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Ken Coates

Leading Thinker on Canada's Future & Canada Research Chair in Regional Innovation

Ken Coates is a rare public commentator who brings deep understanding of past and present realities together with compelling ideas about Canada’s future. His passionate and highly engaging talks have captivated diverse audiences across the country, from college administrators and economic development officers to Aboriginal entrepreneurs and community activists. Ken is Canada’s Research Chair in Regional Innovation and brings his experience in East Asia and around the Circumpolar world to bear on his understanding of Canada’s strengths and weaknesses. Ken combines irreverence, insight and a sense of humour in his conversations about the issues that matter most to Canadians.

Saskatoon, SK, Canada


Canada in 2050
In recent years, the combination of climate change, declining natural resource prices and demand, and a slow collapse of manufacturing has forced Canada to consider a very different future.  The rapid advance of technological change, immigration and the uneven effects of globalization have affected all Canadians and reshaped the national economy.  Looking ahead to the world that our children and grandchild stand to inherit raises important questions about personal and collective choices.  The future, after all, is what we make it!

Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples
The transformations of the past decade, including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to major decisions by the Supreme Court of Canada, has forced all Canadians to contemplate the future of Indigenous peoples within Canada.  While much is made of protests, poverty, and conflict — all of which are real and important — the reality is that Aboriginal people in Canada have become increasingly active in business, partners in resource development, and collaborators at the community-level.  While the current situation is far from ideal, the reality is that Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians are finding creative and important ways to come together.

Few people, looking forward from the year 1990, would have contemplated such developments as social media, media convergence, remote surgery and autonomous vehicles.  And this is only the early stages of a technological revolution that has the potential to transform profoundly our daily lives, the world of work, and all of other aspects of life.  Understanding the technology that is available today, and the exciting and quirky technologies currently under development, is essential to preparing properly for the new world that is approaching.

Rural Futures
Over the past few decades, rural and small town Canada have faced immense strains. Migration of young people to the cities, changes in agriculture, mining and manufacturing have undermined local economies.  But rural Canada will not go quietly, but instead is determined to preserve its special place within Canada well into the 21st century.  Defining the lifestyles and economic prospects of rural and small town Canada requires creativity, community spirit and a full understanding of the challenges and opportunities that lie before us all.

Platform Plus

Keynote or Workshop | Making Science and Technology Work for Society
The current scientific and technological revolution is one of the most remarkable in human history. There are worrying signs, however, that digital technologies will undermine or replace a great deal of human labour, without alternatives in place. How do we make sure that the age of innovation works for society at large and makes major contributions to improving the quality of life?


CCAB | Award for Excellence in Aboriginal Relations

  • Without the assistance of a crystal ball, the gems of future insights contained within Ken Coates’ talks, speeches, addresses, presentations and messages are the next best thing. Never sugar coated, they are salient, relevant, inspirational and just plain make you think which motivates one to get off their butt. Having a background in Aboriginal issues combined with a unique world view gives Ken the ability to make an audience take notice so one can hear a pin drop for what lies ahead in our near future!

    - Executive Director, Canadian Association of Native Development Officers
  • Easy speaker to work with, very friendly and personable, did not require “many touches” as some speakers do. The presentation was extremely engaging and on point for both the audience and the conference theme. The audience response was overwhelmingly positive, they have asked for access to the video of the plenary, powerpoint and told me how amazing the presentation was. I can’t say enough favorable things about him, exactly what I was hoping for!

    - Director, Construction Center of Excellence in Washington Stare
  • Ken’s engaging delivery style and insightful content has continued to receive rave reviews from those in attendance. Thank you Ken for your high energy, humorous and inspirational address – and for making our conference a great success.

    - Co-Chair, CIRPA Conference
  • Another thought-provoking talk specific to education. Great to hear varying perspectives

    - Attendee, Colleges Ontario 2013 Conference
  • He was deftly able to connect many issues that concern our community of learning providers, and to provide encouragement for our audience. He spoke seemingly off-the-cuff, but it was evident that he had prepared his thoughts well.

    - CEO, Polytechnics Canada
  • Very insightful presentation with a dash of humour... I have heard nothing but great comments on your presentation…I will be recommending it to my friends who have young adults considering post-secondary education.

    - Coordinator RPL, SIAST Woodland Campus

Summary Profile

Career paranoia, Aboriginal rights, technological innovations and the natural resource economy are the forces that Ken Coates thinks are transforming Canada. These are troubled times, in some quarters, as young adults struggle to find opportunities and as digital innovations chip away at this country’s most secure jobs. At the same time, scientific discoveries are shaking the foundations of modern life, just as natural resource developments sustain Canada’s high standard of living. Ken is Canada Research Chair in Regional Innovation at the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Saskatchewan campus.

Ken appears regularly on various media platforms and is a prolific writer. Two of his books, Campus Confidential and What to Consider When You Are Considering University, generated a great amount of discussion on the role of Canadian post-secondary education. 

His 2015 book #IdleNoMore: And the Remaking of Canada, offers an optimistic view on the opportunity for real improvements in the lives of First Nations, Inuit and Metis people. His 2016 release Dream Factories: Why Universities Won’t Solve the Youth Jobs Crisis argues that the over-promotion of higher education and university degrees is actually undermining the lives of young people, saddling them with enormous debts, and costing governments huge amounts of money.

He has served in various academic capacities over his career including: Founding Vice-President (Academic) at the University of Northern British Columbia ; Dean, College of Arts and Science, University of Saskatchewan; Dean, Faculty of Arts, University of New Brunswick and Dean, Faculty of Arts, University of Waterloo. Ken is a high-energy speaker and does a great job of keeping audience members engaged and entertained. He encourages questions and thoroughly enjoys conversations during or after events.

@Uber_Support I am desperate to speak to a human being. We are having repeated fraudulent use of our Uber account.… https://t.co/3pMS7haIqW (2018-12-09 08:19:09)
@Uber_Support Is it possible to speak to a human being? Our accounts have been compromised. Someone has run up ove… https://t.co/d8uGdrKmZ2 (2018-12-02 09:11:54)
RT @danagould: Congrats to Corey Lewandowski on the five second clip that will define his life. https://t.co/RXZXXohPvv (2018-06-21 02:53:09)