where the micro economy is, where it's going, and how we potentially shape it. Then some very specific responsibilities around telecommunications, internet, intellectual property, privacy, data protection, bankruptcy, incorporation, competition. And then throw in federal, provincial, territorial, regional, and international into that mix just to make it so. To your earlier points, and Rohinton's earlier points about the interconnected and interdependent nature of policymaking, we have that responsibility within the portfolio. But, I can tell you, it's not just a portfolio requirement these days to see those connections and interlinkages. It's actually the whole of government and arguably the whole of the brain trust that we can bring to bear.

[Taki's panel fills the screen.]

Taki Sarantakis: Is it fair to say that- because I think I saw the word marketplace in your title and I think I saw the word frameworks, but I'm not sure. Is it fair to say that you and your group and others at ISED are thinking about the very things that Armine and Rohinton and I are talking about in terms of trying to build telecommunication policy that fits here and trying to build a competition act that works here, and trying to think about how Canadian content works in this industry or in a supply chain? Is that a fair way of thinking about it?

[Mark's panel joins Taki's.]

Mark Schaan: It's totally a fair way. We were constructed essentially to oversee the policy, regulatory, and legislative frameworks that touched on the economy in a general way.

[Mark makes air quotes around "general way."]

So, the stuff that applied to everyone. And, you know, that work is particularly novel, interesting, exciting, and scary at a time when the things that you were just talking about—all of those foundational elements that we used to be able to bet on—have changed. That has ramifications for everything from incorporation through to insolvency and everything in between. We're seeing it in fascinating ways. Right? We're seeing it about the transparency that we need to bring to bear around incorporation and corporate activity, which is totally different today than transparency was 20 years ago, and then go all the way to the end of the lifeline and something like insolvency policy. And insolvency policy increasingly has, you know, there's the traditional tensions that exist within insolvency, but there's all these new things. What's the value of a data set in an insolvency? What happens to the data that's been collected by an entity that now wants to get bought? It was predicated on the consent from the previous entity. How do we work through those sets of issues? It really is, in some ways, trying to lay down guideposts and frameworks, but recognizing that (a) they need to work together in a totally different way than they used to, and (b) that the things that held them down or that the pillars of the tent, in some ways, were fixed and they're not fixed so much anymore.

Taki Sarantakis: Very well said. Now, I'm going to do something interesting, I think interesting. I'm going to throw a word at you at a time, and I want each of you to tell me what that word means for you and your work.

[All four panels return to the screen.]

I'll start with you, Rohinton. The word is going to be the same for all three of you. Rohinton, you're at a little disadvantage because you go first. The word is innovation. Rohinton, what does innovation mean?

[Rohinton's panel fills the screen.]

Rohinton Medhora: Actually, when we looked into it at CIGI and I did the same exercise with governance some years ago and readily came up with dozens. But you know, innovation, the way we apply it at CIGI, is about the process of change and of different ways of doing things. It doesn't just have to be technological change. I'm also thinking of what's called social innovation. Microcredit is a good example of social innovation. Is a process of changing the way we do things that then is applied in a real life situation. In other words, there's different elements to it. There's the element of invention, of discovery, and of changing manufacturing or production processes. Then it's the second bit and this, I know, is what Mark and his colleagues are keyed in on. It's either the commercialization or creating public value out of that change. It's not enough to discover a change, patent it—as you will—or not, or publish a paper about it. It's what we do with it. Innovation is that process, in my mind, that goes from invention to impact.

[All four panels return.]

Taki Sarantakis: Armine, what's innovation?

[Armine's panel fills the screen.]

Armine Yalnizyan: It's a fresh way of tackling an existing problem. It's a way to make manifest imagination for things that hadn't existed before. It's finding a way to make that idea, that solution, or that new thing accessible to enough people that it becomes innovation because it becomes a wave of adoption.

[All four panels return.]

Taki Sarantakis: Are we good at it?

Armine Yalnizyan: I think every nation has got its pluses and minuses—every society does. There are always conservative forces that do not want to see changes and forces that are overwhelmingly saying we've got to change. It's that thrust and parry between the two groups, also whether it's public or private. Who pays for it? How accessible is it? Who pays what for it? Who was it designed for? Not all innovations are designed for all people. And in fact, the whole language about commercializing innovation makes it sound like innovation is for the business sector. Innovation is for people. The business sector can do nothing with innovation unless there's customers for that thing. So, it is about people. If it's about people, then who can participate in this innovation? What's the price point? Where's the physical market? How do we access this thing? Is it online? Is that in a place? We've got plenty of market failures already that even if you've commercialized all the innovations, you would not be addressing the market failures. Sometimes we need the public sector to step up.

