Publications, opinions, and speeches


What’s next for Canadian social policy?

Published on 19/12/2017

In looking ahead at the next 25 years in Canadian social policy, what issues should guide our research and advocacy efforts?

At our recent Looking Ahead conference, we invited a panel of emerging policy leaders to explore the most pressing issues on the policy landscape. André Côté (formerly Senior Policy Advisor to Ontario’s Deputy Premier & Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development and Digital Government), Kyla Kakfwi-Scott (Senior Advisor, Anti-Poverty, Government of the Northwest Territories), Saeed Selvam (Manager of Public Policy, Laidlaw Foundation), and Kaylie Tiessen (Economist and Policy Analyst, Unifor) brought a range of perspectives from their backgrounds in the public, private, and non-profit sectors.

The discussion was moderated by Jamison Steeve, Executive Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute and the Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity.

The panel discussed current challenges and ways forward in the areas of learning and workforce development; community engagement; digital communication; relationships with Indigenous communities and Canada’s North; inclusive growth; and rewriting the social contract.

Watch the full video of the panel discussion below.

Full session transcript

Jamison Steeve: So a couple things as a starting point. First of all, this is a great room. I want to congratulate Maytree for putting it together. This reminds me of a Public Policy Forum dinner, but we’ll get out of here at a reasonable hour. So all of our favourite people together to discuss policy. And also I’d be remiss if I didn’t say on a personal note, thank you to the Caledon Institute. For those of us who have chosen to pursue a career in public policy, your institute has been inspirational, not only in its content, but in the people who have administered and run it. Not only in the work that you do, but in the way you’ve carried yourselves. It shows you that good guys can win. Thank you for your values-based leadership on that front. It’s appreciated.

Our job is to kick this off. I was saying to someone earlier – so Noah and Elizabeth took me out for lunch and said, “We’re gonna start off with a panel with young policy leaders”. And I said, “Oh. Thank you.” And they said, “Oh, no, no, we want you to moderate the young.” So I was a little worried when you said they’re gonna be around in 25 years. I guess I’m on that cusp. Based on my gene pool it’s gonna be a stretch. My sister’s here. But I’ll do my best. Noah told me I’d lost too much here and gained a little bit too much here to be on the panel.

Just as a starting general question, what do each of you see as the biggest challenges and opportunities as policy leaders over the next 25 years? What would you identify as the areas that future leaders might be looking to over that next period of time?

André, why don’t we start here? And we’ll go down the stage.

André Côté: Sure. Absolutely.

Well first off a real pleasure to be here and to be on this panel, but also to celebrate Caledon. Just like some very quick words. I wrote a lot of Caledon papers, especially when I was at the U of T public policy school not too long ago, although it feels like now a little bit longer ago. And I think the two big things for me would be, and also having spent some time kind of in the think tank world, one you just look at the impact that Caledon has had in terms of ideas and supporting advocacy that’s turned into public policy to help people. I mean, that’s huge. And the other thing that I always took away was, you know, Caledon was clear about the progressive values, but also really intent on research and policy advice that was really robustly done and credible to any audience. You look at things like the working income tax benefit, which was enthusiastically endorsed by a conservative government. I think that stuff’s really powerful. So anyways, congratulations.

Sorry Jamison, I’ll jump in. I think maybe where it all starts is in an area that I’ve been working on, or I’ve worked on over the past year and a half before sort of taking an early retirement. And that was in I guess what I would call the area of the future of learning and workforce development. I know that work and learning I think are a theme for today. So working with the Ontario Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development. I think we’re at a time where we have an educational system from K to 12 through post secondary where we’ve been oriented around basically training people so that by the age of 21 they can set off for forty years of work, and that will be that. And in terms of our employment and training system, the focus was on being highly reactive. So when people fall out of the job markets, there is some training, there is some supports to get them back in.

I think the landscape has really changed dramatically. A key piece of this sort of public policy infrastructure going forward will be figuring out how to recalibrate those pieces to be firstly supporting people to be learning throughout their lifetimes, to be adaptable, to be able to change careers, to have access and opportunity, to find new ways to learn and increase their skills. And I think secondly, on the workforce development side, thinking about how to evolve a lot of what we’ve been doing to be more proactive, to be focused more on some of the more supply and demand trends in the economy to be better aligning with some of the sort of employer needs and creating better partnerships between employers and learning institutions.

