August 12, 2001
The Renaissance: An Earlier Period of Transformation
Last month, the leaders of the G-8 countries gathered in Genoa for their annual summit.
As you know, Genoa was once an important Mediterranean power. Indeed, the Genoa of bygone days has been described as "a city of such majesty that the Venetians feared its power and envied its wealth."
Anyone who has been to Genoa will no doubt agree that it is impossible to walk through that city - the birthplace of Christopher Columbus - and not think about the Renaissance.
The Renaissance... after centuries of darkness, suddenly a great flowering of the arts, science and technology, religion and philosophy - people rediscovering the wisdom of the ancients and beginning to question contemporary teachings.
It was a period of shocks and upheavals, wondrous discoveries and bitter condemnations, an era whose ideas and inventions irreversibly altered European society.
The Renaissance unleashed the forces that would lead to the Reformation, culminating in the Thirty Years War and the Peace of Westphalia, which established a new international system based on the nation-state.
One Aspect of Globalization: International Order vs. Global Disorder
It is that international order - nation-states dealing with nation-states - that has regulated the affairs of humanity since 1648. That international order has been a source of security and prosperity for over 300 years.
That international order can be defined as the world of the state, codified, ritualized, consisting of a finite number of actors who are well known and more or less predictable.
It was that safe, predictable international order that came to Genoa for the G-8 Summit last month, only the latest in a long line of such meetings involving representatives of different national governments - a meeting of countries trying to co-operate and together solve problems that increasingly require solutions at the international and supranational levels.
Of course, we also saw something else in Genoa, something that has become common at such international gatherings, something that I believe is a symbol of a momentous change in the air.
I witnessed the first of these demonstrations in Seattle, in 1999. Similar demonstrations have since been seen in many cities around the world. What we are witnessing is the old international order clashing with what I refer to as the new global disorder. I do not attribute any pejorative connotations to the expression "disorder," for it is always from disorder that creativity and improvement emerges.
Between Seattle and Genoa, we have seen a breakdown of the post-war consensus within democracies, and this breakdown has fuelled the growth of the new global disorder.
Unlike the international order I described a moment ago, with its finite number of actors and its codes and rituals, this new global disorder is a multicentric world, consisting of an almost infinite number of participants who have a capacity for international action that is often independent of governments.
This new force, one that government leaders must respond to, is both a product of - and a backlash against - globalization. I have always found it ironic that the protesters are so vehemently opposed to a process - globalization - that is responsible for their very success as protesters!
Non-governmental organizations and the other elements of civil society are the very embodiment of globalization - they can mobilize very easily and at a very low cost, thanks to globalization! - all of them on-line, all of them in constant communication, e-mailing articles, strategies, petitions, agendas for meetings, and anything else that will further their cause.
I mean this in all sincerity: they are much further along in their use of the Internet than we in the government are, or those of you in the corporate world are. We could learn a thing or two from them about the importance of speed, flexibility, streamlined decision making and other aspects of on-line communications.
Global Disorder: Nostalgia for a World that Never Existed
I want to state, for the record, that most of the protesters have valid points; they have legitimate concerns and pertinent questions.
Indeed, one component of the global disorder, the environmental movement, is, in my view, the only remaining vital force challenging capitalism, pointing out and denouncing its negative effects and proposing forceful united action to counter these effects. And, after the downfall of all alternative, credible ideologies since 1989, capitalism needs to be challenged. Otherwise, left completely without a counterweight, capitalism could destroy itself or damage the quality of life of people on this planet.
Unfortunately, most groups within the anti-globalization movement lack the coherence and the practical outlook of many environmentalists. As Joseph Nye, the Dean of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, wrote recently in Foreign Affairs, "The protesters are a diverse lot, coming mainly from rich countries, and their coalition has not always been internally consistent. They have included trade unionists worried about losing jobs and students who want to help the underdeveloped world gain them.... Some protesters claim to represent poor countries but simultaneously defend agricultural protectionism in wealthy countries."