I was really struck by Mark talking about the data problems and how weak the public sector is in tackling data as water. We're very good about talking about data as oil—as a commodity that can be monetized that then we have problems about what do we do with the legacy of the data. We are really terrible at being as nimble about using the sea of data that we're in for public good purposes. I think innovation has a public welfare side to it as well as a marketable side to it. We talk about how bad we are at commercialization. We're even worse at having the brains that are there to innovate with the data that is available, both through the public and the private side, and flexing our muscle as a people saying this data is our data and we are not developing it with any public policy in mind. It's just who can run with it fastest. It's going to always be a company. That's cool. Making money out of stuff is cool, but it just does not address our public and, sometimes, our ethical gaps. There needs to be innovation in that area, too. We're worse there than in any other innovation area, if you ask me.

Taki Sarantakis: I'll see Mark's data-is-water analogy and I'll double down on it. I'll say: data, is it water, Mark? I'll say data is oxygen, but we'll talk about data in a few minutes. You're going last on this word, Mark. You're at a disadvantage, but you'll go first on the next word. What is innovation, sir?

[Mark's panel fills the screen.]

Mark Schaan: I think we've touched on some of the key elements of innovation and potentially some of the contentions or some of the tensions. I think there's an element of innovation that's about newness. It's about something that's novel. I think we have an obsession, normally, with thinking that it's new-new as opposed to old-new. It's one of the things that I think I try and tease out of innovation, which is it's not necessarily some shiny new tech toy that we're deploying in a new way. It might actually be something that we've always done in a particular way—an old tool that we're using in a new way to get to a better outcome. I think that the other piece of it is we have a conception that all innovation is necessarily valuable. There's definitely something great about the pursuit of newness for the sake of trying and for the creative juices and the intent of that, but an egg beater doesn't make for a very good hairdryer despite the fact that novelty might suggest that that's an innovative approach to creating air to cool your hair. I think we need to be very careful about the notion that the fact that just because it's new doesn't necessarily mean it's valuable and just because it's innovative doesn't necessarily mean that it's good.

I think the last element that I would tease out about innovation is: in theory, it's supposed to extract more value than what was there previously. I think to Armine's questions and to some of Rohinton's questions: who got to determine what was valuable, first of all? Second of all, who is it valuable for? There are definitely going to be elements for which process improvements—some of the unsexy parts of innovation, but some of the most important for our economy, for our social value, and for our social welfare. It's not actually because it creates a better widget. It's actually because it makes the system more seamless or more possible. I do think it's really worth interrogating. I think innovation is newness, and with a purpose, that extracts value that ultimately can be shared. What we're not always necessarily good at is we don't share enough of that extraction of the value at the back end. We're often very good at the newness piece. I'd say, in the public service, we actually have an obsession with newness, for newness sake, that we probably need to curb for the sake of doing more that potentially is old stuff done in new ways to get to more value, because that's actually what's going to create impact.

[Taki's panel fills the screen before all four panels return.]

Taki Sarantakis: Exactly. In my organisation, I banned the use of the word innovation and the reason why I banned it is because people were just saying, "it's something new. Let's do something new." For me, I said, "unless you're talking about value, I don't care what you're talking about." If you're showing me that a new thing has more value than the thing it's replacing, absolutely we'll do it and we'll do it today. Newness for the sake of newness is not something I'm interested in. If you're generating value by doing something new, all the more power to you. Our second word, and we're going to go in reverse order, is a standards. Mark, what are standards and why are they important?

Mark Schaan: It's an unfair question, Taki, because the Standards Council of Canada is within my portfolio. If I get this wrong, Chantal Guay is going to call me in a second and be like, "that's not right, Mark." But--

Taki Sarantakis: Alright. Then, really think about this.

[Mark's panel fills the screen.]

Mark Schaan: A standard is an agreed upon method for doing something or thinking about something. That's kind of at its root. To go back to my previous point about things that were aspects of this we should interrogate is: who got to help in determining that that was the method that we would agree upon, and do we actually all agree? Because there actually can be competing standards. I think people think of standards like—the easiest thing that people jump to is the fact that we have a consistency of electrical voltage, which is a really useful one. People are like, we all just didn't decide that we generate voltage at various different rates. But there's other pieces. When I lived in the UK, paper is not actually standardized to the same size that it is in Canada. That's an agreed upon standard. In the A4 versus letter world, we still have not crowned a winner. A fundamental standard is a general agreement about a way to think about something or to do something.

[All four panels return to the screen.]

Taki Sarantakis: You mentioned the Standards Council. At the school, we're doing another series with the Standards Council and Statistics Canada on the importance of standards. Armine, you talked about, I think it was Section 8 of what's just happening in Europe, that they're doing labour standards. The question over to you: what's a standard and why is it important?

Armine Yalnizyan: It's something that we commonly accept as being relevant to us. I agree with everything that Mark just said.

