Canada and the OECD: 50 years of converging interests

When: Thursday, June 2, 2011 - 18:30 - Friday, June 3, 2011 - 17:00

Where: Ottawa, Ontario


Starting in late 2010, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) began commemoration of its 50th anniversary. The OECD brings together the governments of countries committed to democracy and the market economy from around the world to support sustainable economic growth, boost employment, raise living standards, maintain financial stability, assist other countries' economic development and contribute to growth in world trade.

On June 2nd and 3rd the Public Policy Forum hosted: Canada and the OECD: 50 Years of Converging Interests, to mark this anniversary and explore the future of the OECD. The event drew over 200 Canadian government leaders, Parliamentarians, private sector executives, and top academics to Ottawa to examine the unique role of the OECD in providing benchmark assessments and structural policy advice to support sustainable economic growth in Canada, and to explore the future leadership role Canada will have within the Organisation and the key policy contributions Canada will make.


To view the report, please click here.


Addresses by Secretary-General Gurria

In his June 2nd evening address and opening remarks on June 3rd, the Secretary-General noted Canada's leadership in the establishment of the OECD, and the ongoing contributions Canada makes to the Organisation. Canada, he said, serves as role model in many respects for other member nations and for developing economies, in areas such as economic policy, tax freedom and overall quality of life. While noting that Canada fared the recession exceptionally well, the Secretary-General spoke to a few areas where Canada and the OECD must continue to work together on policy, such as competition, productivity and innovation.

Angel Gurria Remarks - June 2nd

Angel Gurria Remarks - June 3rd

Opening Plenary

Setting the stage for a day of debate and dialogue, participants of the opening plenary discussed the OECD-Canada relationship in light of the current domestic and international economic environment. Competition and trade policies and policies for long-term economic growth were stressed as key to bolstering Canada's low productivity levels amidst changing and aging demographics. Central to the discussion was the importance of innovation in addressing the current and future policy challenges of a highly globalised world economy.

Barbara Stymiest Remarks

Innovation for Growth

Models of innovation and their capacities for growth were discussed in this breakout on the OECD's 2010 Innovation Strategy and the Canadian context. Participants emphasized the 21st century model of innovation is people-centered. Growth and prosperity are more about pull, rather than push, factors; multidirectional flows of ideas and knowledge, non-linear engagement, and multi-sector collaboration are absolutely critical in a digital and highly interconnected world. Key challenges in the Canadian climate include intellectual property rights, copyright laws, trademarks, low R&D intensity, and underdeveloped venture capital markets.

Chad Gaffield Presentation

Education, Skills and Labour Policy for Growth

Education and resource experts examined the social and economic realities of education and the labour market in Canada. Increased investment and greater retention through policies that promote training, better skills-building and skills-utilization, life-long learning, and longer working lives were cited as critical in a Canadian context marked by over-qualification, population aging and low productivity. There was consensus that education and a competitive labour force require integrated and innovative approaches achieved through smarter partnerships, employer participation in policy formation, and intergovernmental and interdepartmental collaboration.

Mark Keese Presentation

Keynote Address

The world economy is shifting to the tune of emerging economies, powering the global financial recovery and the challenge of international cooperation is to strike harmony through opportunity. Canada needs to be attuned to these changes, and be prepared help grow and sustain more effective mechanisms of international cooperation across key policy areas. Read Kevin Lynch's keynote address, and Globe and Mail Op-Ed, on the role and evolution of the OECD amidst pervasive global change, below.

Kevin Lynch Remarks

Kevin Lynch Op-ed

Global Growth: Globalization, Engagement with Emerging Economies and the New International Architecture

The role and capacity of the OECD in international development and cooperation was discussed in light of an international architecture remodeled by rising emerging economies. Economic expansion and regional security, competition and foreign direct investment, and the resource and stability costs of corruption were all addressed. The OECD is faced with the challenge of broadening membership while at the same time ensuring that standards are maintained and not diluted. Nonetheless, there is power in collective action and participants noted that within the OECD there is room for different perspectives, solutions, and recommendations on the world's most pressing challenges.

Green Growth

In the context of the OECD's recently released Green Growth Strategy, experts were called to imagine new patterns of innovation in a frank and open dialogue on the gains and losses of greening economies. There is widespread acceptance that "green" is a core economic driver and that change must be market-driven. Improving resource management, reforming regulatory structures, and investing in emission-reduction initiatives were identified as policy options to boost productivity and overcome the costs of going green. Participants emphasized that private and public sector collaboration is critical to overcoming the challenges of clean-tech market entry and to maximizing Canada's strong export market potential.

Simon Upton Presentation

David McLaughlin Presentation

Sailesh Thaker Presentation

Economists Roundtable

The micro and macro economics of the current state of the Canadian economy were debated in the closing roundtable as discussants analyzed the day's recurring themes of productivity, competition, innovation, and demographic change. Canada's productivity problem, which has arisen despite relative macro-stability and a strong fiscal policy framework, is puzzling and in their attempts to explain this phenomenon participants highlighted the importance of studying microeconomic factors. OECD recommendations to make investments in innovation and productivity have not yielded the intended positive outcomes and participants counseled Canada should focus on productivity growth through economic policies supported by human and physical capital and innovation.

Conference Speakers Included:

His Excellency Angel Gurria, Secretary-General, OECD
The Honourable Donald Johnston, Former Secretary General of OECD
Barbara Stymiest, RBC, Group Head, Strategy, Treasury & Corporate Services
The Honourable Kevin Lynch, Vice Chair, BMO
The Honourable Michael Wilson, Former Ambassador to the United States
Simon Upton, Director, OECD Environment Directorate
Alistair Nolan, Senior Economist, Structural Policy Division, OECD
Keray Henke, Deputy Minister, Alberta Education
Mark Keese, Head of the OECD's Employment Analysis and Policies Division
Joseph Caron, UBC Institute of Asian Research, Former Ambassador of China
Jack Mintz, Professor of Public Policy, University of Calgary
John Helliwell, Co-director of the Social Interactions, Identity and Well-Being program of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research
Robert Ford, Deputy Director of Country Studies Branch, OECD
Michael Horgan, Deputy Minister, Finance Canada
Ian Shugart, Deputy Minister, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada
Chad Gaffield, President, Social Science and Humanities Research Council
Amit Chakma, President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Western Ontario
John Davies, Head of Competition Policy, OECD
Don Drummond, Matthews Fellow and Distinguished Visiting Scholar, Queen's University
Huguette Labelle, Chancellor, University of Ottawa
Paul-Henri Lapointe, Former Ambassador to the OECD
Judith Larocque, Canadian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the OECD
Velma McColl, Principal, Earnscliffe Strategy Group
David McLaughlin, President and CEO, National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy
Nobina Robinson, CEO, Polytechnics Canada
Sailesh Thaker, Vice-President, Sustainable Development Technology Canada


Thanks to our partners