How can we find common ground to solve common problems when we have different backgrounds and are in competition for power? That is the atmosphere we felt within the House of Commons on February 4, 2016. This year’s Fellows had an opportunity to attend Question Period and to hear Minister of Finance Bill Morneau respond to inquiries about the government’s fiscal policies, including the anticipated federal budget deficit.
We came to this Question Period racking our brains to understand how the public policies on innovation that we’ve been working on for the last year with Action Canada would be received, discussed and possibly adopted on Parliament Hill.
We believe that fostering innovation can lead to higher standards of living, and that Members of Parliament can approve policy to accelerate innovation, leading to these desirable outcomes. But based on the debate we heard, making innovation policy is not easy.
With a federal budget deficit, it becomes more difficult to agree on priorities and what to fund first. The day before our Parliament Hill visit, we attended a dialogue on How Ottawa Works, presented by Graham Flack, Deputy Minister at Canadian Heritage. This dialogue taught us that the process and inner workings of central agencies and line departments in order to design policies are challenging and complex.
If the overall experience on How Ottawa Works has taught us anything, it is this: we cannot have an innovation policy if we don’t foster a culture of innovation in every sector of our society. And this starts with public servants who must be creative and look outward to identify the patterns of our common problems, and foster innovative policies for solving those problems.
As we all know, innovation is a critical factor that determines the overall economic health of a country. Looking for a more innovative Canada, let’s ask ourselves this question: How does Canada compare to other countries?
According to the Bloomberg Innovation Index, Canada was no longer one of the top 10 innovative countries in the world in 2015, and the World Economic Forum ranks Canada only 26th for business innovation. These rankings tell a worrisome story for the future of Canadian growth and our standards of living.
The urgency of these factors suggests that we strengthen the bonds of collaboration between government, researchers and businesses in order to deliver a comprehensive innovation policy. In times of budget constraint and urgency to out-innovate competitors, open innovation must become the cornerstone of our innovation policy.
While in Ottawa, we also participated in a dialogue with Louise Fréchette, former Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, who reminded us that Canada has made major contributions to the world, not only in humanitarian affairs but also in science and innovation during the last decade. As we reach the 150th anniversary of our country, we should revitalize our innovation ecosystem and open a new era of Canada’s role in the world.
– Youmani Jérôme Lankoandé, ’15