[Armine's panel fills the screen.]

I would add that when we have standards- commonly accepted standards, things change if we enforce those standards.

[Taki's panel pops in for a moment before switching back to Armine's.]

Taki Sarantakis: And—

Armine Yalnizyan: I think we're gonna be seeing- okay so, two observations about standards. We live in an 'I' world, not an 'us' world, and so bespoke production that digital technologies permit even more of. We're moving from mass production and mass consumption to one-off, on-demand production and on-demand consumption that will make the underlying infrastructure of production more reliant on standardization, but the actual experience less standardized, which may make it more difficult to come up with standard standards where we have a consensus on what is valuable to standardize.

On the other hand, we might have gone right to the end of the pendulum in terms of me-first. I think the G7 Section 8 focus on standards is, first of all shocking to me. To be, sorry- the G7 Section 8 focus on standards shocked me, and it just tells you how far every country in the G7 is going with the exploitation of workers, the rise of gig work, the lack of standards, and how to deal with people who are not deemed employees and therefore cannot access labour standards. If you're not an employee, you can't be protected in your human or your labour rights—your worker's rights. We are really struggling with the lack of standardization and how we treat the most basic human protections.

I think we're at an, you said the era of inflection points is over. Un-uh. I think we've actually gone through the looking glass. I don't know what the other side looks like, but the world that we left—the Bretton Woods world—is not the world we are operating in now. As I said, I started doing my work as a labour economist in the mid-eighties. My whole life has been about trade agreements, codifiable trade agreements, multilateral trade agreements that overshadowed everything else. Export-led growth was the Holy Grail, and every country pursued it as a way of me-first, but me-first with all of us doing me-first. Well, it didn't pay off. It just did not pay off. We're better off as consumers. We're worse off as workers. There's more inequality. There's more inequality between the global North and the global South, and exploitation is raging around the world. The pandemic poured accelerant on it and revealed it to us.

So, multilateral agreements, which are about standards, standards of behaviour, codifiable standards of behaviour of countries between one another, are off the table. They haven't been working for years. I think what the G7 Cornwall Consensus is doing is saying, us seven nations, we're talking about a corporate minimum tax of 15 percent. That isn't a trade pact. That is policy alignment. That is developing a new standard of consensus that this needs to be the base for functionality. I think we are entering a new era, not through codifiable agreements like trade pacts, but through policy alignments that are verging on rapprochement for standards, standards of behaviour for how workers should be treated, how corporations can or can't evade taxes legally. How do we actually make the system a little bit more balanced on who gets the fruits of growth? That's the phase we're entering into. Standards are hugely important to get the system rebalanced.

[All four panels return.]

Taki Sarantakis: That's a wonderful addition. Rohinton, what are standards and why do they matter?

Rohinton Medhora: How can I top that? Look, I too think that there are two dimensions of standards that bear repeating.

[Rohinton's panel fills the screen.]

Technically, standards are exactly about different products or different processes being able to talk to each other. The standard example that's given is whatever you make of a smartphone, you can pretty much enter any building in the world, log into its Wi-Fi system and you're on the net. That's because of a series of standards. But, there are two things to keep in mind. I think Michel Girard made this point in your section on standards some months ago. They don't have to be about high tech. The classic textbook example of standards is actually containerization. It was standards around containers which codified how you pack and transport things, which is set to be at least as important a driver of globalization as anything else. Until then, you will recall ships took everything on board and unpack and containers changed that game totally. That's an example of standards.

The second—and this was implicit and actually explicit in a lot of things that are being said. Let's not be fooled by standards being technical. Underlying technical standards is a series of decisions around norms and ethics which have to be exposed and discussed before we get to the standards. I think this is- the labour standards side of thing is exactly about that. You mentioned Joe Stigler at the outset, co-chairing the commission I belong to. When he did some calculations on what a common corporate tax rate might look like, it was closer to 20/25 percent. And so a  15 percent norm may be the new standard, but it says nothing about the ethics or welfare implications behind the 15 percent. Standardization simply says we have a bunch of disparate points. We're drawing a line around them and making that the average, and all the points should conform to it. We're not asking ourselves how that line came about, who's drawing it, and why. I would answer your question certainly with the technical answer of what standards are, but add to that that standards have important normative dimensions to them, which we ignore at our peril.

[Taki's panel fills the screen for a moment before all four panels return.]

Taki Sarantakis: I'll stick with standards for a minute, and I'm going to say a few things to maybe get a reaction out of all of you or each of you.

[Armine smiles.]

