Capital Context – “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”
By Sueling Ching
ttawa business and community leaders are taking the immortal words of Winston Churchill to heart as we contemplate the post-pandemic future. We have had the unique opportunity to do things we never thought we could do. Creating solutions in this new reality opens the door to accelerating our economic growth plans, as well as our vision to be the best capital city in the world.
The key will be to leverage the lessons we have learned and to grow in the right way.
Ottawa has all the elements of success at our fingertips. We are the heart of Canada’s government with a robust international culture. We enjoy big city amenities and a strong sense of community. Our economy is diverse, ranging from leading edge tech to a thriving music, film, and festival industry. We can find flourishing, unique, closely knit neighborhoods or miles of green space to connect with nature. Our highly ranked universities and colleges are filled with energetic young people with many different backgrounds who will ensure a dynamic future thinking community. And we are a city filled with dedicated, future thinking and passionate business and community leaders.
We are primed to build on the lessons we have learned during the pandemic to build back better from every perspective.
COLLABORATION. In March 2020, our local and international leaders were all in the same boat, uncertain about the best path to mitigate the threat of COVID-19 and minimize the economic and social impact of our countermeasures. New information and opinions were revealed daily and there were more competing and urgent priorities than we have known in recent history. In Ottawa, we immediately banded together, exercising radical communication and collaboration among our community leaders and throughout our networks at the provincial, federal, and international level. There is a stated desire to maintain this collaboration as we work together for the future of our city and our country. This is our competitive edge.
INNOVATION. We have witnessed more creativity, more willingness to fail, more adaptation in the last twenty months then we may have known in the last twenty years. Digitization has grown ten-fold and we have without question demonstrated our ability to be nimble, prioritizing progress over perfection. The pace and scope of change will continue to accelerate, and our ability to respond is an attribute that Ottawa business leaders and decision makers will continue to build upon. We have proven we can be efficient with our time and energy, taking care of business while reserving thought leadership for big picture issues with long range impacts.
GLOBALIZATION. It is human nature to become myopic, especially when things are going well and have been for some time. One local leader recently said that the great thing about Ottawa is that we have no burning platform. And the bad thing about Ottawa is, also, that we have no burning platform. Ottawa has enjoyed many years of growth with relative ease. However, we now see that what has worked so well before may not always be there in the future. Global events very quickly and deeply disrupted all of our lives, and revealed many fault lines in our businesses, our communities, and our governments. Policy decisions immediately changed every aspect of our businesses, impacting supply chains and market access. As a result of these experiences, we will not forget that we are all connected, within our communities and around the world.
WELLNESS. We already knew that mental well-being and public health were the foundation of our society. And we already knew that a lack of wellness costs us dearly in primary care, productivity, and creativity. But we now know that it can shut down our entire society with the flick of a switch. And more importantly that sustained economic hardship, uncertainty, and lack of access to basic support leads to diminished health. It is a vicious circle. The health impact of our pandemic counter-measures will be unknown and far reaching for some time to come. Businesses, governments, and institutions around the world must integrate the wellness lens into every decision-making process moving forward. Ottawa’s world-renowned health care leaders will certainly be a part of those key conversations.
The big three. Environment, equality, economy. A recent Ottawa survey of business leaders and citizens revealed a strong desire to urgently address the biggest issues facing us today. In fairness, these issues have been facing us for a long time. However, the pandemic has further highlighted the action gap; the space between what needs to be done and what is actually happening. More importantly, we now know what can be done if we prioritize and work together.
Governments alone cannot achieve our goals. They can create the conditions by which every business and citizen can engage and contribute to environmental sustainability, diversity and inclusion and a thriving economy. Ottawa has a role, responsibility and opportunity as the Capital of Canada to set an example and play a leadership role on the most important issues of our time.
Come to Ottawa. Canada in One City. The future is here.