- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 13 Feb 1986, p. 248-263
- Drouin, Marie-Josée, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- An address focussing on broad economic and social trends, or on the "political economy." The need for Canadians to understand choices to be made, and the opinions underlying these choices, with regard to fiscal policy, social policy, and trade policy. Making correct choices dependant on the shared perception we have as Canadians of how our society and our economy are evolving. The speaker as futurist or futurologist sharing her views. A review of some concepts involved in speaking about the future, such as "post" and "post-industrialism." The address continues to look at various aspects of our society, and the world through a series of themes referred to as "Post-somethings." Each is followed by a detailed discussion of what the speaker means by that term, and how it affects us and our society. "Post-Industrialism" refers, in part, to changes in the ways of doing business and of linking businesses; introducing new services and new industries. The importance that taxation remain neutral, and balanced between economic sectors. A consideration of some of the characteristics of the service sector and of high technology. New linkages and developing worldwide linkages for marketing and financial skills. The crucial interconnection between these linkages in the technological age. Financial services as the best example of how our post-industrial society is evolving. The trend of the "post-assembly-line." The search for customised, personalised services and what that means for corporations. The trend of "ethnic demassification": segmented and varied markets. What drives research and development, with the U.S. as an example. In Canada, the need for a vision expansion to tackle the challenges and proceeds of networking, synergies, serendipities, and internationalisation of markets. Dealing with these challenges: a commitment to the Information Age and to another trend: the "Post-Gutenberg Trend." An exploration of the various "waves" of the information explosion and where we are now. Information-related industries as big business. Questions about education, especially in the "Post-Resource Age." An exploration of this issue, with figures and statistics in specific resource-related industries. The "Post-Government Trend" and government intervention in everyday life. The issues of cutting spending and that of increasing revenue. The connections between the welfare state, unemployment, and the quality of education. The question of consultation, consensus and collaboration between government, business and labour. The "Post-Risk-Taking Age." Entrepreneurship. The "post-union" society? Going beyond Canada, the "Post-Santa-Claus Period." Canada's trading relationship with the United States. The "Post-Ideology Period." The challenge of Adam Smith. The problem of weak leadership. Time to take stock.
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- 13 Feb 1986
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- Marie-Josee Drouin Executive Director, Hudson Institute Inc.
CANADA 1986: NEW REALITIES
February 13, 1986
The President, Harry T. Seymour, Chairman
Distinguished guests, members and friends of The Empire Club of Canada: It is my pleasure to welcome as our guest speaker today Ms. Marie-Josee Drouin, Executive Director of The Hudson Institute.
The Hudson Institute, founded by the late Herman Kahn in 1961, is a New York-based "think tank" of social, economic and political public policy, or, to use the Institute's vernacular, "the study of futurology."
Unlike the Economic Council, the Institute does not use mathematical models to make social and economic predictions, but rather studies what these models reveal. It also analyses the findings of major polling organizations before formulating its conclusions.
Simply stated, the Institute examines the past and present, and then seeks future trends constructing scenarios of what's likely to happen, based on certain research assumptions.
What is the major finding from twenty-five years of studies? The persistent underlying problem is always political and social. How much are we prepared to pay to have continued material growth, plus a clean environment, plus help for the poor nations?
In the words of Ms. Drouin:
"A new social contract, if it is to remedy the national stalemate, must put a premium on that (incentive) spirit which is the essence of the work-ethic we've virtually legislated out of existence in the pursuit of social security. We've put the reward ahead of the effort by which it is earned! In so doing, we've lost sight of what really makes our society socially progressive and secure."
Born in Ottawa, Marie-Josee Drouin is a graduate of the University of Ottawa, where she obtained a Master of Arts degree in economics. After holding positions of increasing responsibility with Power Corporation of Canada, the Ministry of Supply and Services and the Solicitor General of Canada, in 1973 Ms. Drouin joined The Hudson Institure, where she is now the Executive Director.