The first is: for me, I see standards everywhere. Red means stop. Yellow means...go if it's safe. Green means go. I see-just, everywhere. When I plug something in, that's a standard. When a guy comes to my house and installs a new door, you've got two options. It's eight and a half or nine and a half, or whatever the case may be. Standards are everywhere. I'll say this: standards also are, though, about power, because if you're defining the standard, you are in a way writing the rules. I think one of the ways of understanding our current—I don't want to call it chaos—but the current turbulence in the world or the current disruptions is we're really in the process of rewriting a lot of the rules of how we live, how we work, how we trade, how we do immigration. If you think about data, whoever writes the standards for data will have an advantage. If you think about artificial intelligence, whoever writes the standards for artificial intelligence and its use or ethical AI or what have you, and you just go on and on and on or digital or what have you, that's standards. One of the ways you could understand our era is that we are currently in the process of rewriting the rules of the world that were largely established in some important respects, as you mentioned, Rohinton, during Bretton Woods and post-World War 2. Here's how we're doing things. Is that- just kind have each of you react to that. Maybe Armine and then Rohinton, and then Mark.

[Armine's panel fills the screen.]

Armine Yalnizyan: Yeah, not only are we rewriting the rules, but there is a vigorous contest about who's going to write those rules. We are dealing with the FAANG: Facebook, Amazon, Netflix—whatever they are. It's the group of five companies that are dominating stock exchanges everywhere that are globe straddling in nature, and they are rewriting the rules of how we deal with workers. They are rewriting the rules with how we deal with taxes. They are rewriting the rules about how we regulate privacy, how we use data, and how we make money. All of these things, they are huge. And then, there is this huge pushback coming from the people, sometimes in the streets. I would expect a very vigorous debate over who writes the rules coming up. What's interesting in the perspective in the streets, is that it is more about identity than it has ever been. I think about the 50s, 60s and 70s, the civil rights movement, the women's movement, the gay rights movement. It was all about identity, about being seen, and about having your reality acknowledged. That has now gone to Black Lives Matter and Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women. You know, when Trump made the comments he did about women in 2016, in January of 2017, there was a global Women's March to say, "Me too." Enough is enough. You can't mess around with women like this anymore. There's this huge pushback about: am I in this picture? You are talking about me, but nothing about me without me on the one hand, which is the most mass development I have seen. I haven't seen movement in my entire professional life the way I'm seeing movement now of people on the one hand.  

On the other hand, I've never seen the degree of corporate concentration and power that also exists. Add to that mix fake news. Add to that mix bots that will tell you what you should think that aren't even human, but muddying and roiling the waters about who has control over what in the political discourse. I think things are going to get super hot about what are the standards. I would, by the way, add to the ethical and normative standards, things like standards about: do government deficits matter? You know? What should the corporate tax rate be? Is it 15 percent? Don't forget, just a few years ago there was a very vigorous debate in my profession—economics—that corporations should be paying zero taxes because they weren't people. It's like, wow, that escalated quickly because that was where the conversation was going. The legend of zero was where the norm was going, if you let the economists push it. We've been looking at falling tax rates for decades and people were raising why corporations are paying anything at all. I think the idea of what a norm is, what a standard is, is subject to huge political tension. We are going to be seeing very vigorous discussions about what the economy is for and who it is for, and what governments are for and who they are for. As public servants, you're going to have your work cut out for you.

[All four panels return to the screen.]

Taki Sarantakis: Rohinton, your reaction. Then, Mark, and then we're going to go to the audience. Rohinton, your reaction.

Rohinton Medhora: You know, I mean... I guess what I'd say on your original question, Taki, is that there is a ground game going on in standards internationally.

[Rohinton's panel fills the screen.]

And standard-setting bodies were mainly controlled by the US and some Western European countries. That's what gave them the advantage in the early stages of technological change, and as part of the contested rise of China. Again, I think Michel would have made this point at the lecture. China has been quietly, deliberately, and effectively been taking over more and more of these standards bodies, and there's dozens of them. There is a very important geo-economic competition going on about standard setting in technology globally, precisely because, as you said, it is the gateway. Owning a standard or setting the standard is the gateway to giving your way of doing things a monopoly over some other way of doing things. Look at the collection behind Armine and think of Sony versus Betamax. Right? That was a classic standards example. LPs versus cassettes. There is that side on normative. Yeah, absolutely.

Standards have to come from some sense of what you want out of public policy and what you want out of society. The example I give, which goes slightly beyond your question, but I'll make it and then stop. China, in the early stages of the pandemic, was extremely effective in containing the pandemic. Why? Because they had incredibly strong tracking mechanisms that included apps and CCTV, and then backed up with very intrusive visits to people's residences and the capability to lock up buildings, restrict travel. This is not a technology story. This is not about apps. It's not about CCTV. It is actually about the society and the norms that exist around these technologies. It's a point I make early and often, and I'll make again. Technology is not exogenous. It is not some kind of error term in a growth equation. Technology is actually endogenous, and how it's created, and how you use it is actually a social construct. I'd make the same point about IP.