So maybe I’ll leave it there. But I think that’s the piece I’ve been thinking about.

Jamison Steeve: That’s a good start. Kyla?

Kyla Kakfwi-Scott: Thank you. Hi everyone. I just want to briefly acknowledge the work of Caledon. I work as Senior Advisor, Antipoverty of the Government of Northwest Territories, which is a fairly new role for me. I started there two years ago and had lots of background in community development but no experience with poverty reduction. And I did a lot of reading through the back catalogue, and it was really helpful in orienting me to the environment I was working in.

I think for me the big issue would be bridging the gap, but not framed as a deficit thing. Really making connections between the country and the Indigenous population and the Northern part of the country. That’s obviously becoming an increasing area of attention nationally and internationally. But I think it’s really critical, and it’s at the forefront of many of the more specific social policy issues that we are talking about increasingly – things like climate change, things like poverty, things like reconciliation and addressing Indigenous rights and the heritage of the country and new awareness around it. I think that’s an area of focus but also a huge area of opportunity, because any work that we’re going to be challenged to do in the next 25 years is going to require doing things differently, thinking about things differently, and really changing how we understand the world around us and how we approach problem solving. And I think there is a lot to be gained through better relationships with Indigenous people and communities. Coming to understand Canada in a different way.

I look 25 years ahead and think, the Indigenous population is growing exponentially. In my own life, by the time we’re 25 years out, I will likely have grandchildren. I hope so. But it’s possible, honestly it is possible, that I will have great-grandchildren by then. And that seems silly, but it is a reality that 25 years is a very short period of time, even though it sounds like it isn’t.

The other thing is just bearing in mind that we need to have a long view, but not the luxury of time. These are not things we can plan for and get around to doing at some later date. They’re really things that we need to be challenging ourselves to confront every day and to be thinking about things differently and doing things differently and learning differently every single day.

Jamison Steeve: Saeed.

Saeed Selvam: Hi everyone. It is an absolute honour to be here. Thank you so much to the Maytree Foundation for inviting me. And it’s an honor to be up here with my esteemed colleagues as well on the panel.

I’ll start by saying that what I see in the next 25 years, based on experience and also some of the work that I do, are two things, two challenges that would be great to look out for. One of them is inequality, and two would actually be attention. I find that attention, public buy in, the ability for government relations or public policy folks to do their work that much more effectively, is drastically changing across the board, especially when you see the democratization of voices across the scope when it comes to digital and social media. When we look at some of these things, we start to see now voices that are amplified that were not amplified before, and perspectives that are amplified that were never amplified before. And how do we, within the public policy world or within the non-profit world, react to it so that we can actually achieve positive outcomes.

On the inequality front, the divide between rich and poor, urban and rural, between downtown versus North York has become such a challenging policy dilemma that it actually has the potential to shift electoral outcomes. And when we start looking at voices as a sector that are not necessarily represented, whether it be on boards, whether it be in government, we start to see a problem. You start to see individuals who feel left out, then find that they are being left out on purpose. That can lead to major social ills and then also leads to, in some cases, what you see South of the border.

So I think that as we look ahead, it’s extremely important for us to step out of comfort zones, to actually reach out to the populations we serve, not just be involved in our own offices or work in isolation or in silos. It really takes a lot to go out there and meet with individuals on the ground and really hear their perspectives. And not just listen for the sake of listening, but listen for the sake of understanding.

Jamison Steeve: If there’s one other thing we can take from the 25 years of Caledon as well building off of your attention, there’s a saying we have in our shop called Being Relentlessly Useful. There’s a lot of people out here who are running thought leadership shops or think tanks, and it’s as if we hit send on the paper and wonder why the government didn’t implement it by Friday. And to be relentless in the pursuit of your policy. Sometimes it takes 10 to 15 years to make things happen.


Kaylie Tiessen: Alright. I just echo my colleagues here that this is a very impressive room. I speak on panels often enough to not feel nervous, but man, today. [Laughs.] So it’s great to be here, great to meet some folks who have done research that I’ve used in my own research in the past, particularly from Caledon, so thanks again for that invitation.

Thinking about what we need to focus on, I kind of have two trains of thought. One of them went towards strong social provisions and good jobs, which includes all of the things that were already mentioned as well as strong employment standards, labour legislation, education. There’s a whole gamut of things.

