The federal government has provided a glimpse into the forthcoming Innovation Strategy with a 14-page overview of the consultation process to date and the pillars upon which it will be built. As expected, the document – Innovation for a Better Canada –compresses the initial six planks into three – people (talent), technologies and companies (scaling up).
The synthesis of feedback also highlights four major challenges facing Canada – slow growth, technology (digitization and automation), globalization and climate change. It could easily have included a fifth: former reality TV star and business brand, Donald Trump, as the 45th president of the United States.
The emergence of a protectionist president as the leader of our largest trading partner will significantly impact Canada’s approach to tackling these challenges. By surrounding himself with billionaires, climate change skeptics, fossil fuel champions and anti-globalization and anti-immigration advocates, Trump is unlike anything we’ve seen in generations.
Canada’s ability to diversify the economy, make science-informed decisions and become more inclusive will be complicated at every turn as politicians and policy makers must gauge US reaction to new programs and legislation with implications beyond our borders.
The western oil patch, the auto sector and climate change mitigation are only the most obvious areas of potential conflict between the two nations. Trump’s pledge to renegotiate NAFTA and other trade deals to which the US is a participant will – if enacted – have profound repercussions in Canada and globally.
How Canadian science, technology and innovation evolve in this economic and political environment as we grapple with the challenges before us will be a test of our skills and resolve as a nation. Unpredictability is becoming the new norm and the Innovation Agenda must serve as a flexible template that allows opportunity to emerge from adversity as well as building on our country’s innate potential.
Mark Henderson, Editor