Normally when I ask “where are we?” I am referring to our lack of military capability in our vast Arctic regions.
This time it’s an economic question.
Here are two very similar charts:
Both measure roughly the same thing: the world’s most competitive economies in 2019. The chart on the left is from the highly regarded International Institute for Management Development’s IMD World Competitiveness Centre. The one on the right is from the prestigious World Economic Forum. The “news” from both was that Singapore had displaced the USA as the world’s most competitive economy. But that wasn’t what caught my eye. I noticed that on both lists we find Denmark, Hong Kong, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland and the USA. On one or the other list we also find Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan and the United Kingdom.
But not Canada … so, where are we?
Normally, when you see a list with e.g. America, Britain, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden on it you also expect to find Canada, don’t you? But we have not been in the top ten of these lists for a long time. In 2017/18 we were 14th, between New Zealand and Taiwan, but behind Norway and Finland and the rest of the top 10. In the Harper years, in 2011/12, for example, we were 12th, and in 2008/09 we were 10th.
In the 2019 report (link above), the World Economic Forum says that “Canada is 14th globally, losing two places and 0.3 points since the 2018 assessment. Canada’s economy has been hit by external shocks stemming from global trade tensions. The less favourable economic environment has been reflected in somewhat more negative business leaders’ views across several dimensions. For instance, Canadian business leaders have revised down their assessment on two important aspects of competition: competition in services (where it ranks 62nd, losing 2.5 points in score and falling 18 places in rank), and the labour market (it ranks 54th on internal labour mobility, falling 25 places over 2018 and losing almost 4 points in score). Further, though Canada’s healthy life expectancy has shortened by two years since the last assessment, it remains among the top 14 countries in the world (70.5 years) on this indicator. Despite a slight decline on these aspects, Canada remains a competitive economy with very stable macro-economic conditions (100, 1st), sound financial system (87.1, 9th), good institutions (74.1, 13th) and well-developed human capital (88.2, 12th). In terms of technology and innovation, Canada’s performance on the ICT adoption (70.3, 35th) and Innovation capability (74.0, 16th) pillars indicate that it is close to the frontier, but not yet a powerhouse. Further improvements in mobile broadband infrastructure and usage (67th), greater investments in R&D (23rd) and collaboration between companies, universities and research centres (15th) would benefit Canada’s competitiveness going forward.“
Here, based on that analysis, is a list of priorities for any political leader, especially a Conservative; these are areas where Canada really needs to improve, for the sake of every Canadian, rich, poor and middle class, too:
- Competition in services;
- Labour mobility;
- Financial systems;
- Information and Communications Technology adoption;
- Mobile broadband infrastructure; and
That little list aims to move Canada back into the top ten of the world’s most competitive economies. But each is a major issue. Some, like the first two, require immediate attention and a lot of work. Ditto for the expansion of information technology and, especially, high-speed, mobile broadband to 95+% of Canadians. Others are in good shape but need constant, steady maintenance and improvement. Some, actually most improvements in productivity are made by the private sector but governments, with the federal government leading, has to make the rules that make e.g. labour mobility easier and make institutions work better for all Canadians.
I know that competitiveness and productivity are yawn-inducing topics and even less popular than are my pleas for increased defence spending but we must all understand that the things that Canadians want and need can only be paid for if we have a productive, competitive economy.
Politicians can and should talk about jobs! Jobs!! JOBS!!! but they have to act upon issues that promote productivity and competitiveness and one important part of being competitive is being trusted and respected so that the country is not “hit by external shocks” because Canada is, clearly, not a weak nation that can be kicked about at will.