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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Thursday 17 October 2013

The Conscious Revolution: Innovating Canada's Future

Harper is putting all of Canada's economic eggs in one basket, primarily because that's his comfort zone.  He doesn't know how to think outside the box/silo.

At the same time, his Ontario provincial counterpart, Tim Hudak, is talking about bringing back the kinds of jobs that have removed themselves to places like Bangladesh where the labour is cheap, regulations are lax and responsibility is purely theoretical. 

How does Hudak plan to achieve this feat?  Through a race to the bottom, of course; by turning back the progressive calendar to a day pre-unions and pre-regulation so that we can compete on an even keel with tanneries anywhere in the world.

Which is the sort of world Rob Ford, the conservative Mayor of Toronto, already thinks he lives in.  Due process is a thing for wimps and committers of sociology - tough bosses don't waste their time with the facts; they get mad, dammit!

And getting angrier, we are.  The Conservative base is getting mad at whoever it is they're directed to be mad at - elitists, urbanites, unionized workers, artists, the unemployed, people with mental illness, foreign workers - in other words, the usual suspects.  Everyone else is getting mad, too - at the establishment, which is as the Tories want, but at the leaders that have hypocritically stoked the fires as well.

Harper's Throne Speech lacked narrative, lacked vision - instead, it laid out an agenda of further fiddling while Rome's kindling begins to smoke.  Hudak wants to model Ontario after the worst climates of labour abuse using anger as a way to justify the unjustifiable.

We've seen it all before; the conditions are being laid for significant social change.

It's not all grey skies though.  While the old foundation crumbles, a new one is being laid.

For all their faults, the Ontario Liberals are looking to empower youth, harness new ideas and upgrade the system.  Reporters hungry for policy ideas to polish up for consumption by their drifting readers may decry this approach as indicative the Liberals have no ideas, but they're missing the point.  The average Joe on the street doesn't want to pick agendas like they'd choose brands of shoes - they want to have a say in designing the product.  The Liberals, consciously or not, are harnessing that public yearning to be a contributing part of our social fabric and designing the process to achieve that objective.

That's not to say the OLP isn't tempted to take the odd quick, populist hit - it's politics, after all - but at least they're trying.

The same holds true for the City of Toronto itself, which has undertaken a neighbourhood consultation process that represents the best of community engagement; open, adaptive and optimistic.  Again, people are desperate to believe their public institutions respect them and are listening; this is a good first step.

The Federal Liberals have set the right tone - honest, open, visionary, though they are a little light on substance so far.  Like their provincial counterparts, they're not ignorant to the conditions of politics and are riding a fine line between doing things differently but still playing a competitive game.  We'll have to see what they come up with, but the approach they're taking bodes well.

But we don't need to depend on the system to tell us what comes next; the Private Sector and the as-yet-unlabeled Social Enterprise sector are paving the way already

Out there, amongst the internship scandals and foreign worker abuse stories are silver linings of engagement being done right - and producing superior results.  Companies like Optimus SBR are revolutionizing work spaces and as a consequence, achieving higher standards of employee and company performance.  Firms like Environics are empowering employees, making them feel like equitable members of a team rather than means of labour.  Social engagement and education initiatives ranging from Why Should I Care to Samara are opening the door of our political silos for the every-day end user.  

Instead of trying to claw back the economic engines of yesterday, the best employers and entrepreneurs are creating new opportunities, new products and services that feed emerging market demand.  They're also growing new markets in the process.

The real leaders out there have clued in to a simple truth - it's not individual wealth that motivates innovation; the promise of riches encourages people to do more of the same, not to think differently.  For that, people need trust, respect, challenge and participation.  They need a vision to aspire towards and implementation they can feel part of.

It's a bit like medicine; new tools create new opportunities for understanding which, in turn, lead to better practices.  New is always a hard sell, though - especially to people who make a habit of standing against, not leading towards.

You can't hold back the rising tide, though - the strongest walls will crumble before the most powerful wave.  We can walk backwards into the future, angrily; or we can turn around and face it head-on and hopeful with our eyes-open.

As always, the choice is ours.  Will we make it consciously?

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