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Regent Debate: Is Canada Facing an Existential Crisis in Competitiveness?

As the United States continues to roll out new tax and regulatory reforms, questions arise as to whether Canada will lag behind its southern neighbour. Low productivity and innovation rates, as well as declining private investment could dampen Canada’s appeal when attempting to attract investment. On the other hand, Canada is seen as economically stable, accessible and a safe harbour in choppy geopolitical waters.

Does Canada really have a competitiveness problem? Or are these stated concerns overblown?

Join our experts as they face-off on the critical proposition: Is Canada Facing an Existential Crisis in Competitiveness? The debate will be hosted at Toronto's National Club, with a special pre and post event wine reception. 

Member $125 | Guest $250

The Institute’s Regent Debate series has been made possible through a generous donation by Aaron and Heather Regent.

The Affirmative

Dwight Duncan, Former Liberal Minister of Finance, Ontario 

Dwight Duncan serves as a Senior Strategic Advisor at McMillan LLP, one of Canada’s largest and most respected full service law firms. At McMillan, Mr. Duncan is, or has been engaged, by some of Canada’s largest and most influential pension funds, private equity firms, insurers and gaming companies.

Mr. Duncan currently serves on the Board of Travelers Insurance Canada, The Dominion General Insurance Company, Crown Crest Trust, The Global Risk Institute, the MS Society of Canada Scientific Research Foundation, and is Chair of the Windsor Detroit Bridge Authority.

Prior to joining McMillan, Mr. Duncan had a distinguished career in public service that spanned close to 25 years.

During his time as a Member of the Ontario Legislature he served as Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance, Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Chair of Cabinet, Government House Leader, Minister of Energy, Minister of Revenue, Minister of Government Services and Opposition House Leader.

Duncan delivered six budgets and authored historic reforms to Ontario's tax, pension, insurance, and energy regimes.

Mr. Duncan played a leadership role in formulating the Province's response to the economic recession of 2008.

As Finance Minister he lowered corporate and personal taxes, eliminated the capital tax and created the harmonized sales tax (HST).

During his tenure the Government of Ontario invested record sums in infrastructure, healthcare and education to lay the foundation for improved productivity and a more prosperous economy.

Duncan oversaw a number of large commercial transactions on behalf of the Province. These included lease extensions with Teranet, the re-organization of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, Ontario's first P3 highway projects, including the RT. Hon. Herb Gray Parkway, and the financial restructuring of General Motors and Chrysler.

Mr. Duncan also had Ministerial responsibility for the Ontario Securities Commission, the Ontario Energy Board, Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, Hydro One, and Ontario Power Generation.

Prior to his election to the Legislature he served for 6 years as a municipal councillor in the City of Windsor and worked for eight years as the chief administrative officer at Brentwood, a highly regarded addiction treatment centre.

Mr. Duncan holds a Bachelor of Commerce (Hons) and MBA (University of Windsor) as well as a B.A. (Economics –McGill University).

Mr. Duncan has received a number of awards and distinctions including a honourary doctorate from the University of Windsor (2013) and recognition as one of Toronto’s 50 Most Influential People by Toronto Life Magazine (2012).

An avid cyclist and golfer, Duncan is a lifelong resident of Windsor Ontario and is the father of Sean, age 26.

Dwight is also a member of McMillan Vantage LP.

The Hon. Joe Oliver, Former Federal Conservative Minister of Finance

Joe is Chairman of Echelon Wealth Partners. He has served in various senior roles in government and the corporate sector. Joe served as the Member of Parliament for Eglinton-Lawrence,
Minister of Natural Resources, Minister Responsible for the Greater Toronto Area, and Minister of Finance where he delivered a socially and fiscally balanced budget. He also represented
Canada at G7, G20, IMF and World Bank meetings of Finance Ministers and Governors of Central Banks. During his private sector career, he held senior positions at Merrill Lynch Royal Securities,
Nesbitt Thomson, BMO Nesbitt and First Marathon Securities.

