Barack Obama remains enthusiastic about Canada’s future

Published: September 30, 2017

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Luke Jones



Former U.S. President Barack Obama was in Toronto for Prince Harry’s Invictus Games on Friday, where he spoke about Canada’s prospects in the future. The retired politician showed he still has the gift to inspire a crowd, at least one with a liberal leaning.

In an obvious nod to current President, Donald Trump, Obama said restricting and closing borders is not the way forward as industries are being transformed by automation and connectivity. Speaking at a luncheon in Toronto, Obama said advancements are now happening faster. He pointed out the shift from agriculture to industry took 150 years, but the technological revolution is happening and will take just 20 years to transition.

Obama warned work in a traditional sense will dry up as technology takes over, so governments will have to adapt.

"You'll still see auto companies doing pretty well and you'll see us manufacturing the goods that we use in the United States or Canada, but you'll walk through those factories and they'll be empty because they'll be run by robots and AI," Obama said.

"The biggest challenge that we face in terms of maintaining good manufacturing jobs in our countries come from automation, and that is going to accelerate."

Not discussing Trump directly, Obama said closing off borders is missing the point. Trump has had an uneasy relationship with Canada since taking office earlier this year. He has ended the Trans-Pacific Partnership and described the North American Free Trade Agreement the worst trade agreement in the world.

"The policies we have now can build a runway so that over the next 20 years people are not so angry, so fearful and so stressed that we end up resorting to policies that are not going to be good for anybody," Obama said.