But then on the other side, I think no matter what it is that we decide to do and what we focus on, we need to make sure that we provide adequate funding and effort and energy so that it’s actually successful. Some of the things I’ve talked about in previous research are just that we don’t actually have, we have enough money, we’re just not using it in the right ways to go ahead and have the strong social supports that we need.

And then the other is follow through. So if I look back over the limited five years that I’ve been working in social policy in Ontario, it feels like we often get momentum or we get part of the way there, and then stop. Two years ago was the anniversary of a blog post that was written by CCPA Ontario about Ontario’s first poverty reduction strategy. And I just kind of looked over what were the lessons that we had written. And one was that we have to follow through all the way to the end. So no matter what it is that we decide to focus on, we have to make sure that it’s strong, adequate to accomplish the goal, and then that we go all the way to the end.

Jamison Steeve: I want to commend the panel. For those of you keeping score at home, the words robust, silos, and Trump were not used. So far you’re winning. South of the border came close, but, did you say robust? Then I must have blacked out for a moment.

So we were identifying particular policy areas, but one of the themes that was coming through from the middle speakers, I guess I worry about some of the foundational elements. And you talked about the schisms, whether that’s Indigenous, non-Indigenous or North York and Toronto. Is the structure of government going to need to change? Or is the nature of citizenship going to need to change a little bit? Because right now there is such an attraction both politically and on an individual basis to just seek out those voices that reaffirm your views of the world. And politically it’s really easy to build a coalition of 47% of people and never govern or worry about the other 53%. That’s seductive, it’s damaging to us as a society, but it’s seductive.

Is that something that keeps you up at night a little bit? Is that a worry that we should have as both progressive in both the structure of government? Maybe I can come back this way.

Kaylie Tiessen: When I think about that question, I actually think about changing how government thinks about the electorate. Think about communication. I think it’s really easy to just go as sort of top line, we don’t necessarily provide enough information for people to make an informed decision, and we need to pay a lot more attention to that. We have technology, algorithms, and Facebook and Twitter and all sorts of others that are working on different ways to slice information.

If we’re smart enough to make up or develop that sort of technology and that sort of algorithm, we should also be smart enough to go a little bit further and develop one that’s higher quality so that we can provide good information, the best information for people to make choices instead of that silo-ed information that’s coming. So maybe we just need to kind of raise our standards and expectations of what the tech sector can do for us in terms of making better systems so we can make better choices or more informed choices.

Jamison Steeve: As we go through, and also a shout out to a great St. Catherine’s Allison [inaudible]. What should we expect from our citizenry as well? Because that’s what we expect from government. Do we need to change what we expect of the people as well?

Saeed Selvam: Yeah. I think that’s really interesting in also going back to the piece about attention. Because when you see what the public reacts to, especially Gen Y and Gen Z coming up and the attention spans as well, it’s really about I feel how we communicate. We have to be a lot more intentional about the way we communicate, the way we market. Oftentimes I think that we can also get comfortable in the way that we communicate from an organizational perspective. Sometimes it comes off as very top down, whereas the business sector and the private sector is a little faster to change just because profits are sort of the concern and the motivation, the driver that makes you change.

And I think that our ability to be reactive, or have almost like a mini innovation lab within our organizations that helps us to be very intentional about creating a digital media strategy. If that’s where our audience is. Or creating a TV strategy, or an advertising strategy. And if we don’t have the budgets, it’s about utilizing social media. How exactly do we do that? And how do we be more intentional? Should we be using things like Instagram Live and Snapchat to communicate some of our organizational goals? Because that’s where the eyes are. And that’s where ideally the engagement would come from.

Not being afraid to do that, because it looks like this is the future. This is where other organizations and brands have sort of moved to. And not to say that the business sector, private sector is where all of it is at, depending on the sector that you’re coming from. But it is extremely important to understand that the citizenry and what they’re responding to now, especially with what they’re watching is so powerful. So our ability to create narratives and stories that help to shape or combat other narratives and stories that are out there I think is something that is really a good and strong priority for organizations, especially in the public sector to take note of.

Jamison Steeve: Anything to add on this?

