Having lived in two provinces, abroad for two years and travelling to 11 countries, I am able to speak about Canada from both a global and domestic perspective. Canada is a relatively new country on the world’s map. Being isolated from Europe and Asia, and being so new, we have had to make many mistakes in our short past in order to learn, understand, change, and improve ourselves to reach the accomplishments we have made today. Presently we are viewed worldwide as a successful country and economy, however this does not mean that we must neglect to reflect on our choices, understand why they have been made, and make the necessary adjustments to further improve our society as a whole. This must be done efficiently and constantly in order to avoid stagnation, becoming set in our beliefs, and repeating past mistakes.
My view of Canada’s future involves a symbiotic relationship between intellectual and monetary stability and prosperity. This can, and should, be achieved through economic sector development diversification. Currently the Canadian economy is dominated by the service industry, which employs about three quarters of Canadians. Additionally (and unexpected from a developed economy), Canada is also heavily invested in its primary economic sector or natural resource extraction, with logging and oil being the two most “important” industries. In 2013, natural resources accounted for 53% of Canada’s exports, this leaves our country at great risk to fluctuating commodity prices. As we have seen recently regarding falling oil prices, these types of phenomena are far out of our government’s control and run the risk of destroying not only the industries they directly affect, but because of greater fluctuations that are a result of these volatile commodity prices (or the ripple effect), we risk even greater economic impacts (similar to how the real estate market affected the US).
Our news presenters tell us about the benefits of low gas prices, and how our economy is not at risk because the savings will be spent elsewhere, but they fail to inform our citizens that this could have been avoided, and they fail to account for the increasing amount of money lost from destroyed investments and cancelled developments. Unnecessary oil pipeline projects aside, by focusing too much investment in the natural resource sector, Canada has allowed too much of their talent, investment and infrastructure to fall into the hands of a risky gamble. Additionally, another factor that many people are unaware of is the effect that a thriving industry has on our economy. When the natural resource industry was swimming in abundant profits the government was able to rely more on those companies for their revenue, allowing citizens the relief of some tax burdens; to the common consumer this is a great consequence, however this result gives citizens less incentive to be watchful on how their government spends its money, and in-turn can increase further economic (and social) risk.
Our government needs to recognize these issues and begin working towards changing their current focus away from these primary industries, towards the more modern quaternary sector, which focuses on information, technology, science, education, R&D, and decision-making. These sectors are important to Canadians as we are currently ranked as the most educated country in the world, and our students perform well-above the OECD average.
Canada is a world leader in its acceptance of diversity, which has clearly given us an advantage over the rest of the world. By building the necessary infrastructure to support our increasingly diverse population, we can harness the power of perspective to enhance our current education system and promote the value of continued education, and future innovation.
Canada has one of the highest per-capita immigration rates in the world, with visible minority groups predicted to account for a third of our population in 17 years; by failing to take into account the effect this phenomenon will have on our country as a whole, we run the risk of missing out on an invaluable opportunity: providing the world with an ever-expanding home, of knowledge.
We need to be able to think globally and act locally. By acting here and now, changing Canada’s direction towards the development of human capital and the cultivation of knowledge, we will be able to foster a globally-demanded, skilled workforce, which is capable of performing in a variety of cultures. In addition, we will become the epitome of salvation from oppressive governments who restrict the flow of information to their citizens.
And lastly, Canada, following its modern economic sector development, will have paved the way for developing countries, allowing them to mimic our accomplishments and similarly develop their economies at a faster rate, as we have routinely seen in history.
However, this is a somewhat utopic idea of a knowledge-based economy. As we are well aware, education comes at a price that some of us are unable to afford. This fact must be changed, and can be changed. By changing our government’s, and subsequently our citizens’ perspectives, our country can avoid any further losses, avoid a potential “resource curse”, but most importantly we can use our current advantages to change our course and focus on a better future.