On this last point - the protesters who claim to speak for poor countries - let me tell you that during the Quebec Summit of the Americas I was struck by the difference in what was being said on the street, by the protesters, and what was being said around the summit table, by the elected leaders of the hemisphere.
All the leaders, whether they were from poor island economies or strong developed countries, whether they were socialist politicians or free marketers, all spoke with one voice on at least one issue: their support for increased, liberalized trade and their belief in its benefits.
Take someone like Ricardo Lagos Escobar, the President of Chile. Here is a man who is a dyed-in-the-wool socialist - someone who served as Salvador Allende's ambassador to Moscow, just to give you a sense of his socialist credentials.
So, President Lagos can hardly be described as an agent of global capitalism, and yet he is a fervent supporter of improved trade ties within the Americas and elsewhere. For his country, he sees it as the only venue for real and significant development.
However, despite the apparent support for trade development among the countries they claim to represent and among thoughtful people such as UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the world's anti-globalization forces persist in their opposition.
The reasons why are unclear. For the most part, the opponents of globalization I have spoken to - and I have spoken to many - want to turn back the clock; they seem to be driven by some kind of nostalgia.
For what, I'm not sure - the epic class struggles of the past, the welfare state of the 1970s... in a sense, for an idealized world that never existed.
It is unfortunate that so much energy is expended simply in opposing, in obstructing, in seeking to hinder the work of governments and their agencies. It is unfortunate for two reasons.
First, because if government representatives are prevented from meeting - which seems to have been the objective of many at Genoa --, if they are unable to strengthen the system of rules-based trade and ensure that our new institutions remain effective and relevant, then it is the average citizen who is going to suffer the most. Further limitations on political actors' capacity only strengthens the power of purely economic actors or decision makers. Only the political leaders will be able to implement the global solutions that are needed as a counterweight to the purely economic.
If one of the chief concerns of the protesters is what they perceive to be the unfettered influence of market forces, you would think they would want to support governments in their efforts to humanize globalization, to ensure that markets serve the interests of all people.
Ethical Passions Replacing Political Passions
Second, the chaotic nature of the opposition is unfortunate because they are missing a golden opportunity to reshape society.
I sincerely believe that, beyond its benefits in areas such as the economy, communications and elsewhere, globalization is creating the conditions for a fundamental transformation of our society, one that is putting new power in the hands of the individual, while at the same time strengthening the connections between individuals and society. For instance, information and knowledge are a lot better shared nowadays. Ordinary citizens know as much, or as quickly, about what is going on around the world than foreign affairs or international trade ministers. CBC Newsworld, CNN, TV5 and BBC World News can often beat governments' internal channels in providing information on new developments!
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, there is really only one political and economic model on offer. This has led to a decline in voter participation that some find perplexing, but that I see as quite understandable, if unfortunate and problematic. For one thing, the range of political options has narrowed considerably.
At the same time, the triumph of unfettered, unlimited capitalism has resulted in citizens seeing themselves as increasingly confined to their roles as consumers and producers while many have a bigger vision of their role in society.
As citizens in established democracies lose faith in their political leaders and institutions, many are becoming specialized activists, supporting organizations fighting for the environment, or against GMOs [genetically modified organisms], or for fair wages in the developing world, or for some other worthwhile issue.
When we consider these twin phenomena - a declining engagement in politics and a growing involvement in civil society - one can conclude that political passions are being superseded by ethical passions.
As part of this societal evolution, we are moving from an ethic of justice to an ethic of care. For a long time, our society believed it could not look beyond the horizon drawn by the Enlightenment, that of a commutative justice focussed on retribution, redress of wrongs and punishment of crimes. Now, we can look beyond that horizon.
We can afford it. This is human progress.
