What Are Canada’s Biggest Challenges? Canada’s Top 5 Challenges

If I have said it once, I have said it a million times: Canada is the best country.

Of course we aren’t perfect; even the best struggle sometimes. So what exactly are Canada’s challenges?

Canadian Business recently wrote a great summary of the 26 things holding Canada back, and I could not agree more with most of the items that made the list. Let’s have a look at the top 5 challenges Canada faces moving forward.

1. Not having enough children.

I believe this issue to be two-fold. Firstly, people are having few children which is creating a large difference between working age citizens and those looking to retire which is going to put enormous financial strain on our system. Even immigration is not helping bridge this gap. Considering our entire health care system basically runs on the idea of having the young support the old (through taxes) this could mean a serious system collapse.

Secondly, the wrong people are having children. Anecdotally speaking, it seems that it is the most intelligent and educated families that have the fewest children. If the most intelligent and educated continue to have fewer children on average, we could end up with a brain drain situation – much like the extreme scenario portrayed in Idiocracy.

2. We are getting fat.

According to Canadian Business 60% of Canadians are overweight and 26% are obese. The U.S. still takes the cake – so to speak – as the fattest developed nation in the word, however, we are steadily finding ourselves pushed towards the top of the list. Putting on the pounds will further our healthcare problems and suppress our quality of life.

3. We are focusing on the wrong education.canadas-biggest-challenges-top-5

There is a shortage of tradespeople throughout the country and those with technical backgrounds are more in demand everyday. Unfortunately, a high proportion of people seeking higher education enrol in liberal arts our similar programs with a history of poor job market performance.

4. We are doing the wrong things online.

Despite spending more time online than any other country, we do surprisingly little business online. Consumers spend little online, but the bigger problem is that many Canadian companies are falling behind with their online strategies while other international companies are beginning to establish themselves.

5. We hate the rich.

Many Canadians are content being average – or somewhat above average. Collectively, Canadians dislike the idea of the very wealthy. There is just something un-Canadian about it. It would be better for all of us if we began to celebrate the (non-ridiculously) rich because many of them have done a lot for the country to get to where they are, like creating business, jobs and bringing money in from overseas.

Honourable mention: The Toronto Maple Leafs

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Canada is the Best Country. Period.

A recent article in Canadian Business establishes, with heaps of evidence, that Canada is the best country in the world. I concur. The article focuses on why Canada is the best place to do business but many of the points raised make it clear that Canada is the best place, in all respects. Let’s take a look at some of the hard numbers presented:

Canada has been ranked #1 internationally for reputation.

Canada has been ranked #1 for international brand.

86% of Canadians believe Canada is the best country in the world.

Canadian households have a net worth of US$122,260, versus US$93,100 in the States.

See below for a full list of what makes Canada the best in the world

Canada is the best place on earth. A large number of factors determine our place at the top such as the liveability of our cities, where we rank on the Human Development Index (HDI), and our overall wealth. For years we have topped independent studies of dominance in these areas and more, but what has really set us apart – and put us on a pedestal on the international stage – is our performance as a nation during the recent recession.

The recession was tough on everyone; no one is going to say otherwise. However, it’s no secret that Canada fared better than most. We avoided a national implosion through a combination of our robust banking/financial system, our powerful hedged economy and our innate ability to weather a storm (literally and figuratively). As a result, we are now the envy of countries across the globe with our reputation beginning to grow as big as the massive land we sit on.canada-best-country

Canadians have little to complain about as this great country has continued to treat us well decade after decade, however, like never before, Canada is now positioned to take a much bigger role on the world stage. Part of our success has been to sit quietly in the background and enjoy our prosperity, but it is now time to give back to the world and take on the world leadership we deserve. We have the resources (natural and otherwise) to become a much bigger player globally and the everyday Canadian can stand to benefit from this globalization.

According to Joanna Pachner, writing for Canadian business, Canada has a number of opportunities ahead to become an economic super power. Our reputation can take us many places, particularly in proven industries like finance which Pachner sees as a Canadian strength. Combined with our vast resources (Canada is estimated to have 13% of all undiscovered oil in the world) and business prowess (Canada is taking on a much larger role globally with various trade deals in the works) Canada is poised to become the country-to-be.

Why Canada is the best country. Period.

