Lag in living standards has 'unhealthy' implications, says public policy expert

Mon, Jan 8, 2024

The majority of Canadians share a bleak view of living standards, and that has far-reaching effects, says a public policy expert.

“The economic, social, and political implications of this are unhealthy to put it mildly. Without a sense of optimism about the future, there is a strong likelihood that our society will become more polarized and susceptible to illiberal appeals from the right and the left,” says Dr. Don Wright, who will speak at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) on Jan. 15.

Wright will be in conversation with Dr. Alan Davis at the next President’s Dialogue Series public event, “How Do You Win the World Cup? Thoughts on the Stagnation of Canadian Living Standards and the Implications for Post-Secondary Education.”

“It is frequently argued that post-secondary education has a critical role in turning this around. I agree, but I will argue that what I call the ‘dominant narrative’ is somewhat off the mark, and that the post-secondary system is going to come under significant pressure to change its focus," says Wright.

Wright, who previously served as deputy minister to the B.C. premier, notes the “Canadian Dream” — that each generation’s children would enjoy a higher standard of living — appears to have evaporated, pointing to a 2023 survey from Nanos Research that found approximately two in three Canadians believe the next generation will have a lower standard of living than they have today. That’s an all-time high since tracking first started in 2012.

The President’s Dialogue Series is an initiative started by KPU President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Alan Davis. The series welcomes speakers to KPU who are leaders in the private and public sectors, both locally and globally.

A shopper scans prices while grocery shopping.
PHOTO: Canadians are watching costs continue to rise. Dr. Don Wright says a stagnation of living standards in Canada will have a wide impact.

Davis says Wright offers a timely perspective on the future of higher learning.

“Don Wright’s experience in sectors beyond academia offers us a unique view of education in B.C. and beyond. This dialogue will continue to advance important discussions around the role our post-secondary institutions play in society,” says Davis.

Wright’s career has spanned academic, government, and private sectors. He has served in various public service positions with the B.C. and Saskatchewan governments, and is a former president and CEO of Central 1 Credit Union. From 2008 to 2013, Wright was president of the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT). Today Wright has taken up roles as a Fellow with the Public Policy Forum, a Senior Fellow with the C.D. Howe Institute, and Senior Counsel with Global Public Affairs.

Wright holds a master’s degree in economics from the University of British Columbia, and a PhD in economics from Harvard University.

The President’s Dialogue with Dr. Don Wright is Monday, Jan. 15, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Cedar Conference Centre at KPU Surrey, 12666 72 Ave. The event is free and open to the public. Guests are asked to register in advance.