In addition to running The Hudson Institute's Canadian activities, Ms. Drouin was also responsible for The Institute's corporate environment programme prior to accepting her current mandate. In this capacity, she directed a team of Hudson futurologists who predict for eighty corporate firms what the social and economic environment will be like in the future.
Notwithstanding her major commitment to the Institute, our guest finds time to be an active member of the board of directors of The Seagram Co. Ltd., Trust Generale du Canada, L'Alliance Mutuelle Insurance Company, Philips (Canada) Ltd., Mediacom Ltd., and Lise Watier Inc.
Her community involvement includes the position of treasurer of the development campaign, St. Mary's Hospital, Montreal.
Our guest is one half of what is generally considered one of the most interesting couples in Montreal. She is the wife of Charles Dutoit, conductor of the celebrated Montreal Symphony Orchestra. Yet, as Joanne Philpott expressed it so well in a Globe and Mail article recently, she is "a personage in her own right who balances with elan the dual roles of wife of a public figure and economist and public policy analyst."
Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to introduce Ms. Marie-Josee Drouin, Executive Director of The Hudson Institure, who will address us on the topic "Canada 1986: New Realities."
Ladies and gentlemen, head table guests: Thank you very much for giving me this opportunity of sharing my views about Canada with you. As the chairman pointed out, my remarks will focus on broad economic and social trends, or on what we would call the political economy.
I will refrain from trying to predict interest rates or the value of the Canadian dollar over the course of the next few months. I think you are probably overloaded with forecasts of that nature and perhaps do not have sufficient time to reflect upon some of the underlying trends that are taking place in Canadian society and in the societies of industrial economies in general.
Given the tradition, history, and the nature of The Empire Club, this is an excellent forum in which to discuss some of these long-term trends and underlying conditions likely to affect Canada over the course of the next decade, or, at least, over the course of the next few years.
Truthfully, another reason I decided against trying to predict interest rates and exchange rates is that we will be faced with a new federal budget in just thirteen days. I decided not to try to outguess my economist friends. In fact, I was reminded of a friend's remark-or maybe I should say a former friend-who told me that "economists were created to make astrologers look serious." We are in a very risky business indeed.
We are constantly reminded that Canada must make hard choices, in fiscal policy, social policy, and trade policy. It is imperative that we understand what these choices really are. What are the opinions underlying these choices? Making the correct choices depends on the shared perception we have as
Canadians of how our society and our economy are evolving. Therefore, I am going to don a much riskier hat, that of futurist or futurologist, and share some of my views about the future with you.
When we speak of futurology, we are not trying to predict the future. The best analogy is a horse race. You are looking at which horses are running and you are trying to assign probabilities. You are not trying to predict the outcome of the race.
Let me refer first to one of the much-maligned concepts often referred to when the future is discussed-the postindustrial society. We constantly hear that we are in a postindustrial society, an image that conveys the view of a totally service-oriented economy concomitant with the disappearance of manufacturing and basic industry. That is a definite misconception.
I am going to use the prefix "post" to describe many trends, but I use it in the sense of "what comes after," and, in each case, I'd like you to ask yourself: "What comes next?"
That is how the issues should be explored. "Post" refers to what comes after, not to what comes instead.
Our societies are both super-industrial and postindustrial. We will have to increase our investments considerably to modernise our manufacturing apparatus.
Post-industrialism will also carry with it a great deal of industrialism. But the post-industrial thrust will change, and is changing, many of the ways in which we will do business in the future. It is introducing new services, new industries, and new ways of doing business and of linking businesses.
However, it is crucial that we maintain a proper balance between different economic sectors. It is imperative, for example, that government policy not tax or handicap certain industries-manufacturing, for example.
It is important that taxation be neutral; that we shy away from the temptation to pick winners and losers, which is a prevalent temptation of many governments. If government
policies are based on the assumption that the demise of basic manufacturing is inevitable, manufacturing may very well fail to attract enough investment to maintain those activities that would otherwise enjoy good prospects.
Service and high technology do not monopolize industrial change or positive adjustment.
Moreover, the service sector runs the gamut from low to high capital intensity. Although we are somewhat enamoured with the concept of the high-tech society, it is much more complicated than what the glamourous press reviews often indicate. It is very important that we understand how we approach the process of "creative destruction," destroying the old to create the new.
