Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Canada 150: Tomorrow

 In the final entry in this three-part series I would like to discuss Canada moving into the future. Four days ago Canadians from coast to coast to coast celebrated the formation of the country. I think many of us reflected on our present position. We rejoiced in the many riches this country has offered us and our families and simply enjoyed ourselves. I am sure that some among us took a moment to reflect on our history, with pride and with criticism. I wonder how many of us took some time to think about the future of this country and its people.

Now that the big party is over I think it would be wise for us to start to think about where we want our country to go and what we want it to be in the future. For me the question comes down to this, 'What do we want Canada to look like when we celebrate its 200th birthday?" 2067 is approaching sooner than we may think. More importantly the decisions we make today in our communities, cities, provinces, and country will shape our/their future.

Perhaps it is out of character for me, but I am quite optimistic about the future of this country. Unfortunately I do not think our leaders or we as citizens give much attention to long-term thinking so here are some questions we should start thinking about today.

On Canada Day there were approximately 36.5 million Canadians. We are one of the smaller wealthy, Western countries of the world. That does not seem likely to remain the case. By 2067 Canada will have nearly doubled its population (based on estimates) to over 60 million. That would make us roughly the same size as Italy, the UK, and France. I think Canadians are comfortable thinking of themselves as a small country, but this is going to change in the space of a couple of generations.

Canada today is about the size of Poland, and despite our greater wealth, we are only expected to contribute so much to international military operations, foreign aid, and leadership. This will change in the coming decades. Barring unforeseen consequences or disasters this is the path we are on. As we grow we must also mature into a country more willing to exert its influence on the world. All signs point to less stability in the near future, so a more robust Canadian military and foreign policy will likely be needed.

Nearly doubling our population alone will have a tremendous impact on our communities. What will be the next great cities in Canada and how will we prepare for that? How do we spread growth around so that our largest cities don't crack under the strain? How do we prevent the loss of valuable green space and farm land in sprawling cities? How do we adapt/expand our infrastructure to meet these new demands? Some provinces and cities have plans on the books to try to address the medium term change, but many are failing to comply. It is reckless to just stumble blindly into the future given the costs that will be involved.

One thing that will probably be a big question for Canada is how we adapt to and deal with the impacts of climate change. I have my doubts that humanity will be able to bend the curve on CO2 emissions in a meaningful way in time. What is our policy about the Arctic? How will we enforce our sovereignty? Will this expand our agricultural potential in the 'near North'? Will we have to move people as sea levels rise and storms become more powerful? How will we deal with inconsistent precipitation leading to drought and flood years? These are things we need to start thinking about and will shape 2067 Canada.

There are many things we cannot predict, nor do anything about. We are entering a period of intense automation, which may make work as we know it obsolete. Perhaps we are on the verge of the Star Trek utopia, or, a dismal society where there is a large underclass of unemployed/unemployable people. New industries will rise and fall. New technologies may change our lives, communities, and society as we know it. Politics domestically and internationally are unpredictable to say the least. However, as we walk into the 21st century I feel there is every indication that for next fifty years Canada is set to continue on a path of becoming an even greater country, if we have the wisdom and foresight to make it so.

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