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Stewart Elgie, who teaches law and economics at the U of O, is the brain behind the Smart Prosperity Initiative. Photo: Courtesy of the University of Ottawa.

Smart Prosperity Initiative working towards more sustainable Canadian economy

A project by Stewart Elgie, professor of law and economics at the University of Ottawa, was recently selected as one of the Clean50 Top15 projects of 2017 for the Smart Prosperity Initiative.

According to their website, the Clean50 awards individuals and groups who have made a contribution towards “sustainable development and clean capitalism in Canada.”

Elgie, who is the director of the U of O’s interdisciplinary Institute of the Environment, worked alongside leaders from think-tanks, non-governmental organizations, and Indigenous groups to develop the Smart Prosperity Initiative.

“Smart Prosperity is an ambitious initiative to help put Canada on a path to clean growth. It is based on the belief that we can—and must—have both a healthy and environment and a strong economy; it is not an either-or choice,” Elgie told the Fulcrum.

“It sets out a 10-year vision for making Canada a global leader in clean growth, with specific goals and metrics, and a policy road map to get there—all grounded in world-class research, based out of the University of Ottawa.”

Elgie and his team spent three years on the project, and he believes that the project could not have been completed at a more ideal time, “as Canada’s government leaders are now making climate change and clean growth a national priority.”

“It seems like this initiative has struck a chord with Canadians. When we launched it in March, with the Prime Minister attending, we were amazed to see that it generated almost 600 media stories, and trended on Twitter!”

In addition to spearheading this initiative, Elgie is also the founder and chair of Sustainable Prosperity, a prominent Canadian green economy think-tank and research network.

Some of his past experience includes working at a public interest environmental law firm in Alaska, litigating the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Since then, Elgie has also founded Ecojustice, Canada’s largest non-profit environmental law organization.

Other notable leaders of the project include Lorraine Mitchelmore, former president of Shell, and Annette Verschuren, former president of the Home Depot’s Canada and Asia subsidiaries.

With the attention that his latest project has received, Elgie believes these issues are more relatable than ever to the U of O student community.

“This initiative could not be more relevant to students. It is about building the next generation of jobs, by positioning Canada to prosper in a changing global economy—one that increasingly will reward clean performance and innovation, across all sectors.”

Elgie remains hopeful about the future of his project, and sees its selection as part of the Clean50 Top15 to be a great accomplishment.

“I am very proud that Smart Prosperity received a Clean50 award as one of the most important new sustainability projects in Canada. But I’ll be even more excited when the changes we propose become a reality—when Canada succeeds in building a high-performance, low-pollution economy.”