A graduate of McGill and Harvard Universities, Joe has been instrumental in spearheading organizations and policies in Ontario within the securities industry. Positions included founding
president and CEO of the Mutual Fund Dealers Association, past president and CEO of the Investment Dealers Association and initiated its division into a self-regulatory organization and
trade association (IIROC and IIAC). He also served as executive director of the Ontario Securities Commission.

The Negative

Brad Duguid, Former Liberal Minister of Economic Development and Growth, Ontario 

Brad Duguid has spent 23 years in public office, at the municipal and provincial levels. A gifted communicator, Brad has been applauded for his ability to bring people together, to build consensus and strengthen relationships. This skill has brought him success in all of his roles, as a City Councillor, a Member of Provincial Parliament, Cabinet Minister, and now in the private sector.

After 9 years as a Scarborough and Toronto City Councillor, Brad served as an MPP for 14 years.  Brad served in 7 different Cabinet posts including Economic Development; Energy; Infrastructure; Research and Innovation; Training, Colleges and Universities; Aboriginal Affairs, and Labour. As Minister of Economic Development and Growth, Brad led efforts to ensure Ontario is competitive in the new economy. Taking over this portfolio during the province's recovery from the recession, Brad's efforts have helped transform Ontario's economic development strategy to not only lead the country in growth today, but position Ontario to excel in the new economy.  Brad has been a champion of reducing regulatory burden on businesses and he led the national negotiations for the Canada Free Trade Agreement, the most ambitious free trade agreement in our history.

While Brad has always been a strong political leader, his true passion is, and always has been, sports. He is an avid fan of hockey, boxing, football, and UFC. He is an unabashed promoter of good health, and a promoter of a whole-food, plant-based diet.

Brad recently moved to the private sector where he is thrilled to be working with serial entrepreneur, John Risley and Clearwater Fine Foods Inc (CFFI), a holding company for numerous businesses in Canada and around the world.  Brad is serving as CFFI’s Vice President of Corporate Affairs

Janet Ecker, Former Progressive Conservative Minister of Finance, Ontario

Janet L. Ecker is the former President and CEO of the Toronto Financial Services Alliance (TFSA), a concept she turned into a growing and influential public-private partnership dedicated to building Toronto as an international financial services centre. With government and industry support, she also established the Global Risk Institute in Financial Services to leverage the sector’s global reputation for stability, as well as the Centre of Excellence in Financial Services Education to capitalize on the region’s talent advantages. The Centre was recognized by the World Economic Forum as a best practice in collaborative public-private partnerships.  

Under her leadership, TFSA led several other successful collaborations among governments and the financial sector, including Canada’s bid to become the North American trading hub for the Chinese currency, the Renminbi and the first public-private sector pilot projects in work-integrated-learning and cybersecurity.

Ms. Ecker was formerly the Minister of Finance for Ontario, Canada’s largest province, and was the first woman to deliver a budget in the province. During her political career, she also delivered significant public policy reforms as Minister of Education, Minister of Community and Social Services and Government House Leader. Before entering public life, Ms. Ecker was the Director of Policy for the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, the doctors’ regulatory body, the first non-physician to hold the position.

She currently sits on a wide range of public and private boards, agencies and government advisory committees and is a Senior Fellow of the C.D. Howe Institute and a member of its National Council.

In 2016 she received the Order of Canada for public service, in recognition of her contributions in the financial sector and in her political life.  A frequent public speaker and media commentator, she also received the “Excellence in Leadership” award from the Transformation Institute for Leadership and Innovation in 2014, a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for public service in 2012 and was recognized as one of the “Most Influential People in the World’s Financial Centres” by Financial Centres International in 2010.  She also received one of “Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award” from the Women’s Executive Network and the Richard Ivey School of Business in 2003.  Ms. Ecker is one of the founders of Equal Voice, a national, multi-partisan organization working to elect more women.