  • Enormous and gorgeous (albeit cold) land
  • Powerful economy
  • Highly ranked on the HDI
  • Resource-rich
  • World-renowned educational system
  • Sound infrastructure
  • High net worth
  • Strong financial/banking system
  • Highly-coveted healthcare system
  • Business-friendly & investment-friendly environment
  • Technologically advanced
  • Large talent pool (particularly per capita)
  • Stable political environment (not a circus like U.S. politics)

My hope in writing this article is that Canadians will be more proud than ever. We are modest by design but it is okay to embrace our success sometimes. More importantly though, is to love the country that has given you so much; and when you’re done being modest – let’s take the world by storm.

Update: additional charts that clearly show Canada as a favourable country to live in across many different categories of measure. Very impressive!

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Everything Is A Remix: Intellectual Property & Patents Are Broken

Everything is a Remix: System Failure, a video by Kirby Ferguson, is an eye opening illustration of the current struggle with intellectual property. In the video, Kirby argues that people have evolved to learn from each other and to improve upon our own advancements. The idea is that knowledge itself has evolved much like a species – over time it mutates and transforms into better versions of itself. This has worked for us for thousands of years as we have evolved from our humbling roots to rule the earth as we do now. According to the video though, we are now reaching an inflection point where, if we do nothing, the systems designed to protect IP may stifle innovation at a fundamental level.

The video “Everything is a Remix” which can be found here speaks to the absurdity of today’s intellectual property disputes.

The video illustrates the absurdity of owning ideas. Ideas are not physical objects that can be labelled and described in a perfect way – instead they are very complex and abstract at times, making it very difficult to tease apart individual components of ideas and assign rights. With the number of people in the world expanding at a devastating pace it will become ever-harder to protect individual ideas. As it stands there may be many people thinking about the same thing as you at any given point in time. Not only is it next to impossible to protect ideas on a global scale but it also makes no sense.patent-ip-system-broken

The video argues that by trying to protect intellectual property we are stifling innovation. Since the advent of the internet, it has become exponentially easier to discover and disseminate ideas. This is not a bad thing, of course, as people have more information available to them at their fingertips than in the entire history of mankind put together. Unfortunately, some individuals are radically fighting against this open system to close-down ideas and attempt to profit – though they rarely succeed.

The patent system was created to foster the greater good and encourage creativity. Unfortunately, however, the current patent system is utterly broken. The increasing complexity of patent claims and intangibility of these patents pose huge problems for the patent process. Even if patents are eventually awarded, they may become difficult to interpret and assess in courts. What this means is an increasing number of frivolous patent lawsuits that tie up the legal system and costs millions, if not billions, of dollars. patent-ip-suing-google-vs-appleThe only winners in this destructive patent dance are the lawyers (they are happy to spend hundreds of hours trying to tease apart the obscurities of these patents). Also, some companies now exist only to buy up patents and sue companies in the hopes of profiting. Apple, unhappy with their $468 billion valuation (as of Feb 19, 2012), continues to try to crush its competitors with its fat patent portfolio when they could instead be focusing all of their resources on continuing to innovate beyond consumers expectations. This translates to gross inefficiency in, and even stifling of, innovation. What chance does a new start-up have to succeed if large companies have already purchased the patent rights to ideas the patent holders haven’t even begun to develop yet? According to the video, $500,000,000,000 in wealth has been lost as a result of patent wars. The system needs to be fixed.

“The exclusive rights [the original patent acts] introduced were a compromise for a greater purpose. The intent was to better the lives of everyone by incentivizing creativity. The result has not been more progress or more learning; it has been more squabbling and more abuse.”

In summary, there are many factors playing into current patent and IP problems but the system is currently broken. Everything is a Remix sets the stage for a global discussion around innovation. Do you believe the current system is broken? What can be done to turn things around before it’s too late?

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Why do we celebrate scrooge in the name of capitalism?

A brilliant article in The Guardian caught my attention today. The article focused on how “the 1%” – the wealthiest individuals – destroy, rather than create wealth. The recent Wall Street protests that have sprung up all over North America have a common theme: the obscenely wealthy are doing harm to the country. These wealthy individuals claim to be job creators but a variety of studies have proven otherwise.

These studies, referenced throughout the article, were performed to evaluate the effectiveness of top-paid executives. It turns out that most of the wealthiest individuals are not a product of their own brilliance but rather “accidents of birth” and opportunities made available because of their class and/or their ancestor’s success. There are exceptions to the rule, of course – with stories of successful entrepreneurs that grew up in poverty and overcame adversity to establish a global empire –but they are few and far between.