Kyla Kakfwi-Scott: Yeah, I think it’s not just about improving communication and opportunities for communications. It’s also … improving our understanding of what some of those communication gaps are. So right now we’re working on developing a definition of poverty for the Northwest Territories. And we’ve been working on it for a couple of years. And it’s really hard, cause we need something that can work in all eleven official languages and that will make sense to people in that first language. And so if you’re speaking to an elder in an Indigenous community context, we’re really having a hard time even in their languages explaining what poverty is, because it doesn’t make sense that people don’t have what they need to live. Because if they can’t provide that for themselves, the community should be able to provide that.

It’s less about what people have or what they’re able to access or what they themselves possess. What we’re actually talking about is this disruption in relationships and the disruption to community functioning that’s the result of all sorts of historical factors and continues to be a problem. So when we talk about things from a government standpoint often, or from a social policy approach, we are talking about solutions to specific pieces of that. We’re talking about economic development so that people have access to jobs, so they’re not relying on income assistance. Or we’re talking about fixing the housing crisis. Or we’re talking about addressing food security.

But if you look at the consultation materials that come out of the North, basically any issue that you go in to talk about, what people will tell you they want is opportunities to be on the land, to be connecting with culture, to be connecting with language. And that feels like a disconnect. It often is, well we went to talk to them about education, and people sort of got off track, and this is what they said instead. This is the heart of it. This is what is at the root of absolutely every issue that we’re going to try to address in the North or in Indigenous communities across the country

I actually think arguably it’s at the heart of everything that we’re going to try to address in every community in the country. But it’s easier to forget about that disconnect from the land being an important part of your life when you’re in Toronto honestly. I mean the power went out today while I was in my hotel room, and if that were to happen at home and be the case for any period of time, I can walk five minutes and harvest myself something to eat. I don’t know what I would do here if it hadn’t come back on after half an hour.

Jamison Steeve: We call the army actually.

Kyla Kakfwi-Scott: I know. So this is, it’s a very different way of understanding the world. And it makes it, like who’s responsible for getting people on the land? It’s not the government’s job. It’s to the individual, it’s to the community, it’s to the family, it is to the government in some ways. So addressing that in a meaningful way requires everyone having the confidence and the faith really in each other and in an approach that seems a little bit out of left field to take a chance and do things differently.

That’s at the heart of the On the Land, NWT On the Land Collaborative that we established, which has multiple governments, multiple foundations, business and industry in the Northwest Territories, and community advisors from all of the regions pooling all their money together to say, we can’t solve everything obviously. But we can definitely make it easier for people to access the money that they need to run these programs so that they can focus on doing that important work rather than managing funding agreements.

André Côté: So I’ve thought about this one a fair amount over the past few years. Working in government, one of the big pieces was building out Ontario’s digital service strategy, and also working in the area of open government, focusing on increasing access to government, increasing transparency, all those types of things.

I mean, my hypothesis on this, and maybe it’s naïve, but it’s a little more hopeful. I think what I would say is that, when you look around people are more educated than they’ve ever been before. I think they have access to more information than they ever had before, for better and worse, fair enough. In particular, when you look at young people who are often accused of being disengaged or cynical or whatever, studies tend to show they, more than previous generations are actually seeking meaning from what they do. That they want to engage, they want to participate.

The paradox is then, what’s the problem? So my sort of hypothesis on this would be both in terms of electoral politics and also in terms of government. So between those electoral cycles, which is actually when we should be more focused on engaging people, it just frankly hasn’t caught up to where people are or where people could be at this point.

Firstly I look at political parties, and being a member of one, I know that efforts are being made to try and renew and kind of find new ways to connect with people. Chris Cowperthwaite at the back is running an awesome initiative called Common Ground that’s using a digital tool to bring ideas into the process. But I think there’s a ton of work that needs to be done to try harder to engage people in the electoral process, less about the highly transactional part of it, which is voting and elections, and more of the bringing them in for their ideas and opinions and those types of things.

And then in terms of government, there’s been a push into open government for example, but it feels more in government like a nice to do than a need to do, when really I mean part of the transformation and modernization of government should really be about changing the internal business model to sort of hardwire in that it will be open by default. It will be increasingly transparent. And it will be about engaging people, letting people participate. And so I think there’s some neat innovations happening there. But I think through both those channels we just need to up our efforts to get there.

Jamison Steeve: Building off of that just, it feels like oh, sorry. Kaylie.

Kaylie Tiessen: I was just gonna say to add to that. I think it’s really important to remember we sort of had this idea or conversation that I have, say even at the Christmas dinner or table or whatever, that social media makes everything easier, or having some sort of technology makes everything easier. But getting that technology right, so that you can use it in a way that it’s meant to be used is extremely difficult, expensive, takes a lot of energy, totally worth it, and necessary in order to meet the goals that we have.

