Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Gerard Kennedy lectures at Ryerson

After work yesterday I headed downtown to Rye High for Gerard Kennedy’s first public lecture as a visiting lecturer at Ryerson’s school of management. The topic of his lecture was Towards a New Enterprising Canada.

It was a decent-sized crowd of what looked to mainly be university types. Also in the crowd though were prominent Liberals like Tom Axworthy and Sergio Marchi, as well as Kennedy’s former deputy minister at the provincial education ministry.

As for the topic, I don’t agree with all of Gerard’s points but I did agree with most of them. His main thesis I can agree with, and that’s that we’ve become complacent in Canada. We’ve come to take our success and prosperity for granted; we’ve come to believe Canada can advance without conscious effort, or sacrifice, on our part.

That’s a problem for Canada, he said. We need to have some sort of a shared vision to move forward. In a comment sure to annoy the small government conservatives, he also said since the 1982 recession government has not called on the national capacity to innovate, like it did with medicare and pensions.

He also added we’re slow in Canada to recognize excellence, regularly holding-up two different examples of the sort of excellence he says we need to emulate, and recognize: Jean Vanier and Gerry Schwartz. I'm not sure about Schwartz, but I guess it is a business school.

They’re examples, he says, of the kind of enterprising we need to encourage. Schwartz is successful in business, Vanier in charitable service. Both, however, have encourages entrepreneurship and made contributions to society.

Many people that aren’t leading organizations have great ideas, he said, but they’re not being listened to. We need to create a culture that rewards innovation and original thought. That’s what he tried to do as Ontario’s education minister, he said, give the stakeholders the freedom and capacity to be creative and innovate.

What Canada needs, he said, is a way to get people active and participating in the going-forward of the country. And we need to make government part of our competitive advantage,

All in all, an interesting, non-political speech. I agree with his feeling Canada needs to galvanize the national capacity for innovation. We have become complacent. While it wasn’t a political speech, I would like to see our politicians talking more about a vision for Canada, about national projects. We’re certainly not going to get that from the Harper Conservatives.

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Bailey said...

I thought it was an interesting lecture. Of course, I had to get my head around that it wasn't going to be a political speech and once I did that I enjoyed it.

His comments on Schumpeter were interesting, although he didn't talk about the "creative destruction" phrase that Schumpeter is famous for.

I think some of the better quotes he had like the one about using business thoughts and models to help solve social issues are the quotes that I would want him to go deeper into, as it's something that I am pretty sure I could agree with. Although, I see how this ties back to Schumpeter and really back to his comments during the leadership campaign last year about allowing banks to merge. He wants a capitalist financial system to allow for a large pool of capital in order for an entrepreneur to have access to the capital to start up.

Unknown said...

You should also have mentioned that Schwartz was in attendance for the speech and spent a long time talking to Gk at the reception after. Let the leadership conspiracies begin...

Anonymous said...

I had to miss the lecture due to a riding executive meeting.

I don't think Gerry is helping the Grits in the near future. Business people like sitting governments.

rabbit said...

Do we need a "national vision"? I suspect national visions tend to do more harm than good. And I'm skeptical that we can come up with a national economic vision that makes sense from Victoria to St. Johns.

I think government should lay the ground rules in terms of regulations and then get the hell out of the way. The people of Canada don't want or need central planning. If you give them the freedom to get on with their lives, they will reward the entire nation with their success.

Scotian said...

"The people of Canada don't want or need central planning. If you give them the freedom to get on with their lives, they will reward the entire nation with their success." Rabbit 3:28 PM, November 20, 2007

I would love to see the evidence that this unsupported assertion is based upon. Given the history of this nation in creating popularly accepted social safety nets and social justice to offset the rough nature of the unchecked/unfettered free market this appears to be wishful thinking by a CPC supporter and not something based on actual established fact. In other words pure opinion and not anything more credible than the unsupported opinion of one person as it stands now.

It is also interesting to note that I have seen this particular claim for many years now by hard core GOPers in American political discourses. it is a core article of faith in modern American conservative thought and one only ever held by politically within this nation at the federal level by Reform/CA/CPC, and indeed is one of the reasons Harper's CPC and the preceding parties mentioned have been accused of being too rooted in American political theory/principles than in Canadian political theory especially traditional Canadian Conservative political theory (contrary to the apparent belief of many CPCers/Harperites), which given that the countries are fundamentally different in how we manage our social and economic infrastructure is no small basis for concern. So perhaps instead of spouting empty rhetoric like the above quoted comment Rabbit you can make an argument that actually shows your work and upon what it is based on, at least if you want anyone than your fellow travelers to take it seriously that is.

rabbit said...


I was speaking specifically about economic, not social, policy which I presume is what Kennedy was mainly addressing.

And mine is not a conservative viewpoint, but a classically liberal one. Maybe learn some political science.

Unknown said...

"I don't think Gerry is helping the Grits in the near future"

Ya, you're probably right. Schwartz was probably just hanging out at Ryerson last night as he normally does on Monday nights....I hear he sat in on a Sociology class last week.

Anonymous said...

Good for Rye. Does it mean that it gets a big fat cheque for its endowment fund soon?

burlivespipe said...

What, the national vision of 'a northern star' guiding us to save a few cents on our coffee and removing the word 'equality' from govern't programs, isn't forward-enuf for you?
Where every CON fundraiser will receive the rewards equal to but not exclusive of, a senate appointment or comfy commissioner's desk?

Jeff said...

I didn't stay for the reception. I thought I heard GK say Gerry was there though, but I wasn't sure. Interesting. Last I heard though Gerry and Heather had gone Conservative, during the Lebanon thing, so I don't know how much to read into it. GK was certainly sending a lot of love Schwartz's way though.

DivaRachel said...

I hope GK takes his talks on the road... Ottawa U or Carleton U, perhaps? (Hint Hint)