The reality is that the extreme elite are hoarders of wealth. Rather than injecting the money back into the economy by providing jobs and innovation, many instead choose to sit on their wealth and carry it from generation to generation. Yes, many individuals contribute back by developing large businesses that employ many people. Many such businesses were not created by these elite – instead, they simply stand tall at the company mast and collect massive paychecks for their “vision”.

Conservatives fight these accusations by screaming “communism!” to drown out the pleas of injustice at a system built on an insurmountable level of greed. Yes, capitalism works but it should not mean that millions suffer while others accumulate such wealth that they could not possibly spend in a million years.

capitalism-occupy-wallstreet-greedThe wealthiest individuals are not all bad. Recently a number of the richest individuals have given back greatly. Legendary billionaires such as Warren Buffet and Bill Gates have come to their senses and rid themselves of their greed. How quickly might problems be averted if billionaires were to give back to support the systems that have supported them all along? Things like infrastructure, land, freedom etc. The 99% support the 1% in more ways than they realize, and I believe it’s time they gave back to help us all.

If you agree, please share this post. If you don’t, let’s hear it in the comments below (but you will be required to put down your silver spoon to type).

V for Vendetta & The 5th of November Today

v-for-vendetta-guy-fawkesV for Vendetta has always been one of my favourite movies. I have watched it numerous times, despite not being particularly inclined to re-watching movies. Every year I celebrate the 5th of November by watching it, but never has the movie seemed as relevant as this year.

It seems to me like this year is the year of the protest. Whether it’s about money or freedom – people are not happy. Government’s around the world are coming under fire for a variety of reasons, making the underlying themes in V for Vendetta particularly relevant this year.

The movie is a story about taking back the freedoms we deserve from an oppressive government. We all witnessed a real-life version of this story a short while ago, as Libya freed itself from its oppressive dictator Gaddafi.

Remember remember, the 5th of November

These issues exist close to home as well with many thousands of people taking to the streets to oppose the greed that has taken hold in North America. I am referring, of course, to the Wall Street protests. The messages and situation are very different but the theme remains the same – people standing up for the greater good.It is always inspiring to see people hard at work looking out for each other and society as a whole. v-for-vendetta-5th-of-november

V for Vendetta specifically speaks to a state run of out of control – much like the recent attempt to allow online spying here in Canada. Luckily, just like in the movie, there are people and organizations that are willing to step up and band together to protect the freedoms we currently enjoy. With today’s technology and global economy, it is easy for people to band together and stand up for what they believe in.

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In Time Movie Review

in-time-movie-review-2011 In a future where people stop aging at 25, but are engineered to live only one more year, having the means to buy your way out of the situation is a shot at immortal youth. Here, Will Salas finds himself accused of murder and on the run with a hostage – a connection that becomes an important part of the way against the system.

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In Time, starring Justin Timberlake and Olivia Wilde, is a movie that was made for the current political and economic state of the world. The story is that of a future Robin Hood that steals from the rich to restore some sense of equality to the world. The movie perfectly reflects the current state of frustration and protest centered around the ever-growing divide between the rich and the poor.

In Time does not start of running – I was initially convinced it was going to be a disappointment – yet it eventually becomes a great futuristic story of hope for those who are just getting by in life. I am curious to see if it is picked up, like I assume it will be, to support those currently protesting against the excess in the world.

In Time boiled-down to an all-out class war. Specifically about the oppression from the upper class to keep the lower class where they are. The movie introduces both physical and societal means of segregating the rich from the poor and ensuring a distance between the two classes. Justin, as Will, does what he can to bring equity across classes.

Focusing on the movie itself, it certainly had its moments of awkwardness. Some scenes were great while the acting fell flat in others. The concept of “time as currency” was incorporated somewhat haphazardly initially but was used throughout the story in some very interesting ways. The movie certainly brings new meaning to the saying that “time is money”.

Overall, In Time was enjoyable, told an old story in a new way, and was highly relevant in the current economic and political climate. Definitely worth a watch; the sooner the better.

<<<—————-  Warning Spoilers below  ——————->>>

The movie has two fantastic quotes presenting the two sides of the argument (the rich view, and the not-so-rich view).

In order for some to live forever, some must die.

No one should be immortal if even one person has to die.

