Sunday, March 28, 2010

Youth and Asia: Liveblogging the final afternoon panels at Canada at 150

1:04 PM: We’re back for the afternoon session on this final day of the Liberal Party’s Canada at 150 conference in Montreal. Well, kind of back. The Hyatt’s WiFi has now become officially useless, so I don’t know when this will get online. Seriously, the Via Rail WiFi is better than the Hyatt’s. They’re clearly not ready for Canada and the digital world.

The afternoon keynoter is up though to set the scene for the final panel of the day, which is ending the day’s look on foreign policy with a look at Asia, and then young Canadians making a difference in the world without government backing.

And then Michael Ignatieff will give, according to the media that I’ve read, what will be the most important speech of his life and one that, if he doesn’t hit the ball out of the park, will lead to his immediate ritual suicide. And then he’ll have a press conference. So look forward to that.

Apparently Ignatieff had a conference call with the caucus over lunch, so I’m sure whatever he says will leak any minute anyways…

1:09 PM: OK, back to the hall though. The speaker is Dominic Barton, worldwide managing director of McKinsey & Co., and he’s speaking of Asia’s role in the World of 2017 and, I guess, what it will mean for Canada.

He’s talking now about the massive urbanization that’s underway in China, showing before and after pictures of cities like Shenzen. The difference in just a few years from sleepy historic-looking city to booming modern metropolis is astounding.

Some interesting statistics. Some 900 million consumers will enter the middle class in Asia by 2017, representing a massive new market. There’s also a massive shift from rural areas to cities, which carries many repercussions. What do they want? Education is one, and there’s opportunity both to grow institutions there as well as attract foreign students.

1:14 PM: It’s not just China, he adds. India, Indonesia, many countries are growing, need infrastructure, and are looking for partners.

1:18 PM: A Japanese mentor once told him Asia was a Western invention, the countries of the region don’t have that much in common with each other. Barton says he’d argue that’s changing, though, because of trade. Inter-Asian trade is expanding dramatically. Some 20 universities in China are now dedicated to teaching Mandarin speakers Arabic to facilitate trade.

1:21 PM: Where are these Asian companies going to build their North American headquarters? Barton says it could be Canada, but they’re not going to if we’re not out there actively engaging with them.

Interesting, he says the Europeans, and particularly the Spanish, are much more engaged in Asia than we are.

1:29 PM: There will soon be over 5 million annual Asian tourists, and we need to build an infrastructure to support and engage that opportunity.

Overall, Barton says there is a fantastic opportunity in Asia and we need to be more proactive than we have been or it’s going to pass us by.

1:31 PM: A few questions now, Barton is saying he’s like to see more eastern and Asian history taught at the primary level, and greater faculty exchanges at the post-secondary level. Also, our universities opening satellite campuses in the region, and vice versa.

Last question is from Penny Collenette, former Liberal candidate in Ottawa-Centre, and now at the University of Ottawa. I was afraid for awhile we’d have to go an entire Liberal-sponsored policy conference without mentioning water policy, but Penny saved us that fate.

1:40 PM: And now it’s the final panel before the MOST IMPORTANT SPEECH EVER by Ignatieff. It’s on Canadians making a difference in the world, particularly young , Canadians. Panellists are Yasmine Charara of Observatoire jeunesse Oxfam-Qu├ębec, Ryan Hreljac of Ryan’s Well Foundation, and Parker Mitchell of Engineers without Borders. It’s chaired by Dr. James Orbinski, a former president of Doctors Without Borders.

1:24 PM: Hreljac makes everyone wonder what the hell we were doing at 18.

1:44 PM: Mitchell says his group didn’t start out to be influential, it started out to make life better on the ground. RIM didn’t start to change communications, it started to make a really cool technology. His advice is let’s stop thinking about influence, let’s start doing things, having bold ideas, setting bold targets and going after them.

2:04 PM: Mitchell suggests a student loan interest/payment holiday while young people are volunteering with NGOs or overseas. Wouldn’t cost too much. I like that idea.

2:07 PM: Slight correction to my notes on this panel. Parker Mitchell isn’t here. Filling in for him is George Rota, also a co-founder of Engineers without Borders. So anything that was attributed to Michell, attribute it to Rota. My bad.

2:28 PM: I think this panel is up. It's been interesting, but I'm re-setting for Ignatieff's closing address. Buzz on press row is possibility of actual policy to be contained therein. We'll see. Catch you on the flipidy-flop.

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1 comment:

Gayle said...

Thanks for these updates. I am watching on line but it is interesting to hear your take on things.