Jamison Steeve: And I guess, you know, for 150 years, peace, order, and good government was a nice throwaway line. And it turns out that it’s actually a really great way to run a railroad. Literally. And it could be a strategic advantage for us going forward. I guess to the tables this afternoon I would encourage you to think about not just as a communications exercise but as a policy exercise. What are those policies that can unify, that are universal, that are national and provincial in scope.

Just transitioning a bit to try to give people some groundwork to think about this afternoon as well. Often economic development or fiscal aspects are seen as the policy areas of the right versus the left. It’s almost ground that is sometimes given. It doesn’t seem like it’s that way anymore. If you were to write the progressive economic agenda, going forward what are the areas you’d at least make sure we think about? We have a couple, whether that’s sort of good jobs and maybe we can flesh that out a little bit or future of work and whose role it is to train and the individual, the state, private sector. Maybe we can put some meat on the bones of what an economic agenda could look like.

I’ll shake it up. Saeed, why don’t you start?

Saeed Selvam: Sure. I think it’s extremely important when we talk about that to talk about how we again communicate an economic or fiscal plan. If we’re talking about the increase to the minimum wage, it’s about also communicating what some of the fallout might be. What some of the economic fallout might be. I know that might not be politically popular, but sometimes you also have to outline what are some of the consequences, whether it be for small businesses, mom-and-pop shops. What is the impact of inflation? And how does that also impact things like rent and increasing mortgages and things like that?

I think you can’t have any of these plans without being able to properly articulate the fiscal implications or the financial aspects of the plans. Because at the end of the day when we’re talking about the income inequality again, it’s the people who are struggling the most who get hit with the lack of detail. And that’s the problem, those are the individuals who actually need that information on the ground so they can make the proper decisions. And oftentimes money gets allocated to different places where they’re not able to access it properly.

Jamison Steeve: Kaylie?

Kaylie Tiessen: I think the general framework might be inclusive economy. So instead of having a system where kind of winner takes all, and then we transfer some of that to people who have perhaps lost the competition we have an economy that is inclusive and allows everyone to prosper. That means that social assistance is adequate. Perhaps it’s a completely different model than the one we have now, but it is adequate to allow you to pay your bills, provide for your families, perhaps go to school and train in a new line of work.

When it comes to taxes, it means that we have a robust tax system that makes sure people aren’t able to, that there aren’t any holes. That people aren’t able to put their money in an offshore tax haven or anything like that. In fact, everyone pays and everyone benefits because we know that everyone pays and everyone benefits already. We could just do that a lot better.

So I think framing it, and this is a frame that I’ve heard before from Armine, Armine Yalnizyan and probably others in the room, is that inclusive economies are kind of where it’s at. Sometimes it’s called shared prosperity. But we need to provide all sorts of things in there, including a floor for decent work. Not just expecting that business norms will eventually win out and that they will have a strong enough bottom line that they will provide decent work. But in fact what we’re seeing is some of the ones with the most robust bottom lines are the businesses that are failing that initiative. So what are the things that need to be put in place to make sure that we have a strong shared prosperity in Canada?

Jamison Steeve: Kyla?

Kyla Kakfwi-Scott: I think investing in the things that are uniquely Canadian, and in that I think we do really well in education for the people that education serves. Continuing to expand that, but also looking at what do we as a country have to teach the world? And how are we making that uniquely available and something that is an attraction internationally but also can be something that is more equally accessible within the country?

And making sure that people are learning and working in ways that give them the flexibility to create their own opportunities and to be able to transition. We know the people are going to make multiple transitions throughout their careers. So setting them up for that, I think, if we’re continuing to allow our children to graduate and be streamed into training that allows them to work in one place with no or limited ability for advancement or mobility? Then we’re really doing a disservice to the future of the country.

Jamison Steeve: André, let me build off those comments and challenge you a little bit. I’m gonna play a role. My sister’s the actress, but I’ll pretend for a second. I’ll be the angry baby boomer. Why should I spend any money training a millennial? They come and work for me for two years. They transition from job to job. They don’t like to stay in a career, as if first of all that you’re a monolithic generation, and secondly that everyone wants to change their job every two years.

