Resilience Through Innovation

From the Editor / Lisa Van Dusen

Welcome to our fourth annual Policy-Rideau Hall Foundation Innovation Issue. Due to the health and economic crisis that informs the theme of this issue, Resilience Through Innovation, we were delayed from spring to late fall this year. In the spirit of innovation, we used that delay to focus on the invaluable lessons learned during the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On behalf of everyone at Policy and at the RHF, we extend our heartfelt condolences to all who have lost loved ones and face greater economic insecurity as a result of COVID-19. With those lives in mind, we’ve emphasized adaptation lessons and solutions that will help Canada and the world move forward. We thank the entire RHF team, including President and CEO Teresa Marques, Director of Innovation and Skills Amy Mifflin-Sills and Manager of Innovation Mila Pavlovic for their professionalism and collegiality. The RHF—an independent, apolitical charitable organization established to mobilize ideas, people and resources across Canada to spotlight and reward innovation—is part of the legacy of former Governor General David Johnston. 

We open this year with the former GG’s own piece, Canadians Need to Keep Making Noise, about how Canada’s culture of innovation responded to the unprecedented challenge of COVID-19. RHF president Teresa Marques has a personal paean to our national resilience, Redefining Community in a Time of Crisis. From the political and policy front line of the fight against COVID, Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains, who contributes to every Innovation Issue, filed Canada’s COVID Response: Necessity as the Driver of Innovation, on how the government of Canada responded to the crisis, and how Canadian companies contributed to one of the largest re-tooling and procurement projects in Canadian history. 

A popular feature of every Policy-RHF Innovation Issue, our profiles of the annual Governor General’s Innovation Award winners are compiled again this year by Jacqueline Milczarek. They always offer an early glimpse into the visionaries you’ll soon be reading about in the business headlines. In When the World Shut Down, Our Universities Reached Out, Universities Canada CEO Paul Davidson explains how Canada’s post-secondary institutions have responded to an unprecedented challenge. And Dalhousie University’s Lori Turnbull reports from the front lines of that challenge in The Pandemic Innovation Test for Universities.

At CN, one of Canada’s premier legacy companies, adaptation has meant leveraging data and accelerating digitization. In Supporting Canada’s Supply Chains by Investing in Innovation, CN President and CEO Jean-Jacques Ruest describes that process. At Shopify, Canada’s leading digital economy company, the lockdown has driven home a reality: the future is now. Shopify’s head of government relations, Clark Rabbior, offers the must-read 2030 Today: COVID and the Online Economy. 

From Chair of the McGill Centre for the Convergence of Health and Economics Laurette Dubé, whose deep expertise on the interdependence of public health and economics is suddenly in great demand, and colleague Gillian Bartlett, we have Primary Care as the Nexus of Post-COVID Health and Economic Convergence. Let’s Talk Science founder and Royal Society of Canada fellow Bonnie Schmidt, filed the excellent anatomy of adaptation, Innovating Through Crisis. Also in dispatches from the front of innovation and resilience, Michel Bergeron, chief strategy officer at Business Development Bank of Canada, provides A Case Study in Crisis Response—a window on the human element behind the $2.5 billion in COVID loans that helped save thousands of Canadian businesses.

From our friends at Historica Canada, Anthony Wilson-Smith and Bronwyn Graves, The Infinite Dance of History and Innovation, a look behind the latest Heritage Minute as well as their new collaboration with the RHF, the documentary series Inspiring Innovators. In How to Regulate Big Tech Without Stifling Innovation, former BMO Vice Chair and Privy Council Clerk Kevin Lynch and former BMO and CN executive Paul Deegan examine how the FAANGs have fared during the pandemic. While the economic impact of the pandemic has further culled print newspapers, demand for news and information has boomed. Former Le Soleil editorialist Pierre Asselin reports on that confluence of factors in Opportunity in Crisis: How a Spike in News Demand is Redoubling Media Innovation.

Finally, in our book reviews section, Anthony Wilson-Smith has a rave review of the new book from Peter Mansbridge, Extraordinary Canadians: Stories from the Heart of Our Nation, and James Baxter looks at Whom Fortune Favours: The Bank of Montreal and the Rise of North American Finance by Lawrence B. Mussio.

Enjoy the issue.