This election should be about clean economic growth, driven by Canadian-owned ideas
By Benjamin Bergen, CCI Executive Director
Justin Trudeau says that Canada is at a pivotal moment, and on that much, at least, it’s hard to argue. On everything else, we will argue. That’s what elections are for.
Opinions will be divided about what the central question of this election should be. People will argue about where to go from here, and whether we should be having an election campaign at all, but the fact of the matter is, Canada is at a crossroads.
This week, more than 200 leaders of Canadian companies signed an open letter calling on all parties to outline their plans for clean economic growth, driven by Canadian-owned ideas.
Three global trends stand to radically transform our lives, and the decisions that our government makes in the next few years will be profoundly consequential.
The first global trend, of course, is the Covid-19 pandemic. The virus has already transformed every aspect of our lives, and it has caused a shock to the economy like nothing in living memory. As we scrambled to adapt, Covid also laid bare the fragility of our health care system and exposed a plethora of cybersecurity vulnerabilities — the legacy of years of under-investment in digital infrastructure.
With the highest rate of vaccination in the world, Canada is hopefully past the worst of the pandemic, and there are already signs that the economic recovery is underway. But the next government will need to nurture and sustain the recovery, ensuring that it becomes a period of shared prosperity.
The second global trend is climate change. Lytton B.C. set a national record with a temperature of 49 C just before the town was levelled by wildfires. It is impossible to deny the reality of climate change, and reducing emissions is not an imperative to be balanced against growing the economy. Extreme weather and rising oceans are a tangible threat to our economy, and investing in a low-carbon future is the only credible path to meaningful growth. The United Nations is calling the situation a “code red” and urgent action is needed.
And against the backdrop of the pandemic and the climate crisis, there’s another global trend that we spend more time thinking about at CCI — the global digital revolution. Technology has saved countless lives during the pandemic, allowing for remote work and providing tools to track and understand the virus. Moreover, digital tools like immunization credentials may hasten the end of the crisis, and advances in remote medicine will benefit all of us long after we have defeated Covid-19. Technology will also be a vital tool in the fight against climate change, as all political parties recognize.
But as mobile computing, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and connected services have all transformed our lives and our economy, as a country Canada has failed to develop the kind of sophisticated understanding of intangible assets, data economics and research commercialization. As a result, Canada has experienced poor innovation performance compared to our global peers; Bloomberg’s most recent innovation index ranked Canada was just outside the Top 20 most innovative nations.
At CCI, we’re fond of pointing out that 91 per cent of the value on the S&P 500 is now intangible assets like data, patents and other forms of intellectual property. In the 21st century, economic growth and value comes overwhelmingly from assets tied to innovation and technology. The key to success in the intangible economy come from building and commercializing assets like software, data and new technologies.
The path to prosperity doesn’t come from a Silicon Valley tech company putting a satellite office in a Canadian city, while all the profits accrue back to head office. For far too long Canadian invention has contributed to the economic growth of foreign interests. Today, meaningful economic success comes from homegrown Canadian firms headquartered here, selling their products and services to the world. The message that CEOs are sending to all political parties is this: We need to be planning Canada’s future, and it needs to be a plan that ensures Canada’s future is prosperous, secure, equitable and sustainable.
We’re saying to all political parties, how are you planning Canada’s future? And are you planning to harness and support the full potential of our country’s innovators? We want to hear your plan.
On all three of these big issues, scaling technology companies are at the tip of the spear. Founders and leaders are already trying to find solutions without waiting to be asked, and they stand ready to help respond to the challenges facing our country. We saw that during the Covid-19 pandemic, as companies stepped up, and we’ll see it again if our government taps them for help.
They have experience, knowledge, and the drive to solve tomorrow’s challenges — after all, that’s what Canada’s innovators have always done.
If you haven’t added your name to our open letter, please visit PlanningCanadasFuture.ca to leave your mark.
Every month, CCI executive director Benjamin Bergen sends an ‘New Business’ email to our newsletter subscribers, highlighting important issues and trends impacting the Canadian innovation economy.
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