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Oct 20, 2011

Mowat Centre Study Provides Vision for a New Economic Era in Great Lakes Region

October 20, 2011

A Mowat paper makes the case that greater cross-border collaboration is critical to the region’s continued prosperity and sustainability.

Toronto – New research from the Mowat Centre at the University of Toronto provides a blueprint for greater cross-border collaboration in the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence Region. The paper, The Vital Commons: A Policy Agenda for the Great Lakes Century, makes the case that greater cross-border collaboration is critical to the region’s continued prosperity and sustainability.

The region spans eight states and two provinces. They are each other’s biggest trading partners, with highly integrated supply chains, and are the stewards of 84 per cent of North America’s water supply and 21 per cent of the world’s freshwater stores.

The region is well placed to succeed in the 21st century provided we must more consistently apply a cross-border regional lens to the issues we face,” says Matthew Mendelsohn, Director of the Mowat Centre. “We must not only address issues locally or nationally – but also regionally.”

The conventional narrative about the region has been of a “rust belt” and the decline of heavy industry. However, the report notes that the 20th century generated the wealth and infrastructure on which a new economy is being built.

“The region possesses 20 of the world’s top 100 universities, over 30 per cent of North America’s big corporate head offices, 39 per cent of North America’s exports, many world leading clusters in emerging sectors, and a healthy ecosystem,. These are being deployed to create a new 21st century prosperity,” says Mendelsohn.

More mature cross-border collaboration is essential if the region is to achieve its potential. The study proposes the creation of the Great Lakes Partnership Council, an organization driven by civic leaders from all sectors on both sides of the border. According to Josh Hjartarson, Policy Director at the Mowat Centre, “the council would be the region’s convenor, connector, and organizer.”

The study also identifies some of the top tangible priority initiatives for the region, including a permanent and independent joint cross-border regulatory commission, a regional transportation strategy, intensification of work on water technology, a one-stop information portal to help small and medium enterprises navigate the border and different regulatory environments, and bi-national conservation areas and a peace park on the Great Lakes.

The recommendations reflect a wide consensus among 250 leaders from government, business, labour, and civil society from both Canada and the US who attended a Summit co-hosted by the Mowat Centre and Brookings Institution (Washington, DC) in Windsor and Detroit in June 2011.

Read the full report