This is all the more important if we consider some of the characteristics of the service sector and of high technology. One of the important characteristics is the growth of networking. Scale has taken second place to networking. Whereas the symbol of the industrial society was the large integrated steel mill, networking is the key feature of the post-industrial society. Productivity gains are to be found increasingly in the system, rather than in large-scale plant and equipment. Distributed data processing has become the model for organizational structure.
There is an increasing number of new linkages-for example, between the computer and the communications industry-transforming some of our largest corporations. AT & T and IBM, for example, are corporations that are becoming more and more similar as their activities interconnect more and overlap.
Joint venturing, world product mandates, "teaming" various distribution and production arrangements, are bringing together different corporations from all parts of the world.
The issue is not strictly one of technological advance and basic science, although that is a very important and crucial element. You may not have noticed, but February 1986 marks some very important anniversaries.
It is the 45th anniversary of the first programmable computer, the Electromagnetic Z3-invented not in America but in Germany by Conrad Zeuss. It is the 35th anniversary this year of the first commercially produced electronic computer, the F-1, invented again, not by IBM but by Ferranti in Manchester, England. It is the 25th anniversary of the videotape recorder, again not developed by a Japanese firm but by a quaintly named English company, the Nottingham Valve Company.
The reason I point this out is to underline the importance of developing worldwide linkages, marketing, and financial skills. The interconnection between these activities is crucial to this technological age.
Take financial markets. They are clearly international, money and credit having lost their national sovereignty. Not only is this trend creating new challenges for governments seeking to control the volatility of the foreign-exchange regime or to manage the process of credit creation. New financial instruments and services are also changing the very way business is carried out.
Next week's speaker will address the topic of the future of financial services and the revolution in financial services, so I will limit my comment to the remark that the financial service is probably the best example of how our post-industrial society is evolving: sophisticated networking, growing interdependence, high risks, yet a proliferation of different and also customised services.
This brings me to a second trend, which I will call the "post-assembly-line trend." Again, I am not suggesting that the age of the assembly line has disappeared, but, increasingly, people are seeking customised, personalised services. Corporations must produce high-volume goods and services, but at the same time have the flexibility of delivering customised products and personalised services.
For example, we are witnessing a trend that marketing experts call "ethnic demassification." Markets are now much more segmented, much more varied. People are looking for customised products.
This is a key point, since it is the private sector, not governments, which is the driving element as to whether a company will be internationally competitive in this postindustrial world. It's often believed that technology must stem from government support, from government defense procurement, for example, as is believed to be the case in the United States.
If we take the U.S. example, where it is often said that the defense industry is the engine behind high technology and new services, estimates in the U.S. vary widely as to the volume of purchases by the federal government of the total output of the semiconductor industry, for instance. But estimates very between five and eleven per cent-that is, no less than five per cent and no more than eleven per cent. This suggests that 90 per cent or more of the value of this semiconductor ingredient critical to the information sector flows into private channels. Although defense procurement may be critical for Research and Development, it is the buying public that shapes the industry and ultimately determines which company will succeed.
That is a very important point to bear in mind in the context of current discussions of R and D in Canada, where publicly funded R and D is a much greater share of R and D spending than is industrial R and D. More than in the U.S., much more than in Japan.
Until recently, the public debate in Canada has centred on issues of scale, notably short production runs and market size. Now, I believe, it is time that our vision expanded to tackle the challenges and proceds of networking, synergies, serendipities, and internationalisation of markets. That's what the post-industrial trend is all about.
Dealing with these challenges also implies a very clear commitment to the Information Age and to a third trend, which I would call "the Post-Gutenberg Trend." If one looks at how the information explosion has unfolded over the years, one finds four waves: the paper explosion, the electronic-information era, the Post-Gutenberg or the voice era, and the integrative era.
I think we are somewhere between the third and the fourth wave. Not that the written word is about to become obsolete, heaven forbid! In fact, I have a cartoon in my office, which shows two little boys. One of them, holding a book, says to the other:
"This is a book. It's old-fashioned software."