A striking illustration of the new perspectives on justice comes to us from South Africa. There, the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the fruitful process of thought and discussion that preceded it, has shown that the justice of the Enlightenment is not the only kind conceivable. Comparable experiences on a lesser scale have been tried in Czechoslovakia and Chile, as well as in some Aboriginal communities right here in Canada.
As society undergoes fundamental changes, new actors will be called on to play larger roles. Some of these actors have advantages. For example, women are playing a more important role than ever these days because they have learned through successful struggles, in particular throughout the past 30 years, to combine their lives in the workforce and their personal lives in a single vision. Feminist discourse has taught us a lot. Women's outlooks, their different sensitivities, have improved substantially our understanding of society and the world we live in.
This holistic outlook, which seeks to balance the different needs and abilities of the individual, is essential in our modern world, where everyone must assume an increasing number of responsibilities, both at work and in their personal lives.
Other actors who will play a more important part in the newly emerging society are young people, who are flexible, adaptive and open to the promise of the new global reality; and immigrants, who see more easily the world as one community and who, by their very nature, are willing to take a risk and able to adapt to new realities. They have already reinvented their lives once before.
The main political actors of our immediate future will essentially need creativity. They will be - they already are - those individuals or groups who are working to combine cultural experience (private life) with participation in the economy, the world of instrumental action (public life). This is why youth, women, immigrants, members of minorities and environmentalists have for more than twenty years been the most prominent historical actors.
The political system must take its cue from these groups, becoming more open to change and more adaptable to new realities and sensitivities. To re-establish its credibility with a growing number of citizens, the political system must also be willing to take a position in the emerging ethical debates.
If we, as politicians, are going to continue to play a useful role in improving the quality of life of our citizens, we must be willing to step out from behind the protective robes of the judiciary or the phalanx of pollsters and spin doctors. Political leaders must be ready to confront the difficult ethical challenges that will dominate the early part of the 21st century.
By doing so, we can marry our efforts with those of civil society, and make common cause in the drive to humanize globalization.
Transparency: Reaching Out to Civil Society
As part of my commitment to humanizing globalization, I have dedicated considerable energies to making the system more accessible to civil society.
Obviously, one of the key elements in this is making those aspects of globalization that we can affect more transparent. By this I mean that both organizations, like the World Trade Organization [WTO] or the World Bank, and tools, like the NAFTA or the Free Trade Area of the Americas [FTAA], must be more open.
After all, we are living in the world of the Internet and the Cluetrain Manifesto, where so much information is available instantaneously, at the click of a button, and people have the power to go and get it.
We are living in a world where people are more sceptical, where people no longer have the same trust in leaders or take things on faith. If they cannot hold something for themselves, not only does it have no value, it is actually suspect.
By adopting a transparent approach, we can demystify the globalization process in the eyes of many citizens. By allowing them to consult draft negotiating texts, or look inside an organization and get answers to their questions, we eliminate one of the loudest claims of the anti-globalization movement: the accusation that trade deals are shrouded in secrecy, concluded behind closed doors on behalf of transnational corporations.
That is why I was pleased to play an active part in publicizing the draft negotiating texts of the FTAA. That is why I was also pleased when my counterparts from the United States and Mexico and I reached an agreement in Washington two weeks ago to be more transparent with respect to NAFTA's Chapter 11.
This new openness is a symbol of a new era in trade talks, and I sincerely hope it spreads. The WTO, in particular, would benefit greatly from this type of transparency, and I and others are working to achieve this.
I firmly believe that transparency and an open debate hold great promise for the future of globalization, although there will still be many challenges on the road ahead.
Canada: Not a Traditional Nation-State
However, despite the challenges and changes that lie just over the horizon, I must tell you that I am optimistic about the promise of globalization. I do not fear the future, the way some do. I firmly believe that Canada, due to its unique nature, is better equipped than any other country to meet the challenges of globalization.
The title assigned to my remarks today is "In the Name of Canada." I will therefore try to express my views from the perspective of a Canadian in this revolutionary era.