[All four panels return to the screen.]

Taki Sarantakis: Absolutely. Technology, similarly, is not neutral. Going back, one of the most famous Canadian thinkers of the last century, Marshall McLuhan, said that we shape our tools and then our tools shape us. I really like what you said, Rohinton, about how standards are a little bit about what we want to see in society. Mark, what's your reaction to this?

Mark Schaan: So many different directions this could go. On the one hand, I'm tempted to talk a little bit about the formal standardization world—the world that Rohinton was just talking about, which is- there are formal rules and published processes and engaged fora that are going to determine very important elements of our lives. They are going to determine how information is standardized, collected, and shared, and it is going to be vital. At the same time, we're going beyond the traditional or boxed-in conception of standards to also bring in norms, rules, semiotics, codes, and laws.

To Armine's very early point about this, that this is sort of a codification, there's a continuum of codification. That's like everything from, what I would say, is the worst of it, which is the unpublished, untransparent, shadiest of agreements that this is the way the world works, all the way through to the very transparent, very clear agreement that red means stop. We have agreed- and even then we have exceptions. We have exceptions like, if you flash certain types of lights and blare really loud sounds, you don't have to stop on red. It's okay. Although, you're supposed to check first. I think in that big, massive- I there's a few things that are probably worth taking away. One is- and we've raised most of these points. One is this isn't a neutral exercise.

What you optimize for says a ton about what you value and also who you value and what you were trying to get out of this exercise. To bring it back to our previous conversation on innovation, that there's potentially this novelty that then has impact. Who is that impactful for? I think the Standards Council has said in the past, the person who writes the standard gets to set the terms. You can either be a standard setter or a standard taker. We want to be standard setters. Great. But we also then need to decide what are we optimizing for? There are unintended consequences to all sorts of standards. There's the apocryphal, hilarious stories about why it was that a grandma cut off the bone of the chicken and why that made for a better chicken. It just turned out that her roaster was never big enough to actually have the chicken in it. It had no impact on the overall quality of the meal. It was a function of the choice we made.

To Rohinton's point on containers, there's a reason why the vast majority of furniture is only so wide and so tall. We need to make sure that we understand what it is that we're choosing. I think right now, to bring it back to the data and digital economy, there are fundamental choices being made about what we are optimizing for. Are we optimizing for ease or are we optimizing for privacy? Are we optimizing for convenience or are we optimizing for mass access and uptake? All sorts of these trade-offs that are fundamental. I think we need to determine what it is. It shouldn't be a silent exercise. Because, then, making it personal, to bring it back to the semiotics and codes, the previous assumption that I needed to have a wife and work 9:00 to 5:00 and that that's what was going to get me promoted is the kinds of codes and norms that prevented a queer public servant like me from previously feeling safe and trusted in our environment. Let's make sure that we're eyes-wide-open to this process, both in terms of who is setting them, what they're setting, and what we're optimizing for, and then what the consequences of that actually means.

Taki Sarantakis: Very well said, all three of you. You're all saying these are the rules. The rules are not necessarily neutral, but also the rules are determining what we want out of these things. Canada wants to be at the table at these things. Canada wants to be, in Mark's words, a standard setter, not a standard taker. We're having some outstanding questions coming from the audience, so I am just going to start firing them at you. First outstanding question: what are Canada's competitive advantages in the new economy? What sort of policies can enhance these advantages? Who wants to start?

[Armine opens her mouth. She raises her hand.]

Fire away.

Armine Yalnizyan: I'm going to go to the population ageing story, which is happening throughout the global North.

[Armine's panel fills the screen.]

You mentioned South Korea, which is ageing the most rapidly. China and Japan are also ageing. Basically, rich countries are ageing. We are gonna need to- will all be in competition with the global South. The comparative advantage Canada has is that it is a bit of a people magnet, and it could become more of a people magnet if we shift our policy portfolio to support, in particular, young families. Young workers and young families. And we provide good labour productions. We make sure every job is a decent job. I will just raise one thing about the future of work. Currently, before the pandemic hit, the care economy, which I define as both health and welfare, is one bundle, and education is another bundle. Those two sectors alone contribute 12.3 percent of GDP. The only rival sector that contributes that much to GDP is real estate, and that's quite unique to Canada. When it comes to the number of jobs, there is no rival sector. Twenty one percent of jobs. There's some great jobs in the care economy, and there are some absolutely appalling jobs in the care economy. If we make every job a great job—not because there's going to be more seniors, but because the juniors are also are going to need lots more support than the market currently offers them. If we make every job a good job. Presto. Bango. We've got the strong, robust, resilient middle class that manufacturing gave us from the 50s to the 70s. If we do that, if that is our public policy purpose, we become a people magnet for people all around the world. That comparative advantage is not quite there yet, but it is in our reach. We would be one of the places that people really, really want to come to. It would stabilize our quality of life, and it would lift it up.