I hope we'll never reach that era, but information-relatedindustries are big business. World sales are projected to reach $830 billion U.S. by 1990, double last year's figures. It is a very high-growth industry.
And, in this regard, I think the critical issue for Canada again is not one of trying to skew our tax systems towards the Information Age. I repeat, we must try to maintain as neutral a tax position as possible, but we must devote a great deal more attention to the expansion of our scientific base, 4 and to the quality of education, and to the overall business j climate that would allow the creation and growth of new 1 businesses.
We must ask very tough questions about the quality of\ education, the evolution of higher education, the role of ,'. universities, the future of R and D in a highly competitive age. -' It is now widely believed that we in Canada are not producing a sufficient number of highly trained engineers and scientists in advanced information technologies. Education expenditures are a very important component of provincial budgets, and they also account for a significant share of joint federal/ provincial programs. It is time that we, as individuals and many of you as parents, ask whether our priorities are coherent and well established. It is time that influential lobbies develop to give more attention to the issue of quality of education. It's all the more important, given the fact that we are also moving towards what we would call the Post-Resource Age.
Again, I call upon you to be careful. I am not suggesting that resources will become unimportant, but that, in relative terms, resources may not provide the same comparative advantage that Canada has enjoyed in the past. We are going to face increasing competition: lower prices, more sources of supply, and, by definition, less bargaining power-at least to the end of this decade.
In the minerals sector, for example, excess capacity, competition from new materials such as plastics and new composites, and the rise of the service sector, which itself is a low-intensity consumer of raw materials and commodities, portend a relatively weak outlook even beyond this decade. Of course, as prices weaken, certain substitutes will become less competitive, but all in all the trend is towards intensified competition.
Regarding oil and gas, the question right now is: Where's the bottom? What will stop the slide? What will halt the slide, is, of course, cutbacks in production. Cutbacks in production usually occur when marginal costs-not average costs, but marginal costs-exceed the cost of oil, which means that we are talking about $10 to $12 per barrel as a floor price. We are not predicting $10 to $12 per barrel, but we are saying that that's the point where stripper wells, Alaskan oil, or Canadian tar sands could come off the market. If that happened, three to five million barrels per day could come off the market, which would indeed stop the slide. That's probably the floor price. But this really suggests that the oil glut will be around for some time, barring, of course, major political upheavals. Therefore, we will be living in a context of highly volatile world prices, which means that the Canadian oil and gas industry will also face very stiff competition.
Agriculture is another resource undergoing rapid change as a result of improved productivity, higher yields, and improved programmes in developing countries. For example, China, India and Indonesia achieved food self-sufficiency in 1985. Those trends, combined with biotechnologies, are making the agricultural sector a highly competitive one. World grain prices have fallen 25 per cent as a result of the recent U.S. farm bill. What we are seeing is quantum change in the agricultural sector, not just a cyclical problem.
In other words, although Canadians have had many in-, hibitions about being "hewers of wood and drawers of water," we may not even be able to be hewers of wood and drawers of water on our own terms in the future.
These trends must be considered in the context of a fifth trend, notably the Post-Government Trend. There is a growing perception that, while a stable macro-economic environment is necessary, governments cannot be relied upon to resolve all the problems that lie ahead. Just as the PostIndustrial era will include a high level of industrialism, the Post-Government Trend also includes a high degree of government intervention in everyday life.
But the mood of overwhelming support for government intervention, or of constant reliance on government for production or for protection against almost everything is waning. Skepticism and suspicion of government efficiency and effectiveness are now widespread, and capitalist acts between consenting adults are now once again fashionable. Our new constitution, with its Bill of Rights, is also likely to give rise to stronger assertions of individualism and questioning of many government actions and of decisions. But cutting back on government can be particularly divisive if we do not, as a country, agree on a shared perception of where we are going and agree on certain political principles.
Cutting spending and programs will be necessary. The budget deficit is a compelling issue, which cannot be solved `. strictly by increasing taxes.
