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November 2010
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Competing Towards a Sustainable Furture

Last week I had the opportunity to attend The International Economic Forum of the Americas – The Toronto Forum for Global Cities. It was a two day conference highlighting the success and failures of the North, Central and South American Countries. The theme was supposed to be about energy, infrastructure and financial sustainability, but seemed to get lost somewhere along the way.

The conference started out with David Miller’s last appearance of the Mayor of Toronto. He spoke about the initiatives Toronto was undertaking to reduce their carbon footprint, including the waste diversion programs and gas collection from landfill sites. He spoke passionately about being the leader of the C40 cities. Miller was honoured by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Donna Cansfield, and Stockwell Day, the Minister of the Asia-Pacific Gateway. Toronto can only hope that the succeeding mayor will be as passionate about sustainability (ha!).

Sustainable Electricity. Sustainable Transportation. Sustainable Cities. Building Sustainable Lives for all citizens

… Was the theme of the first day. Barry LePartner, somewhat of an alarmist, spoke about the failing infrastructure in the US. He predicts that the Minneapolis bridge disaster might just be the first of many. Dalton McGuinty lunch speech was about Ontario’s leadership in sustainable energy, with the FIT program and promotion of electric vehicles. His speech may have been more credible had he left the new Harry Potter movie out of his speech.

The second day was about the past/current (?) financial crisis, and was disappointing in comparison to the first day. Speakers skirted the main topics ‘Have we seen the bottom?’ and ‘What are the fundamentals for Sustained Growth?’. Perhaps these issues were avoided because commenting on them would be insulting both the Canadian and American Economic Advisers.

The highlight for me over the two days was an interview between Amanda Lang and Martin Wolf. Wolf spoke to the failing US economy and the reliance of the Canadian Economy on the US (given that 75% of Canadian exports go to the US). But it was not just the hard facts that he laid out, he also shared his views that the Developed Nations are naive to think they can continue on the path their on; the Developing and Emerging Countries will not only overtake the Developed Nations but they will surpass and leave them behind in their dust. He couldn’t repeat enough that we have to change the way we currently conduct business. He eluded to the fact that we value the ‘wrong’ things, we are too much of a commercial society that consumes meaningless goods. His candor and enthusiasm were welcomed by the crowd, especially in comparison to the high-level, reluctant speeches of his peers.

A more inclusive summary of the conference can be found here (shortly :))