Field Notes

Envisioning Canada’s Future

Envisioning Canada's Future.jpg
Written by 
Dan Pujdak
Mike MacDonell
September 2021

In Conversation with Dan Pujdak & Mike MacDonell

Amongst the backdrop of global uncertainty, what does the future of Canada look like? What could it look like? Here's Dan Pujdak, former Executive Directer at Coeuraj Canada and Mike MacDonell, Director of Strategic Development, discussing the considerations that Canada needs to make to build an inclusive, innovative, and sustainable future —a future founded on trust, shared benefit, and generational value.

Dan Pujdak: Good morning, Mike! Trying to discuss the future of Canada is no easy feat, and to be able to do that fully will take longer than the span of a single conversation. But we need to start somewhere. I guess I’ll jump right in. First, in thinking about a good future for Canada, what are key areas the country has the most room for in terms of growth and transformation?

Mike MacDonell: Starting off with an easy one, eh? That’s a great question, and to answer it, I think we have to define what we even mean by growth and transformation. If growth, exemplified by a growth in profit, is always the objective then can we truly ever be as inclusive and sustainable as we need to be to steward our planet and our communities forward? There will always be a delicate balance of interests and outcomes, so we need to first complicate the question in regards to our own beliefs around what good growth, innovation, and transformation are. What do you think?

DP: That’s an interesting point. Socio-economic well-being is a foundation that allows for society to tackle other big challenges. Many people in Canada are committed to building a fair, inclusive economy that allows us to also contribute solutions to problems facing us at a species-level, like climate change, but are still figuring out “how” we can do that quickly and at-scale. Canada has a thriving civil society that can generate solutions, but only if we can break the cycle of onerous grant writing and compliance-based reporting that disincentivizes innovation. We also need to continue the hard work of reconciliation so that we can collaborate at a national level, otherwise we risk passing the burden of solutions to those who don’t have a full seat at the table.

MM: Canada, like every other country, has a complicated history (and present). How can we, as Canadians, reconcile with our complicated past and present? Can Canada be an example to the rest of the world on how to make long-lasting, systemic transformations that benefit everyone, including those who have been historically left out?

DP: Canada has a complicated identity and historical issues to grapple with. It’s true that Canada was built at the continued expense of Indigenous peoples—something people in Canada agree is unacceptable. We’ve had a two-tiered democracy that produced the Indian Act alongside inexcusable, horrific forced assimilation policies. And at the same time, our dedication to human rights, free elections, and multiculturalism stands in stark opposition to global authoritarianism and attracts new Canadians, who we welcome with open arms. How do we reconcile two seemingly contradictory truths about Canada?

The reality is that each version of our nation’s past is the truth for someone. And while we’re finding consensus on issues on a singular basis, I think we still need to align on a shared view of the past and vision of the future; one that will create a stronger, more unified, collective reality for Canada. We still have work ahead of us.

I believe Canada has a better way of talking about these problems than many other countries. If we can demonstrate that reconciliation is an achievable and sustainable possible outcome, we can be an example to others.

MM: On that note, what are some examples of positive levers of change, unique to Canada, that can be harnessed to do better for communities today and tomorrow?

DP: Canada has a thriving civil society, as well as a strong collaborative spirit across sectors. I think about a past event that Coeuraj facilitated around the future of mining where mining companies, investors, advocacy groups, and others, all came together in a productive discussion about their vision for the future. I think there’s something uniquely Canadian about the willingness to come together and the agreement to disagree without being disagreeable.

MM: For sure. I see Canada’s strength in its ability to mix diverse traditional practices that ultimately lead to innovative practices beyond the framework of what we may have previously seen in our society.  Because we are a diverse country, we have so many different voices and ways of thinking. To help us push forward and grow in a sustainable, inclusive way, we need to ensure that when thinking about our collective future, we welcome the diversity of our communities, lived experiences, and perspectives as a critical prerequisite.

Because we are a diverse country, we have so many different voices and ways of thinking. To help us push forward and grow in a sustainable, inclusive way, we need to ensure that when thinking about our collective future, we welcome the diversity of our communities, lived experiences, and perspectives as a critical prerequisite.

DP: At the start of this conversation, Mike,  you touched on two of Coeuraj’s key values, inclusivity and sustainability, that should ground a collective vision of growth and transformation for Canada. What can we do today to create the foundation for a more inclusive, innovative, and innovative, and sustainable world?

MM: I think to truly create a more collaborative and sustainable world, people and systems in positions of power must actively listen and collaborate with on-the-ground communities, particularly those who have been historically cut out from the conversation and opportunity. There’s a lot of power in bottom-up styles of transformation, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes we need to address the blunt reality that power flows from the top, and that a coalition of actors that includes community members and C-Suite executives is stronger than a group of individuals acting separately. I know it’s easier said than done, and requires a shift in decision-making power. But it’s what we need to ensure that we reach a more collaborative and sustainable world in 100 years time.

MM: Which brings me to my next question for you, Dan. At a time where the world is the most connected than ever, there’s heightened discourse around the deep divides, be it stark difference in ideology or inequitable access to resources, that continue to separate people and ideas. Given your own experiences, how can different people come together to define and build a shared future?

DP:  To begin with, people have to want to work together on the basis of mutual interests. When we work towards mutually beneficial outcomes, we can unlock unlimited possibilities.

I think most people want to solve problems. There’s a clear imperative amongst people in Canada to bridge divides. Often, the barrier to collaboration is fear or misunderstanding. Left unsolved, fear or misunderstanding becomes self-sabotage. The good news: these are solvable problems once they’re recognized.

Dan Pujdak is former Executive Director at Coeuraj. Mike MacDonell is Director of Strategic Development at Coeuraj. Mike is a seasoned operations executive who specializes in strategic problem solving and organizational streamlining. Before joining Coeuraj, Mike spent the better part of the last decade as a senior political advisor in Ottawa, where he served in an advisory capacity to former cabinet ministers and party leaders.