What was interesting to me was that right at the beginning of the movie they touched on what I interpreted to be the population problem. The idea that if everyone were to live forever that we wouldn’t be able to support everyone. Certainly with the world’s population recently hitting 7 billion this is an important issue. Can we continue like this?

Getting back to the great quotes, we cannot forget the amazing play on words of:

Don’t waste my time

Which side are you on? Do you believe in class oppression?

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The Ides of March Movie Review

the-ides-of-march-movie-review An idealistic staffer for a newbie presidential candidate gets a crash course on dirty politics during his stint on the campaign trail.

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The Ides of March finds a great balance between illustrating what goes on behind a political campaign while focusing on the emotional war between political players and campaign staff. It was particularly refreshing to see that the movie avoided the typical “Hollywood” take with a much more realistic approach to the story – avoiding focusing on the presidential race.

Despite lacking Hollywood flair, The Ides of March was still interesting and engaging with its share of intensity and a phenomenal cast (Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman) that made every scene memorable. The movie’s pace was great, which I was originally a concern of mine seeing as many heavy movies tend to drag at points. The dialogue was great, which was to be expected and in my books, dialogue-driven movies are king. If you are looking for epic action and explosions, look elsewhere.

The Ides of March is about the politics of politics.

The movie’s biggest success is in destroying what little respect we might have left for politicians. The underlying theme was trust – trusting the campaign, the message –  and how you shouldn’t always believe what you see. Overall, it was a highly satisfying movie that would review a perfect score from me were it not for a particularly disappointing ending (read below for more details).

*Warning spoilers below*

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My only complaint about the virtually flawless movie was how abrupt, unexpected and unfulfilling the ending was. Ryan Gosling (Stephen in the movie) was left preparing to address the media. He was clearly struggling with the message that he was now representing – integrity – which he now felt that he lacked. However, the ending was left completely open as the movie ended before he was able to respond. Did he decide he could no longer be a part of the campaign that was all a big lie? Did he sell his soul and give up his morals to join the heartless politicians?

Although I understand that some people may enjoy open-endings, I certainly do not. It always feels like a cop-out to me, as if they were not sure how to end the movie so they leave it to the audience to fill in the blanks. If I wanted to fill in the blanks with my own imagination, I would sit at home and close my eyes to write my own story.

What do you think? Satisfying ending? Any indications which way it was “supposed” to end? Let me know in the comments below.

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Jack Layton – Cancer Takes Another Hero –Trustache

jack-layton-mustache-cancer-hero

Many people are growing a “trustache” to honour Jack Layton.

By now I am sure you have heard that Jack Layton passed away on Monday August 22nd. It is a tragedy and most people can agree – regardless of political affiliation – that Jack was a great man. Maybe you didn’t agree with all his policies but he was certainly a man to trust, one who truly cares about Canada and its citizens.

That being said, there are 2 major ideas that we can take away from Jack:

1. We as Canadians need to be united

– Regardless of political affiliations, we are all Canadians, we have a beautiful country and we need to protect it

2. To cite a controversial campaign – F*ck Cancer!

– Cancer is one of the most prolific, deadly, incurable diseases of our time. It has taken many loved ones and chances are you have been or know someone who has been devastated by it. I hope we continue to support cancer research as aggressively as we have in the past to eventually do away with this disease that takes so much away from our world I leave you with Jack Layton’s now famous quote from his letter to Canadians:

“My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world. All my very best, Jack Layton”

Solving Traffic Congestion / Gridlock in Canada

Solving 1st World Problems

The best part about blogging is that you get to vent about issues that have been bothering you for a long time. Today I read an article in the Globe and Mail that “gridlock should be an election issue” and I completely agree. Something needs to be done about this issue. It is true, traffic is a “1st world problem” that we have inflicted upon ourselves with our constant desire to own more and more vehicles. It is, however, a really big problem.

It is strange that there are so many specific election issues this time around appealing to many specific groups of people and yet they have failed to address any concern with traffic which currently affects potentially 10% of the population of Canada or more (looking solely at the population of the GTA – in reality it is a much higher percentage since most of us live in a few highly-populated areas). You may argue that it is a provincial or municipal issue and you may be right but it doesn’t mean that we don’t need federal support to finally make something happen – and more importantly, nationwide support from all citizens.