Sorry, I stepped out of my role for a second.

So I don’t want to spend any of my money training those people. That’s the role of the state. Is that where we need to go? Is that the changing social safety net to recognize that reality? What is the role of the private sector in that equation as well?

André Côté: Sure. I mean, I think firstly I can understand that mentality from an economic perspective. Why would you want to put the money into training somebody who’s then going to be more prepared to go somewhere else? But I think firstly, philosophically there needs to be a bit of a pay it forward mentality, right? And you’re presumably trying to pull someone from elsewhere as well. And that’s actually what a healthy marketplace should be about.

I think that a big challenge that we have at this point is firstly the private sector has frankly, chronically, underinvested in training their people, and the data sort of bore that out for a while. The thing I think we’re really wrestling with is you hear a lot about skills gaps in certain professions. You hear a lot about how young people coming into work, basically weren’t prepared on day one to step in and contribute.

The response I would have would be, so we have a pretty solid K to 12 education system and a pretty solid post-secondary system. Should the expectation be though that our public institutions are training those people up to 100% so that they’re ready to step into the job and be a contributing member of a company that will be doing a very specific thing? Or should it really be that they’re training them up to 75, 80% and the rest of that gap should be the obligation of the employer?

I think more reasonably, early days again, in pivoting towards a more sort of demand-driven focus in terms of education and training. And I think a key piece will be the employers will have to, whatever generation they’re in, will have to sort of step into that gap a little bit and be thinking harder about their role and the amount of investment they’ll be willing to make to train people.

Jamison Steeve: Kaylie, is that your, I mean first of all I love as if this is the first generation to step out of university or college or training as ill prepared. Cause the baby boomers walked in 100% ready. They were just gonna take it over. They also had no debt and houses for $15,000. Not that I’m bitter. But is that the experience you’re having with your members? That they’re coming up against a bit of a wall from a training perspective when they start jobs?

Kaylie Tiessen: I think what we see is that we don’t have, there’s something about a social contract. We’re gonna talk about eventually, and we don’t have the same contract that we used to where there was education provided by government. There was people, who are putting in effort to get that education, whether it’s in the work force and getting those entry level jobs to train up, or an education going to post-secondary education. And then business provides on the job training, because you want your employee to be the best at the job that they can be.

Over the last 20 years, certainly on the job training, investment in on the job training, has declined dramatically, complaining about workers not being prepared for their jobs. I don’t know what that complaint was 20 years ago, I was barely joining the work force. But I imagine that complaint might have been much lower.

So what we’re starting to talk about, and kind of developing some thinking around, is what does workforce development mean now? And how do we design that? And one really important piece is to make sure that we get all stakeholders together, not to point fingers at each other, you should be doing that. That’s not my job. You should be doing that. That’s not my job. How do you design a system that works for an entire industry?

I think one thing corporations and business might be very fearful of, and the reason they don’t invest in on-the-job training is because nobody else is doing it. You need that one firm to move first, so that the rest of their peers can see that it works. And then hopefully not poach, but in fact train their own people to eventually be able to have an ecosystem of people who are trained up. So if you think about the engineering department at Waterloo University, that’s an example that I hear often when we talk about workforce development in different places. And it really is a partnership between industry, government, academia, and the people who are spending their time doing that work together to make it work well.

Jamison Steeve: On that social contract, cause that’s obviously where some of the conversation’s gonna go today, there is that not only rewriting but almost redrawing of the map, right? Who does what exercise? Sorry to take us back to days gone by.

But when you think about the social contract, what do you see as essential elements of that going forward? We’re already addressing one, which is sort of the role of retraining in society, whether that’s the state or the private sector or even individual. What are the other areas you see as forming the four corners of that social contract? Why don’t I start with you, André?

André Côté: Sure. I think the education and training piece is critical, because to a certain extent it’s sort of the quality of opportunity aspect. So I think that has to be foundational. I think that some of the things that have been happening, recently, somebody talked about Bill 148 and the employment standards, the labour law stuff’s very important. I think that you know those are very important steps forward.

One of the questions I have about those changes are I think they’re very valuable in terms of recalibrating within our existing labour law, certain employment standards. The question I would have would be what is … you know if that’s basically the recalibration of the existing stuff that we have, what does the next frontier look like?

