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Opening Plenary: Canada in a New World Séance plénière d’ouverture: Canada dans un monde nouveau

November 14, 2014


Jean Charest

Former Deputy Prime Minister of Canada and Premier of Québec,

Partner McCarthy Tétrault LLP


Ancien vice-premier ministre du Canada et ancien premier ministre du Québec,

associé au sein du cabinet McCarthy Tétrault LLP




Natalie Fong 

2017 JD Candidate 

Mr. Charest addressed six major global changes in the past three decades: technology, emerging economies, changing demographics, the financial crisis, climate change and reduced world poverty. He encouraged Canadians to play a larger role on the international stage in response to these changes.


Firstly, we should not understate the connection between resources and technology. At our current rate of consumption, we may reach the tipping point where we will need to rely on new technologies to consume renewable energy resources. Secondly, rising consumptions from emerging economies (the “E7”) will have a large impact on environmental resources. Thirdly, changing demographics, in particular, an aging population in advanced economies has created a heavier burden on health care costs. While North Americans are living longer, we now work for longer and we must find ways to pay for these rising social costs.


Mr. Charest went on to discuss the repercussions of the financial crisis of 2008. A recent poll indicated that 64% of Americans still feel an impact from the crisis. Further, there has been shrinking middle-wage employment in advanced economies. In Canada, because of the robust resource industry, more blue-collar jobs have been created in sectors such as mining, energy and forestry.


Canada must play a larger role in climate change initiatives even though we only account for 3% of the world’s GDP. Climate change has made the Arctic’s natural resources more accessible and is potentially opening up new maritime trade routes through the Russian Northeast Passage and the Canadian Northwest Passage. 


In addition, world poverty has been greatly reduced in recent years. Since 1992, chronic hunger has fallen by 17% globally and overall income gaps are narrowing. A rising middle class in countries such as India is a major driving force in the consumption of new resources. In turn, they are a key player in the reduction of poverty. Finally, Mr. Charest argues for the continued use of international aid in poverty reduction. 


In summary, Canada should play a more assertive role in tackling these global issues. A marked increase in global trade, the emergence of a new global middle class, the need for greater global labour mobility, rising nationalism and geopolitical tensions in Asia, Africa and the Middle East all call for Canada to take up a stronger position in international trade and political leadership.

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