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Archived — Canada in the 21st Century: Paper Number 6: Looking to the 21st Century -- Infrastructure Investments for Economic Growth and for the Welfare and Well-Being of Canadians

by Christian DeBresson, Université du Québec à Montréal, and Stéphanie Barker, Université de Montréal, under contract with Industry Canada, 1998


This paper proposes infrastructure investments in the following areas:

  • Preschool education.
  • Experimental programs of excellence to reduce the high-school drop-out rate.
  • Two institutes for teaching modern foreign languages.
  • Research into possible Internet applications, particularly the evaluation of possible interactivity.
  • Development of technology monitoring networks.
  • Development of local forums to evaluate technology.
  • Gradual replacement of fossil fuels by electricity in urban and inter-city transportation, recycling and water clean-up.
  • Overhaul of infrastructure in city centres and neighbourhoods.
  • Relational investment aimed at reducing transaction costs between partners in these infrastructure projects.

Given public sector deficits, these investments must be financed by the private sector. Any additional public borrowing would only serve to increase our vulnerability to financial crises. As in the 19th Century, the three levels of government must promote and support public-private partnerships for such projects, and must first involve potential users. The subsidiarity principle must guide the management of these infrastructure initiatives.

Infrastructure choices focus on four goals:

  1. Increase our participation in the knowledge-based economy.
  2. Establish and maintain a climate of trust.
  3. Improve the quality of life and the environment.
  4. Reposition Canada within the world economy.

Ten major irreversible trends dictate the choice of those objectives:

  • The increasing dominance of the knowledge-based economy.
  • The search for well-being as the driving force within our economies.
  • Asia as the new centre of the global economy and economic growth.
  • The worsening environmental crisis.
  • The gradual replacement of competitive zero-sum games with emulative, positive-sum games.
  • The increasingly heavy transaction costs imposed by the innovation economy — which can be reduced only through mutual trust between players.
  • The downsizing of all forms of organizations, including governments.
  • The accelerating pace of technological change.
  • Globalization, which proceeds in tandem with the revived role of large urban agglomerations.
  • The dominance of the volatile international financial sector.

Canada's position is evaluated in light of each one of these trends. We develop extreme scenarios, analyse their interactions, and project the reactions of the various actors. This makes it possible to define more precisely the critical points as well as the relevant means of action. The paper pays special attention to the revival of various types of communities, particularly those based on mutual trust between their members.

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