Former minister of defense, foreign affairs and justice Peter MacKay was the keynote speaker at the CanaData West construction forecast conference held October 27 in Vancouver.
MacKay began by saying the relationship between the United States and Canada, ever since the War of 1812, has been to fight on the same side. He said he is concerned when he sees organizations like ISIS spreading their ideology, but that it points to the necessity of working together with like-minded states.
Mackay pointed to Russia as an example of a country that once worked with the West but are now pursuing their own ends in Syria and elsewhere. He said that many states, Canada amongst them, are aware of the threat that Russia could pose at present and in future.
Politics in the U.S., MacKay said, is as divisive as it has ever been, and has devolved into a shouting match.
"I never thought I'd see the United States, the bastion of democracy, so paralyzed by its own system," MacKay said.
From a Canadian perspective, the good news is that the U.S. has a system with effective checks on its executive. Decisions like building a wall or pulling out of free trade aren't possible to enact through the will of one leader.
MacKay also addressed the CEDA trade treaty between Canada and the European Union. He said the conflict over the treaty speaks to the inability of the EU to "get its act together" given the ancestral ties between Canada and Europe and the security and stability of the Canadian market. MacKay even said it would be to Britain's advantage to join the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
MacKay also said that liquified natural gas (LNG) from Canada is a force not only for prosperity but stabilization. Canadian LNG leaving the east coast could be a counterbalance to Russia's chokehold on European gas supply, as well as supplying Asian needs.
"And what's happening in Fort McMurray is dire. If we don't move, we'll be left behind," he said.
Mackay also called out high business taxes as an impediment to further growth, as is massive government deficits.
"You can't spend that kind of money and not account for the impacts," he added.
MacKay said that while Canada does its part regarding the environment, other countries have to do more than pay lip service to the environment and do they're part.
Greater investment in infrastructure is needed across the country, MacKay said, and initiatives of this size don't happen quickly no matter how much money is spent. Incentives are needed at a grass roots level for infrastructure upgrades to succeed.
The construction industry is a big part of the solution, MacKay said.
"We need to build this country in a way that includes everyone. You don't do that by punishing one sector or throwing money at a problem," he said.
MacKay said that it's important to reach consensus, and that the current prime minister is doing that, but "people look to Canada for leadership. We've never invaded another country, or gone anywhere without the hope of leaving it better when we leave."