Just to give you an idea of the problem, remember that 1974 was the last time that the budget was in surplus. In 1974, government revenue as a percentage of gross national product was 19.6 per cent; government spending as a percentage of GNP was 18.9 per cent. The next year, government revenue was 19.1 per cent, spending 21.5 per cent.
In 1980, revenue was 17 per cent of GNP, spending 20.5 per cent. In 1984, government revenue as a percentage of GNP was 18 per cent-you see, roughly the same ballpark figure-but government spending, which stood at 25.4 per cent of GNP, was significantly out of line.
In other words, the issue is more one of cutting spending that of increasing revenue. This raises a broad set of questions regarding the very future of the welfare state.
Never before in the postwar period has the welfare state come under such intense scrutiny. In actual fact, the welfare state has provided widespread prosperity, a deeper impression of justice, tolerance and security, as accompaniments to growth. That is a very important contribution.
But the perceived shift from a welfare to a redistributive state, from rising expectations to rising entitlements, has sparked demands for rethinking of the role of the state. In this sense, we are in a Post-Welfare-state period. This warrants much more protracted discussion than what we have witnessed in Canada.
A whole generation of youth and a horrifying contingent of unemployed are directly concerned, amongst others, about the outcome of this debate. Why? Because we have also entered what we call a Post-Full-Employment Age.
Not that full employment is no longer a laudable political goal, but all realistic forecasts portend unacceptable levels of unemployment for many years to come. Retraining has become, as a consequence, the latest buzzword.
But I come back to my remarks on education. We are focusing on retraining, but, I would argue, we are devoting insufficient attention to basic education. Sound basic eduction has been found, in many countries, to be one of the important elements in facilitating retraining in the future. Basic education, labour legislation, sectoral and regional mobility, mobility within companies, the effects of narrow and stringent job classifications, are many issues that we never really discuss.
There is a real danger that long-term unemployment and high levels of unemployment could create a permanent underclass. A recent MacLean's poll indicated that Canadians think of themselves as increasingly divided under class lines. I think that is a very worrisome trend for the future, and warrants much more reflection.
That brings us obviously to the question of consultation, , consensus and collaboration between government, business and labour-again the latest fashion in the Canadian public policy debate. But, just as the role of government is being questioned, so is the role of our business community. It is often suggested that we are living in a Post-Rist-Taking Age in which professional managers with their stock options and their golden parachutes outnumber entrepreneurs.
It appears that a certain entrepreneurial spirit is being', rekindled, as evidenced by the recent growth of new `, business and self employment. Many of these entrepreneurs ~~ are young. Many are female and many hold very different values than the typical-if there is a typical-corporate bureaucrat. How do we create an environment that allows more small and new businesses to develop?
I insist on the word "new." There seems to be a misconception that it is small and medium-sized businesses that create all the jobs. But, as pointed out by numerous Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development studies, the important feature is not that they are small and mediumsized. It is that they are new and growing. As these OECD
studies suggest, we should make the distinction between established businesses and new firms, rather than between big or small.
By definition, new firms are gererally small, but it is the creation of new business, allowing rapid birth and death of new business, that creates momentum in an economy. And we do not have, in certain sectors, the kind of fluidity and flexibility that allows tremendous growth and turnover of new business. Our focus seems to be directed more towards protecting established concerns-small or big.
As to labour, we should ask ourselves whether we are in effect in a post-union society. Not that unions will disappear, but the growth of the service economy, self employment, new businesses, new forms of work, are all formidable challenges for unions as they are now managed.
I mentioned the search for customised services. Similarly, in the workplace, many people are looking for customised working agreements, profit sharing, flexibile hours and more personalised relationships with their employers. Unions are organised to deal with large homogeneous groups. I think the labour union must ask itself whether it can also provide some of the customised solutions that more and more workers will be seeking in the service economy.
I am not predicting the demise of unions. I think many areas are particularly ripe for union impact and the business community must give much attention to many of these issues. For example, occupational health and safety, particularly in regard to new functions and occupations associated with new technologies, will grow in importance. This can range from something as seemingly banal as the type of chair used by a person sitting in front of a video display terminal to as complicated an issue as new materials in toxic chemicals.