And then I think there are some critical challenges that people have to pick up the mantle from Caledon on in terms of the core social policy pieces. I know here in Ontario, there’s a pilot with a basic minimum income, which holds some potential, and that’s being experimented with elsewhere. But I think it’s safe to say there’s been a bit of a struggle over the past few years to figure out how to sort of evolve the Ontario Works sort of welfare model, how to better support person with disabilities who face a lot of barriers to employment. So I think, you know, and retirement income is another key piece. So I think there are a lot of those pieces that we’ve been dealing with for quite some time that aren’t going away and that we’ll need to sort of recommit to.

Jamison Steeve: Maybe to add on that, and I’m getting my marker for we have about eight minutes left. So I’m gonna give each of you two minutes on something, and that’s this. You’ve been chosen here today not only because of your great mind power, but apparently because you have a chance to be alive in 25 years. So let’s imagine we’ve reconvened, and it’s 25 years later. And I, through good fortune and miracle of science I’m still alive. And I ask you the question, was the last 25 years a success? So what will have had to have happened in your mind when we meet 25 years from now to say, we did our job. We made progress?

Kyla, why don’t we start with you?

Kyla Kakfwi-Scott: That’s a great question. I think I’m gonna answer all three of the last ones to get at it. I think fundamentally we’re at a point where there’s a real softening in between sectors, and it’s less, I don’t know if we’ve really shifted the conversation yet, but much less about who is responsible for which piece, and growing into more of an acceptance of the big issues everyone has a piece of. And we need to get to a point where we are talking to each other and actually really clear on what our strengths are that we bring to the table to help address thos

I’m one of the dreaded millennials that has skipped around. I’ve worked in public, private, and non-profit. I’ve worked on the same things in each of those places, but with very different approaches and very different resources available to me. I think that was worth investing in for all of those employers, because that now makes me way better at doing the work that I’m doing, which is bringing everyone together around shared tables to tackle those things.

So I think 25 years from now we will continue to see rooms like this, hopefully, that are even more diverse than this one is. Where people are there to work together, not to protect their turf, not to maintain their silos, but to understand that we’re all in it together and we’re only gonna get through it if we’re working in the same direction and communicating with each other.

Jamison Steeve: Saeed?

Saeed Selvam: Yeah I think, and just after those great sentiments, it’s really important to focus on people. No matter how you look at it, people drive everything. And that includes also people though that are not necessarily within your circle or within your organization, but people outside of it. How do we actually benefit and serve those who need it?

And I think the next 25 years it’s going to be about how do we start talking about that rising inequality, or resurfacing inequality and having those conversations that are not necessarily comfortable, the conversations about race, the conversations about poverty, the conversations about system disenfranchisement. These are conversations that no matter what conference you go to, no matter what event you go to, you have them and they’re often the focus of breakout sessions and things like that.

But unless we actually are intentional about going back to our offices and then putting into work a strategy or a plan that will take action, actual action. You know we are intentional about that action, we’re not gonna see too many changes. So I think in order for it to be a success it’s definitely working together and breaking out of the silos, but it’s also about being very, very specific and intentional about what our organization are going to go. How do we contribute to the problem? And how can we be a part of that solution?

Jamison Steeve: I’m gonna be that moderator. I’ve got 30 seconds. What’s the one thing you need to see happen in the next 25 years? That’s an easy question?

Kaylie Tiessen: Two things really fast. Economics and economists have become much better at measuring and communicating the benefits of all the social policies that we’re putting in place. It’s really easy to say that it costs too much. It’s really difficult with our current techniques to talk about the benefits of what happened. So increasing the minimum wage, providing care for our grandparents.

And along those same lines, we have stopped having a conversation about balancing business with social interests, but in fact have recognized that they’re all the same and are moving towards an inclusive economy in that way.

Jamison Steeve:  André, final word from you.

André Côté: Well, I know that your moderator duties are tough. I don’t want to take any more time. I will say I wholeheartedly agree with everything that my fellow panelists have said.

Jamison Steeve: I can tell you just left government. That’s a good job.

With that, first of all please join me in thanking our panelists today.

And thank you to Maytree for the opportunity, and again thank you to the Caledon Institute for everything you guys have ever done. It’s much appreciated. Thank you.






Employment and labour, Evidence-based policy, Income security, Indigenous peoples, Non-profit sector


At our recent Looking Ahead conference, we invited a panel of emerging policy leaders to explore the most pressing issues on the policy landscape.