[All four panels return to the screen.]

Taki Sarantakis: I love that answer, and I don't think one in a hundred people would give that answer. Abd yet, it's so fundamentally profound because what you've said basically is Canada needs to be not only seen, but Canada needs to be a country where people want to come to—people with skills, people with capital, people with education, and, in some respects, people with children, because that's going to be the competition.

Armine Yalnizyan: Can I just say: Canada doesn't need to become a place where people want to come. Canada can become, and must become, a place where people thrive, whether they're a newcomer or they were born here. Whether they're indigenous or an immigrant, a woman, queer. It doesn't matter who you are, you can thrive. Your human potential is maximized. The optimization function is for human potential, learning potential, and earning potential. We need to boost the economy from the bottom up. The conditions are actually right for all of this to take place, but we do need the public sector to step into the breach that the market has created, reduce inequality, and raise up the potential for opportunity and outcomes for everybody. And you have to do that from the bottom up. You can't do it from the top down.

Taki Sarantakis: I love that because throughout a lot of time—throughout most of history—people, a little bit, were commodities and the technology differentiated. More and more the technologies are becoming ubiquitous, and it will be the humans that will be the differentiator going forward.

Armine Yalnizyan: Right on.

Taki Sarantakis: Mark, what's your contribution to: what are we good at? What's our comparative advantage?

[Mark's panel fills the screen.]

Mark Schaan: Yeah, I mean, our department has gotten into significant trouble any time we try and define what we considered to be comparative advantages because no one likes to not be on the 'it' list. I maybe would speak to some of the conditions or some of the principles that I would say about where we have comparative advantage. Where we have comparative advantage is in a couple of zones. One is where we can set the market conditions that can both differentiate us, but also allow for something that we can actually continue to scale all the way through. A good example—potentially one on a more traditional basis and then one that's a bit more novel. The traditional one is: we've learned in this pandemic, one of the significant fractures in our societal and economic makeup was around our security of supply and our sovereignty over a number of the core elements that we deemed essential. First of all, to Armine's point earlier, I find it fascinating how quickly and how much we need to, and how much we're gonna need to hang on to some of the reshaping that's happened over the last while. No one had grocery worker as the most vital job in the economy, pre-pandemic. I think we all learned, as we crossed over each other for toilet paper, just how important that function was.

Where we've got a real need and ability is in things like potentially our food production sector, actually.

[Armine's panel pops in for a moment. She nods.]

Armine Yalnizyan: Mm-hm.

Mark Schaan: Where we've got capacity to be able to meet an urgent and growing global need, and potentially use technology and skills and a mixture of our natural capacities to be able to significantly compete internationally. That's one that I think is really critical. The other, though, I'd say is in the data economy. Actually, we're in the middle—to the points earlier about rewriting the rules. Whether it's competition, intellectual property, privacy, data protection.

I think there is going to be potential determinations and differentiation in the future economy based on who gets trust right. There's going to be an economy, I think, that doesn't care about trust, or potentially that's made very clear choices about privileging access, ease, convenience, and interoperability over trust. I think we have a chance to be able to be on the other part of that. Then, the conditions that we need to pour into that and then we need to get to scale. Then, we need to get to extraction of value, and then we need to get to the maintenance and sustainability of that value in our economy. That's actually one of the trickiest pieces that we've traditionally been bad at, which is taking some of those raw, amazing ingredients we have about what gives us comparative advantage: skills, access to resources, great cooperation, and diversity across the supply chain. We potentially flitter it away because we didn't do the right things on the back end that included—some of which you have to do up right up front, like IP, to make sure that you're actually going to get to the good outcome.

[All four panels return to the screen.]

Taki Sarantakis: Not a bad answer for somebody that was trepidatious in answering in officialdom. Rohinton, what is comparative advantage, and what are Canada's comparative advantages?

[Rohinton's panel fills the screen.]

Rohinton Medhora: You know if I go back – I mean. In the interest of my time, I'm happy to forego and move to the next question. Mark said what I'd be saying.

Taki Sarantakis: It's up to you.

Rohinton Medhora: Let me pass, and we can come back.

[All four panels return to the screen.]

Taki Sarantakis: Terrific. We've got a lot of great questions. I think we're down to two. So...I'm going to save the very best one for last. But the second last—the second best one, which is pretty close to being the best—is a bit of a hypothetical. I'm going to paraphrase slightly. You've all raised a lot of different issues that are happening in the world and a lot of different things that are changing. If Canada can only get one of these things right going forward, what would be the most important thing for us to get right going forward?

Mark Schaan: I'm happy to start.

Taki Sarantakis: Fire away.