Canada is a political entity par excellence. From its very beginning, it has resisted the natural north-south economic flows, choosing instead an east-west orientation based on alliances, first with the First Nations, then between the provinces of the federation.
From its very beginning, therefore, before it was an economic country, Canada was a political country. We built for ourselves a northern country and, like in other northern states, such as the Scandinavian countries, the sense of community and the need for solidarity are much more developed than in that vast society south of our border, which is built on individualism.
Then, in the 19th century, as the nature of their country was emerging, Canadians invented a new model. Instead of the traditional nation-state, where one culture, one language, one religion or one legal system dominates all others, Canadians created something entirely new: a country based on justice, tolerance and balance.
Too often, Canada does not take credit for this enlightened choice. Because of our national predisposition for understatement and modesty, we fail to recognize the courage, foresight and generosity of spirit evident in the decisions made by Robert Baldwin, Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine and the other founders.
As a result of their choices, Canada developed a form of citizenship that was political rather than ethnic.
We see the benefits of these choices every day. For example, the fact that they embraced both civil law and common law helps us bridge the divide between the United States and Europe when it comes to negotiating the framework for the next WTO meeting. Because they follow one system or the other, the United States and the European Union have different outlooks on how environmental protection should be addressed. Canada's broader outlook enables us to see both sides.
Another example of how the decisions made by Baldwin and LaFontaine benefit us is with the question of immigration. Whereas most countries see immigration as a threat and don't know how to deal with it, our political citizenship has led to the creation of a cultural mosaic. I often call the attention of the various immigrant communities of our country to how much they have benefited from the French fact in Canada, as it was the accommodation of differencesis that brought about the much more open attitude and the respect for who they are and what they contribute. It certainly would have been much more difficult for immigrants to Canada to fashion a mosaic if our country had been a homogenous, unilingual state.
Of course, more and more societies around the world are becoming mosaics, which challenge the homogenous model they had long-ago imposed, and ion which so many of their citizens have taken comfort and find security. But the strength of our society, its versatility, enables it to go beyond the mosaic - where many cultural communities can live near each other, in separate enclaves - to a point where we are now a cultural kaleidoscope, at least in our larger communities.
There are 54 linguistic communities in my Montreal riding, and everyone lives together harmoniously, working together, trading together, marrying one another and raising families.
This happy reality is the result, I believe, of the fact that Canada has chosen to define itself in terms of a shared belief in certain fundamental values: respect for every person's unique qualities, a common concern for justice, a sense of proportion in the use of power.
In short, we might describe the Canadian ethos as influenced by a passion for balance.
For Canadians, prosperity without equity makes no sense. Neither does coexistence without solidarity, power without any counterbalance, riches without generosity or diversity without interaction.
As the world becomes increasingly integrated and interconnected, the Canadian project could serve as an example for other nations. Indeed, Canada could help shape the direction of globalization by showing the rest of the world that interdependence is a higher moral value than independence and that, yes, it is possible to live together, equal but different.
That being said, we cannot assume that the "Canadian model" is somehow self-perpetuating. If Canadian values are going to influence the evolution of globalization, we must all be willing to engage in the process of renewing Canada.
Canada Must Be Renewed by Every Generation
For Canada is more a political project than it is a traditional country. We have seen how this is a strength, but make no mistake - it can also be a weakness. It requires continual re-assessment and re-invention.
Many people need the comfort and security of the tried and true - this explains the attraction of traditional Québécois nationalism, with its appeals to fear and tribalism, but it also explains the allure of 1970s Canadian nationalism, with its nervous concern for protecting the status quo.
That is the road to stagnation. Canada must be reinvented - and re-energized - by each generation. It is up to us to carry on this work, just as our predecessors did and as our successors will have to do.
