Canadian Consulting Engineer

First National Engineering Summit Looks At The Economic Crisis

The National Engineering Summit held at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal on May 19-21 was the first conference to be organized collectively by the major engineering organizations in Canada. Organ...

June 1, 2009   Canadian Consulting Engineer

The National Engineering Summit held at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal on May 19-21 was the first conference to be organized collectively by the major engineering organizations in Canada. Organizations involved were Engineers Canada (the umbrella for all the provincial licensing associations), ACEC (the Association of Canadian Engineering Companies), the Engineering Institute of Canada and the Canadian Academy of Engineering. From academia the sponsors were the National Council of Deans of Engineering and Applied Science, and the Canadian Federation of Engineering Students.

Conference chair Pat Quinn, P. Eng. of Engineers Canada launched out with the grand objective of plotting “a vision for the future to inspire future engineers.” Sessions over the two days reflected the conference’s broad framework, with tracks to identify how engineers should respond to societal changes in areas such as health, the environment, the economy, and safety and security.

In one of the opening presentations, Thomas d’Aquino, president of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, focused on the world’s economic crisis. He didn’t offer much comfort. The world has been going through periodic recessions for 800 years, he said, but this one is different because of the speed with which it happened and because it is worldwide –a result of globalization.

To say that the recession has badly undermined the financial system “is perhaps an understatement,” d’Aquino said. The high priests of finance had been “drinking the same Kool-Aid,” and he himself came to realize the limits of economic models and theories.

D’Aquino believes that the recession will take on a “U” shape, rather than a V, W or L shape, but he said, “the reality is no-one knows the answer about when this will end.” There is “just a dense fog of confusion.”

The most profound changes wrought by the crisis are threefold, d’Aquino said:

• it has weakened the U. S., Canada’s closest partner

• it has strengthened China; some now talk about the “G2”

• it has vastly empowered governments.

The Reagan-Thatcher economic model is in retreat for the first time since the fall of the Berlin Wall, d’Aquino said. What we will probably see in future is a modified form of entrepreneurial capitalism, “which is not a bad thing.”


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