Mark Schaan: And I'll just go back to what I just said, which is trust, actually.

Taki Sarantakis: Trust.

[Mark's panel fills the screen. A purple title card fades in for a moment, identifying him as being from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada.]

Mark Schaan: Because I think it's actually at the heart of the relationship between employer and employee. I think it's the relationship between the elements of our society. I think it's the relationship between data provider and data collector. If Canada could actually figure out mechanisms to fuel a cooperative approach where there actually is an optimization around shared outcomes, I actually think we will serve ourselves well.

[All panels return to the screen.]

Taki Sarantakis: If you look at indices of trust around the world and across time, trust has just been a steady, steady, steady erosion. And this is global, whether it's trusting the media, whether it's trusting corporations, whether it's trusting governments, whether it's trusting religions. Trust is something that is becoming an increasingly scarce global commodity. Mark has hit on something when he says trust is something we would do wise to focus on. Armine, what are your thoughts here? The one thing that we need to get right going forward.

[Armine's panel fills the screen. A purple title card fades in for a moment, identifying her as an Atkinson Fellow on the Future of Workers]

Armine Yalnizyan: If we don't want to see our quality of life decline, we are going to need to optimize the learning potential of every child in this country—making sure that they are learning ready when they enter school and learning supported as they go through school. That's it.

[All four panels return to the screen.]

Taki Sarantakis: That's more than it. That's a biggie. We're all here because there was a system in place to educate us over the years and to bring forward our curiosities and our talents. It's critically important that our education facilities, our educational institutions, and the norms that we have around education point to that going forward in the future. Rohinton, what do you see as the one big thing that we have to get right as a country going forward?

Rohinton Medhora: My 1a would still be social capital, which is to rework what Mark said, and absolutely, education systems.

[Rohinton's panel fills the screen.]

Canada are proud, evidently, if one reads the press releases of some of the partner institutions you mentioned, Taki, of us being a global power in AI and some of us have been questioning that. If you look at the patenting data, we're nowhere in the picture. If you look at the people we're proud of in this field, they're getting grants from foreign corporations who then own the IP. I think yes to social capital and yes to good public and private education systems, but being able to translate that into national wealth and prosperity. By wealth and prosperity, I don't just mean economic wealth, but repurposing all of that great Canadianness to things that actually help us maintain our standard of living and our ethos is hugely important. I'm not convinced we're doing that very well right now.

[All four panels return to the screen.]

Taki Sarantakis: Yeah. And our last question, which is a biggie, and I wish I had the answer to this question, but I hope that you do. Our question is: how can policymakers better govern emerging technologies? What is the role for government in a digital space that largely defies borders? This is one of the issues of our time, historically. To paraphrase Vegas, what happened in a country stayed in a country. Now, what happens in a country flies around the world in almost real-time, in nanoseconds. What's the role of the state in these things that seem to defy geography? They seem to defy sovereignty. They seem to defy borders. Who wants to start?

Rohinton Medhora: I've given this some thought. Certainly not as much as you have, Taki, because you're living it. But, a couple of thoughts.

[Rohinton's panel fills the screen.]

First, on the role of the state and so on. The state has never gone away, so to speak. We've withered it through decades and decades of this, 'the government is the problem, not the solution' kind of thinking often promoted by think tanks. We've done ourselves a disservice. But, understanding that every success we see around us—and the most recent shining example, of course, is vaccines, are examples of public-private success. Public-private partnership is central to making new technologies work.

New technologies work because governments invest in core research. They work because we then create advance market commitments and de-risk a lot of the commercial potential. They work because we speed up trials. We subsidize, frankly, inward investment and on and on and on. So, you look at any technological game—and someone referred to the Cornwall Consensus and so on. It is a deliberate counterpoint, even in its titling to the Bretton Woods consensus, which was all about getting the market to work and getting states out of the way. The Cornwall Consensus is a healthy rebalancing of that pendulum.

The other thought that occurs to me—and I think you and I have talked about this—is I often wonder, I'm very proud of the Westminster civil service tradition and countries that have a permanent civil service that's insulated from the political side. I'm not a big fan of the US and of Latin American system, where there are wholesale changes in senior and even mid-level appointments every time there's a new government. When it comes to new technologies, I think there are two corollaries that we should keep in mind. One is that with a permanent civil service, where do we get the capacity and the new ideas? If everyone's so focused on building up and building up to pensionable age, how do we bring in those new ideas which are essential to understand new technologies? The second within that, therefore, is: how do we bring in diversity and, frankly, sometimes have to jump levels so that it is not a strictly hierarchical promotion's process? Because when it comes to new technology, it's a cliché, right? But, if I don't know how to use my TV remote, I ask my 12 year old great godson. Right? There's a lot of that, and I think those are two dimensions that civil services will be grappling with increasingly.