For the past eight years, Canada's current government worked to restore order to the nation's finances while strengthening and securing our social safety net. Our government succeeded in eliminating the deficit, and then began to pay down the national debt, cut taxes and restore funding for health care and other social programs.
But many forget that, even while we fought the deficit, our government was able to put in place new programs, designed to address the social challenges, the new realities, of the 21st century. Initiatives like the multibillion-dollar National Child Benefit, youth employment programs and improved programming for Aboriginal Canadians helped hundreds of thousands of Canadians, and demonstrated conclusively that it is possible to be fiscally prudent while at the same time investing in the social fabric of our country.
Throughout this difficult period, sacrifices were made by every Canadian and our economy remained strong. So did our social safety net.
However, if those achievements are to mean anything, we must use the freedom we've reclaimed - I say that Canada should be more Canadian.
Instead of seeking to turn away from the values that have made us so successful - things like tolerance, justice and our passion for balance - we must embrace these principles, strengthen them and use them to our advantage.
We must build on the work of the past twenty years and create a new Canada, one that is able to take full advantage of the promise of globalization, while overcoming any pitfalls we may encounter.
These are the rich years, the years when we should be laying away provisions and equipping ourselves with the tools we need for the challenging times ahead.
Planning for the Future
We can succeed and prosper in this changing world, but only if we make the right choices now, and have the confidence to turn our vision into reality.
We must take decisive action to combat exclusion, which I believe could be the most daunting public policy challenge facing governments around the world today. By its very nature, with its emphasis on knowledge-intensive industries, the new economy risks creating a permanent underclass of disenfranchised citizens who have little or no role to play in the economy. In my view, as a government, it is our solemn duty - our responsibility not only to this generation but to future ones as well - to ensure that no Canadian gets left behind.
To achieve this, we must ask ourselves some hard questions and be willing to make innovative choices.
For example, how will we ensure that our young people have the skills they need to succeed in the new economy?
How do we encourage entrepreneurship? How do we change our institutions and our programs to enable them to adapt to the changing nature of work?
How do we balance the need to protect the environment with the need to foster economic growth?
How will we strengthen Canadian culture in a globalizing economy?
How can we adapt our democracy to the new reality of special interest groups and the increasing dominance of market decision makers? Is parliamentary democracy, with its highly adversarial government vs. opposition system and culture, the best way to keep governments accountable and challenged?
These are just some of the issues Canada must address in order to benefit from the potential of globalization.
Our greatest enemy is the status quo and its silent legions, who live in the soporific grip of inertia.
We Must Embrace Change
Fast Company magazine once wrote that "change is the enemy of the competent," because once someone has mastered one set of rules, they tend to become highly resistant to learning new approaches. An interesting paradox!
Following this fearful approach would lead to decline and disaster. In this globalizing world, we must have confidence; we must be flexible, inquisitive and open to new ideas, no matter where they come from or who suggests them.
That is one of the reasons I have such a deep appreciation for the Couchiching Institute and its conferences. Your dedication proves beyond any doubt that ideas do matter and that open discussion among concerned citizens can make a difference.
For the same reason, I have the greatest respect for our moderator, Chaviva Hosek, who has demonstrated throughout her career - and no doubt during her many years attending Couchiching - the power of ideas.
In closing, I will leave you with this thought. I did not enter public service to manage diminishing expectations. I am an optimist and I believe we stand on the threshold of a new golden age.
In the months ahead, I look forward to discussing my ideas with you and other Canadians, and listening to the ideas of others. In the years ahead, I look forward to putting the best ideas into practice, on behalf of the people of Canada.
I look forward to what the future holds. We Canadians are ingenious and industrious, and we have succeeded in building something unprecedented here on the northern half of this great continent.
I am convinced that we can do even more in the next century. All we need is the willingness to dream - and the confidence to act.
Proceedings of the conference will be posted in due course. Audiotapes are available from Audio Archives & Duplicators Inc. at 905.889.6555 ext. 22, firstname.lastname@example.org.