Canada not ready for ‘Asian Century’

Many expect Asia — and especially China — to be the world’s economic sweet spot in the 21st Century. Yet Canada is ill-prepared to take advantage of the resulting opportunities, says a member of a task force that analyzed this country’s readiness for the “Asian century.”

Many expect Asia — and especially China — to be the world’s economic sweet spot in the 21st Century. Yet Canada is ill-prepared to take advantage of the resulting opportunities, says a member of a task force that analyzed this country’s readiness for the “Asian century.”

Victor Rabinovitch was among a group of Asian experts who shared their insights at a forum at Red Deer College on Thursday. A professor in Queen’s University’s school of policy studies, he recently served on an Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada task force that considered whether Canadians have the skills, knowledge and capabilities to engage productively with Asian countries.

The task force’s findings are scheduled for release on Nov. 5, but Rabinovitch offered a sneak peak at the Red Deer event, which was organized by Central Alberta: Access Prosperity, Red Deer College and the government of Alberta.

“Our main finding is that Canada has islands of innovation and creativity, but we’re a long way from a serious commitment to being better informed, more experienced and more capable of engaging with Asia,” said Rabinovitch. “There’s a long way to go.”

In several of Canada’s biggest urban centres, the task force found school systems’ language and awareness training related to China to be “scattered and disconnected,” he said. This extended to universities, where there is a lack of funding and focus.

The exception is Edmonton, said Rabinovitch, where schools have a co-ordinated and long-term approach to language and cultural training. The University of Alberta even provides credits to students who have completed language immersion courses in high school.

Rabinovitch also praised Alberta for its recent creation of an Asia Advisory Council, whose mandate is to provide advice and recommendations to the minister of international and intergovernmental relations.

“Alberta really is ahead of the pack in thinking, talking and teaching about issues of Asia competence, and particularly in talking about language skills and engagement with China.”

But global competition for the Asian pie will be stiff. Rabinovitch described how Australia, New Zealand, the United States and European counties are aggressively positioning their populations to take advantage of the opportunities there.

He pointed out that the number of Canadian students and teachers who study or work abroad is indicative of how Canada is lagging behind its counterparts.

“We’re aware of how, amongst post-secondary students in Canada, only three per cent — only three out of 100 — are currently taking up study-abroad, work-abroad opportunities.

“Australia has double that percentage; Germany is at 30 per cent and is targeting 50 per cent of post-secondary students doing study or work abroad.”

In the United States, he noted, a “100,000 Strong” initiative was launched in 2010 with a goal of sending 100,000 Americans to study in China by 2014.

Rabinovitch also took part in a panel discussion moderated by International and Intergovernmental Relations Minister Cal Dallas. The other members were Teresa Woo-Paw, associate minister of International and Intergovernmental Relations and chair of Alberta’s Asia Advisory Council; Gordon Houlden, director of the China Institute at the University of Alberta; and Margaret Cornish, Bennett Jones Commercial Consulting’s Beijing-based senior advisor for China.

Woo-Paw said a balanced approach is needed to prepare Canada for the Asian century, including public policies dedicated to developing the necessary competencies. She added that Alberta has much to offer China, and other countries.

“We have five heritage sites that the world wants to experience, we have agriculture, forestry, and know-how and advanced technology.”

Cornish said the issue may be whether Canada has the will to transform itself into an Asia-ready country.

“We conceive of ourselves as an Atlantic nation and a continental-linked nation, so turning to Asia is an exceedingly difficult task. It’s a transformation in our identity.”

Houlden agreed that Canada’s economy has a north-south orientation, with some focus on the Atlantic as well. But it’s an economic necessity that this change, he said.

“It’s not a question of should we or should we not engage in Asia; if we want to maintain our prosperity we have no choice. It’s simple reality.”

A second panel discussion featured Tom Walter, vice-chair of the Asia Advisory Council; Peter Sutherland, president of the Canada-India Business Council; Robert Francis, president and CEO of Agriteam Canada; and John Zahary, president and CEO of Sunshine Oilsands. It was moderated by Cornish.

Just Posted

Sylvan Lake council adopts waterfront plan

Sustainable Waterfront Area Redevelopment Plan to guide development for next 20 years

Two people die in Rocky-area collision

Rocky Mountain House RCMP investigate

RDC launches week of activities focusing on student mental health

Learners invited to join the discussion at #MakeSomeTimeRDC

Husky Energy walks away from its hostile takeover bid for MEG Energy

CALGARY — Husky Energy Inc. is walking away from its hostile takeover… Continue reading

Trudeau says politicians shouldn’t prey on Canadians’ fears

The Prime Minister was speaking at a townhall in Ontario

Teen vaping is an epidemic: US government

E-cigarettes are now the top high-risk substance used by teenagers, outpacing cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana

‘I never said there was no collusion,’ Trump lawyer says

President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani says he has ‘never said there was no collusion’

Body of Canadian miner found after African kidnapping

Kirk Woodman’s body was discovered 100 kilometres from the site where he worked for Progress Mineral Mining Company in Burkina Faso

Canada’s Conners on his way to full PGA Tour card with fast start to 2019 season

Corey Conners was working on his putting last Friday when fellow Canadian… Continue reading

Canada’s Milos Raonic, Denis Shapovalov advance at Australian Open

MELBOURNE, Australia — Canada’s Milos Raonic and Denis Shapovalov have advanced to… Continue reading

Study finds more than half of food produced in Canada wasted

The study released Thursday is the world’s first to measure food waste using data from industry and other sources instead of estimates

AP Exclusive: A peek at how Disney resort shows are made

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — With excitement building over a new “Star… Continue reading

Justin Bieber’s ‘Steps to Stardom’ hometown exhibit makes plans for a book

STRATFORD, Ont. — Justin Bieber’s meteoric rise to pop stardom will be… Continue reading

Most Read