The reality is that traffic costs Canadians billions of dollars a year ($2.3-billion and $3.7-billion per year according to a 2006 Statistics Canada report). Not only does traffic cause financial strain with rising gas costs but it also costs people their peace of mind, increases stress, reduces their time with families and makes it just about impossible to make it from place to place on-time.

Having grown up outside the GTA, I was raised without exposure to the nightmare that is the GTA. Those that were born and raised in the GTA seem to have mostly come to terms with the way things are here but it doesn’t mean it has to be this way. Sometimes it takes an outsider to truly see how backwards things are. I live 7 mins from work. Compared to the average person in the GTA, that is VERY close to work. I thought that living that close would guarantee myself short commutes. Mostly, it does, with my average commute being somewhere around 20 mins but on days with particularly heavy traffic my commute can jump to 30 mins or more. Again, that is nothing in the GTA but in relative terms traffic has more than tripled the amount of time it takes me to get to work. Now look at the average commuter who may live 20-30 mins away from work. Add traffic to the mix and their commute is now an hour to an hour and a half. I manage my 20-30 min commutes just fine but feel nothing but remorse for those who do worse.

Many people live near transit lines and get by in this way – surely, driving in the GTA is just about out of the question. If you work and live downtown, you have options but in many areas of the GTA your options are few and far between. Toronto is the employment centre of Canada so many people have no choice but to relocate and commute into Toronto to provide for their families. Some people make their outrageous commutes by choice – others are simply forced to make due and give up hours of their lives each day on the road.

You might also argue that people all over the world in major cities have to endure the same traffic problems. Again, while you would be partly correct, the reality is that Toronto has some of the worst commute times across the globe. According to the Globe and Mail, Toronto drivers can expect commutes as long as 80 mins while other high-traffic areas like major cities in California may face commutes of less than an hour.

It really opens your eyes when you realize that people spend more time on the road in Toronto than LA. Yeah, that is a serious problem. So how do we solve it? Well, I’ve seen some very creative solutions such as:

  1. Increase availability of public transit
  2. Expand current roads and build new ones
  3. Encourage economic development outside of the GTA core
  4. More creatively, build Buses that float above the highways
  5. Or, do it like they do in Bangladesh

Traffic is always on the minds of Canadians in the GTA and is always the topic of town meetings etc. The time for discussion is over. We need to act aggressively to solve this problem. It should become a national issue to improve the lives of all those in congested areas. In the long run, Canada and its citizens stands to gain a lot of money, time and quality of life.

The Canadian Election–We Should All Be Swing Voters

I am going out on a limb here – talking politics is always dangerous – but I am hoping what I present here will make sense to everyone, regardless of their party allegiance.

 

There are two major concepts I want to talk about here:

1. The importance of unbiased voting

2. The importance of focusing on key issues and avoid flame issues

 

The Importance of Unbiased Voting

Like most people, I try to avoid getting into a political discussion. Why? Primarily because it is completely pointless. It is almost as pointless as trying to change someone’s mind about their religion. Many people fail to judge political parties fairly.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that I am without bias. It is almost impossible to be completely impartial – but it is extremely important that you try. When I was younger, for example, my political allegiance reflected that of my parents and it is common for these allegiances to carry through long after children have grown up to make their own decisions. It is important that each and every person takes a hard look at the reason why they are voting for a particular party and can fully justify it – with substantial concrete evidence. Of course, when voting, it is always choosing the lesser of the available evils Smile with tongue out

For this reason, I believe that each and every person should be a swing voter. Someone who changes their vote each year, if the situation calls for it. No one should know who they are voting for until they have fully digested the information available to them.

Are you a swing voter? Or is your skin permanently died a certain colour?

 

Avoid Flame Issues

When people make up their minds about who to vote for, it should not be based on flame issues like abortion or personal attacks, it should be about the overall platform and the issues that influence everyone in the country as a whole. Unfortunately, politicians cleverly use these flame issues to steer Canadians in one way or another. Politicians are reinforced to behave in this way because, above all else, it works! Why spend time talking about such boring issues like the specifics on how they will be creating jobs and improving the economy when all they have to do is focus on attacking each other and circling a few flame issues.

Did anybody learn anything from today’s election debate? I am not sure I could hear/see anything with all the mud-slinging.

 

Even after today’s election debate, I am happy to say I am undecided and will not make up my mind until I have to – until I have to check that box next to the name that I believe represents the party with the best overall platform.