For Canadian competitiveness, sustainability isn’t a choice

By Mark Mann

In their April report published by Public Policy Forum (PPF), titled “A New North Star: Canadian Competitiveness in an Intangibles Economy,” Robert Asselin and Sean Speer make a detailed case for a long-term, multi-partisan competitiveness agenda that transcends election cycles. The urgency that animates their argument stems from the flourishing intangibles economy, and the danger that Canada will fail to adapt its outdated policy toolkit to the new paradigm, where assets like data, brands and IP trump the tangible goods upon which our country has traditionally relied for its prosperity.

But another factor threatens upheaval to Canada’s economy, and it isn’t digital. Edward Greenspon, PPF’s president and CEO, mentions this other disruptive force in his introduction to the report: “Growth without sustainability is no longer ecologically feasible; sustainability without growth is unlikely to be politically feasible.” Here is as bald a statement of our situation as one can easily find in these discussions, but I venture that Greenspon doesn’t go far enough. If it isn’t yet true, it will be soon: growth without sustainability is no longer feasible, full stop.

As evidenced in their recently released Climate Plan, the Conservative party is still hoping for a technological silver bullet to combat the existential threat posed by climate change, though it’s not clear that Conservative leader Andrew Scheer is ready to support that approach with adequate investment in necessary research and commercialization, since the plan still lacks detail. What’s clear is that the plan fails to steer Canada away from fossil fuels, as Lindsay Borthwick writes in her analysis in this month’s issue. This should be concerning for anyone invested in sustainable economic growth, let alone environmental sustainability. Delaying our transition to renewable energy sources will only leave Canada floundering when the rest of the world inevitably moves on.