Prize-winning author says Canada must fix ‘horrific’ approach to innovation

In 2021 The Writers’ Trust of Canada established a new literary award for nonfiction authors contributing to policy debates in this country: the Balsillie Prize for Public Policy.

The $60,000 prize is to be awarded each year for a book of nonfiction that “advances and influences policy debates on a wide range of social, political, economic or cultural topics relevant to Canadians.”

Dan Breznitz is the inaugural prize winner. The University of Toronto political science professor took the top honors for his book Innovation in Real Places: Strategies for Prosperity in an Unforgiving World.

“I basically argue in the book that there are multiple ways in which to reach innovation-based local prosperity,” Breznitz told IDEAS host Nahlah Ayed, “most of them are not even talked about because we live in a myth about a world in which there’s only one way in which to reach innovation-based prosperity.”

Breznitz is the Munk Chair of Innovation Studies and co-director of the Innovation Policy Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto. He’s also co-director and fellow with CIFAR, the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research’s program on Innovation, Equity and the Future of Prosperity.

In his book, he argues that innovation is too often confused with invention. Invention is coming up with the idea and even patenting it, while “innovation is what happens when I take those ideas and update them in the economy,” says Breznitz. It’s about every stage in the supply chain after invention — from production to distribution. These other stages are more important than invention, he argues.

Compared to other countries, Breznitz calls Canada “horrific” when it comes to innovation and he says it’s taking a toll on future generations.

“The last time that a Canadian parent could hope that their children would have a significantly better quality of life was 46 years ago,” he asserts.

“I’m looking at my children and I say if Canada is continuing that way they will have a quality of life which is probably lower than mine — and that’s not something I wish on my children.”

In this episode Nahlah Ayed speaks with Dan Breznitz and the three other finalists for the Balsillie Prize for Public Policy.

Guests in this episode:

Dan Breznitz is the Munk Chair of Innovation Studies and co-director of the Innovation Policy Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto and the author of Innovation in Real Places: Strategies for Prosperity in an Unforgiving World.

Gregor Craigie is a CBC reporter, producer and host in Victoria. He’s also the author of On Borrowed Time: North America’s Next Big Quake.

Jody Wilson-Raybould is the former Justice Minister and Attorney General of Canada. Her memoir de ella is called Indian in the Cabinet: Speaking Truth to Power.

Andre Picard is a health reporter and columnist with the Globe and Mail. His 2021 book is called Neglected No More: The Urgent Need to Improve the Lives of Canada’s Elders in the Wake of a Pandemic.


*This episode was produced by Kristin Nelson.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.