[All four panels return to the screen.]

Taki Sarantakis: Yeah, and you've hit on one of my big fears. There are a lot of benefits, as you mentioned, to the Westminster system and a lot of benefits to a professional public service. One of the things that is challenging on the other side is that, as a public service, you become a bit of a monastic organization where you're just focused inwards. You enter the monastery at 23/24/25, and you're there for 30/35 years. You come out at the end of it, and you're like, "holy crap. There is a lot of different things going on in the world. I didn't notice them." That's one of the challenges with a public service. I'm not saying this is our public service, but a public service that just looks inward and downward, I think will be a public service that will not serve its population well. Mark, do you want to go next? Then, we'll give Armine the last word.

[Mark's panel fills the screen.]

Mark Schaan: Sure. I'll be really quick. I would just say, coming back to some of the things you talked about at the outset, I'd say one of the only ways in which we're going to be able to do well in this space is if we make sure that we're actually looking at it from all angles. The notion previously that there was a national security take on new technology or an economic take or a privacy take or a social take, I actually think it behoves us to figure out how we can bring all of those varied perspectives together, because it is enormously complex and yet, simple at the same time. It's also ubiquitous. That ubiquity means that it actually is going to be incumbent upon us to get it from all sides.
The second thing I'd say is: many of these are actually fundamental questions of commons governance. They're the original problem of who's going to wash the rental car? You know, who's going to make sure that the common garden is actually well weeded? That means that we need to make sure that we actually recognize who all is a part of our commons. Because, I worry about who gets left out of some of those conversations, and then also who's actually going to step up and make sure that we know—I keep going back to it, sorry—what we're going to optimize for because I think there's going to be trade-offs and it's going to be difficult. Speed's not our friend in both directions—moving too quickly or moving too slowly. Get me on another day about what that actually means for our Westminster system. But, I'd say...plodding along at a good clip is probably the best we can do.

[All four panels return to the screen.]

Taki Sarantakis: Yeah. We want to, at all costs, avoid the Tragedy of the Commons. Armine, take us home. What's the last word here?

Armine Yalnizyan: It's a great question, and it's an historic question.

[Armine's panel fills the screen.]

I'm reminded when Rohinton talked about-well, he called the Bretton Woods consensus, but I think the vanity of the Cornwall Consensus is referring to the Washington Consensus in 1989. It was never actually a written consensus. It was just what happened in the IMF, the World Bank, Washington. Everybody just said, after decades of post-war debate: does human development lead economic growth or does economic growth lead human development? The consensus became: economic growth is the number one public policy priority for governments, and so go for the gold. That debate was live. It included the whole world. That's why we got the WTO. That's why we got the global South defined as the global South, saying, let me in. I also want to grow. We've got a brand new consensus possibly. I mean, it might be just a vanity project for folks at the G7 meetings, but I think it's the chapter that's not yet written. I am reminded that in the 1930s, we came to the Bretton Woods agreements because we went through two world wars and a global depression, and cities were responsible for taking care. You know, communities were responsible for taking care of people that were the left-behinds. We created a social welfare state that didn't exist before. Now, we are dealing with the reality that we live on a very small planet. The idea that we have these national borders that, in some ways, are meaningless because of these globe straddling phenomena that we're dealing with is not new to anybody that deals with fiscal federalism. You've got health care, is it a federal responsibility? Is it a provincial responsibility? Is it a health unit responsibility? All three. Check all of those boxes. The same thing with early learning and childcare. We're trying to "build the system." Is there a system? No, there isn't. We are going to have to straddle jurisdictional differences and come up with the norms we were talking about before. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the chapter as yet unwritten. I look forward to seeing how we collectively write it, not just in Canada, but around the world.

[All four panels return to the screen.]

Taki Sarantakis: I love closing on that phrase because the chapter as yet unwritten is not just our lives, but it's also the public service as an institution. It is also Canada going forward, like it is for the globe going forward. There are many chapters yet underwritten. I want to thank all three of you for an hour and a half of incredibly stimulating conversation to help us- a little bit- write those chapters and navigate those chapters as we go forward. So, Mark, Rohinton, and Armine, thank you, two of you, for being friends of the public service from the outside. And Mark, thank you for being a friend of Canada's public service from the inside. I wish you all the very best. On behalf of Canada's public service, I thank you.

Rohinton Medhora: Thank you.

[The panelists nod. Mark and Rohinton both give a little wave. The chat fades to the animated white Canada School of Public Service logo appears on a purple background. Its pages turn, closing it like a book. A maple leaf appears in the middle of the book that also resembles a flag with curvy lines beneath. The government of Canada Wordmark appears: the word "Canada" with a small Canadian flag waving over the final "a." The screen fades to black.]

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