Canadian See Big Gains but Fear Side Effects (of Globalization)

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"TEXT 1773.","Canadian Speeches: Volume 15, #01, March/April 2001.","GAURI SREENIVASAN."," Co-ordinator, Policy, Canadian Council for International Cooperation.","Canadians see big gains but fear side effects.","Globalization. Free trade and protection. Trade, international.","Canadians are said to recognize the benefits of globalization but are leary about some of its side effects. More effective government measures to ensure corporate accountability are called for. Presentation to the FAIT committee, Ottawa, June 13, 2000. Edited for publication."," I'm here on behalf of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation, which is an umbrella group representing over 100 of Canada's development NGOs ...

Last year CCIC and its members held over 30 public forums in different regions of Canada. Each forum allowed citizens from an explicit cross-section of society -- business people, youth, teachers, students -- to exchange views on globalization.

Unlike the polarized debates that dominate public discussion on many issues, these forums provided a chance to test ideas and consider some of the grey areas. By working through choices and trade-offs associated with different aspects of globalization, ordinary people can clarify for themselves what is most important to them and then may find common ground from which alternative policy directions can develop.

We surveyed people's views before and after these forums. Given the process of reflection that people went through, in our view the post-forum questionnaire results represent a much more considered opinion by Canadians than might be obtained from a one-time pool with regard to globalization.

It's certainly not representative, as it was just done in a number of regions and only 30 of them were done. But let me provide a thumbnail sketch of our findings regarding this sampling of Canadians' views, hopes, and concerns about globalization.

First, citizens did recognize that globalization is having a major impact on Canadians and on people around the world, and although they recognize the benefits of globalization, they expressed concerns about the directions it has taken. In particular they were disturbed by the gap between the rich and the poor and by many impacts of globalization on local economies and communities. There was a very strong sense that change is needed, that Canadians and Canada cannot sleepwalk through the process of globalization but should work to ensure that globalization proceeds in a way that reflects Canadian values of fairness and equality.

Many participants recognize the value of competition in encouraging innovation and excellence, but worry that the rules of the game may not be fair. Most of them fear that the relentless growth of businesses may increasingly reduce true competition. Participants feel that businesses, governments and individuals must be more accountable.

People do not accept the fact that the government is powerless in the face of globalization. Many support the idea that Canada should play a leadership role at the international level to make globalization more fair and to reduce negative effects.

Participants subscribed to the idea of a fairer world economy, but had a hard time imagining what that would look like. A number of them could not see how we might solve the problem of imbalance between research and power.

I think we are challenged then as government, parliamentarians, and NGOs to ensure that Canadian policies and practices keep pace with these values and concerns of Canadians. …