Women's equality is another area that is very ripe for union impact. So is wage determination with the introduction of new technology. Technology will change jobs and functions and tasks. This issue will be particularly acute in industries that are still regulated and not subject to market forces. Wide-ranging issues such as this one: does equipment substitute for a worker or does it complement a worker's job?
As many unions will argue, if the equipment is used by the management, it is said to enhance productivity and is an additional element or tool of work, whereas, in the lower echelons of the corporation, it is used to replace a worker. That is going to become an increasingly critical issue.
Financial opportunism also, especially where new technologies place individuals in a position to introduce costly disruptions-for example, the factory process-control technician-will give very much leverage to unions. We are likely to see a shift in many of the strategic interventions of unions in the future.
Going beyond the Canadian scene, I would argue that we are in what we call a Post-Santa Claus Period. Some of you might take offence with the fact that I associate Santa Claus with the U.S. Whether we like it or not, we have had a special relationship with the United States over the years.
As recently as last year, after Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's meeting with President Reagan in Quebec City, the Prime Minister was saying that, in the case of a protectionist push by the U.S. Congress, the President "would go to bat" for Canada. That is somewhat de passe.
We are seeking a closer trade relationship with the U.S. Our motivation should not be simply to counter protectionist threats in the U.S. Congress. Networking, internationalisation of production, competitiveness should be the driving `, forces behind our attempts to establish a closer relationship with the U.S.
But the U.S. is asking what Canada is willing to give up. We cannot think of our relationship with the United States as so special that we need not make sacrifices. We must put something attractive on the table. In every province, I have asked the same question.
Of course, one of the main barriers to an agreement is that no province or no industry wants to expose or lay out what it is willing to give up. For example, nontariff barriers are a critical issue, be they the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), government procurement, regional grants, or even equalisation payments.
Industries and companies are increasingly linking up with nontariff barriers that pay a larger role in blocking these linkages. In the future, tariff barriers will be very low indeed as a result of the Tokyo Round, but we have hardly tackled the issue of nontariff barriers.
In regard to our relationship with the United States, much speculation also surrounds the structure of the North Atlantic
Treaty Organization (NATO), the development of out-ofarea strategies, security, as well as development assistance to the Third World and East/West relations in general.
What role will Canada play in the context of evolving foreign policies of a great number of Western allies-Japan, ,' and many members of the Third World? The quality of the debate on foreign policy in Canada is not particularly impressive.
And finally, perhaps one of the reasons we are having such difficulty tackling many of these questions is that we have entered what I would call a Post-Ideology Period. Not that Canada has been a particularly ideological country. However, many support systems or traditional support systems have more or less disappeared. The family, the school, religion, are playing a much weaker role in providing support or security to individuals who must deal with change.
Political ideology does not appear to be the answer either. Marxism is certainly not the answer, even in Western European countries where the dream of "the great evening" has dissipated. Laissez faire is a mode of action, not a mode of thought.
Increasingly, people are trying to fill the void through personal challenges-search for individual satisfaction, individual solutions, customised working arrangements, customised this, customised that. Life lived for oneself. The biggest question facing our modern societies is whether this is compatible with the pursuit of the common good.
Perhaps I have come full circle to the challenge of Adam Smith, who argued that the pursuit of self-interest, of course, was compatible with, and conducive to, the common good. But in 1776, communities were not ephemeral or transitory as they are today. However, a step in the right direction involves understanding the changes taking place around us, realising the commitments or the exigencies of the social and political economy that surrounds us.
And perhaps more than ever, in this period of weak political leadership-where leaders seem to want power but not know what to do with it once they have it-we must be more conscious than ever of the risks that accompany this search for individual solutions. The risks, and, of course, the opportunities.
I do not want to leave you on a moralising tone, but I know that I have not given you many tips on whether to buy or sell stock-although it certainly is time to take stock.
The appreciation of the audience was expressed by John MacNaughton, a distinguished Past President of The Empire Club.