Day 4 – Debt, Immigration and First Nations

This is the fourth list of potential disruptive factors that could influence the Canadian Public Service over the next decade or so.  See the previous blog for the first set of three and Seven Days of Disruption blog for the entire set.  These are in support of November 22, 2017 FMI Conference – Disruptive Writers.

  • Growing debt overhang (2017)
  • Immigration and Changes to the Canadian Values and Characters (editor)
  • Indigenous Power (editor)

Growing debt Overhang

Adapted from A.T. Kearney 2017: Driven by historically low-interest rates, debt levels around the world have risen dramatically and now stand at all-time highs. These debt obligations are on increasingly shaky ground as a result of both their sheer size and key policy shifts under way in the United States and China. An adjustment—orderly or more likely otherwise—will occur in the near to medium term.  Concerns are for debt in governments, corporations and households.  Canadian Government total debts is less than its G20 peer countries but still well above 85% of national GDP (source wikipedia).  Unfortunately Canada trails its G20 peers in corporate and in particular household debt.  Household debt is also worryingly high with Canada at the epicenter of this debt buildup. Canada is among the developed markets in which household debt rose 2 to 3 percentage points in 2016—in large part due to a rise in mortgage lending and housing markets that seem to be overheating. Household debt now stands at over 101 percent of GDP in Canada.

Editors Note: The Great Depression of the 1930’s is often attributed to the accumulation of debt both at a personal and national level.  Credit purchase of goods and mortgages were both relatively new financial tools which fueled a rapid expansion of the US economy in the 1920’s.  Beyond consumables, the stock market was also a beneficiary of leveraged purchases.

At a national level, Europe was still reeling from the effects of the First World War.  The massive allied debt owed to the United States and its unwillingness to forgive this debt made the allies less forgiving in turn for German war debts and reparations.  Add in protectionism and an entire house of cards folded with the correction of the stock market in October 1929.  Interestingly many of the same conditions have parallels in our own time.

Immigration and Changes to the Canadian Values and Characters (editor)

Canada has been a net beneficiary of immigration since humans first started to leave Africa tens of thousands of years ago.  However when most people think of immigration it is not of Bering Straight land bridges but instead of the initial waves of mostly European settlers from the 16th to the end of 20th century.  Since the 1970’s, government policies and changing demographics have seen immigration sources move from European sources to being from all parts of the globe.

A greying Canadian population will mean that immigration must continue even to maintain our current population let alone allow from natural growth.  Despite a Canadian government policy of multiculturalism, what is the impact of displacing a predominantly Euro-centric population and set of cultural values with a more global set of values?  As well, are there risks of a ‘Balkanization’ of Canada such that a Canadian citizen may grow up in an enclave without ever leaving the culture (or perhaps language) of their ancestral home.  Are there risks of a loss of Euro-centric values of liberalism and individual freedoms if in migration was attracted to these norms in the first place?

Indigenous Power (editor)

Human colonization of the North American continent started many thousand of years ago with either the current first nations or perhaps even an earlier wave of human migration.  Irrespective, the people who make up Canada’s first nations have a long standing claims and association with the land. In many parts of Canada this association was articulated in a series of treaties. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission and more recently the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls are two recent government efforts to make for a better arrangement between Canadian society as a whole and the First Nation segment.  For Canadian governments and the larger society, the questions of how to resolve land claims (including competing claims for the same territory), integrating this culture while still maintaining the liberal principles of equality for all.  As well, there is the question of what is the end game for all of the players?  What does resolution look like and exactly what will it cost to achieve this state?

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