Budget 2024

Tax and spend fiscal plan will inhibit growth

Goldy Hyder’s speech to the Canadian Club of Toronto on October 18, 2023

Why isn’t Canada an economic giant?

That was the question the U.K.-based Financial Times asked last month. It argued that Canada’s proximity to the United States and our other natural competitive advantages should make us an economic powerhouse. And yet: “few ever talk about it in such terms.”

I disagree with the article – we are an economic giant. The problem is … the giant is asleep.

Our considerable competitive advantages have lulled us into a sense of complacency. We’re content with settling for “good enough.”

We have lost the drive … to build big things … to celebrate our successes … to work towards a common vision of prosperity for ourselves and the generations to follow.

Annette and I are here to deliver a wakeup call.

Over the next few minutes I’m going to outline a number of things we can do to shake ourselves out of that complacency and awaken the Canadian economic giant.

These ideas address three key topics.

First, making the most of our natural resources.

Second, leveraging our relationship with the United States.

And third, the need for fiscal responsibility.

So, to the first point: Canada’s natural resources.

To my mind, awakening our economic giant means championing major projects that benefit all Canadians. This is especially true as we work with urgency on our energy transition. If we are committed to reducing carbon emissions, we need to get projects approved and built in record time.

We need expanded electricity grids, access to critical mineral deposits, improved infrastructure corridors and much more as we work towards a net zero future.

Last week’s Supreme Court ruling on the Impact Assessment Act highlights the need for a clear national vision for how we develop and approve major projects in Canada. 

Now is the time for the federal government to make good on the commitment it laid out in Budget 2023 to speed up the permitting process for major projects. Other countries aren’t waiting. They are already forging ahead. The United States and the European Union are finalizing plans to drastically reduce permitting timelines for some projects.

Businesses are actively investing in new clean energy projects. The Pathways Alliance is a great example of private sector companies coming together to achieve net zero emissions in Canada’s oilsands. But Pathways and other projects are waiting for clarity from the federal government on the way forward. That includes details on the tax credits promised in the spring budget that are meant to de-risk potential investments.

This again is an example of Canada being asleep while other countries are fully awake. Right now, tax incentives in the United States are attracting clean energy investment from around the world – including from Canada.

We need to wake up and get moving on our own projects.

Key to those projects will also be Indigenous partnership. It’s why the Business Council continues to call on the federal government to backstop loans to Indigenous investors so that they can fully participate in projects of their choosing, on their own terms.And on that note, beyond loan guarantees there is much more we can and should be doing to advance Indigenous reconciliation in this country.

It’s something I know Annette feels strongly about as well.

Now, to the second point – our close relationship with the United States. It is one of Canada’s greatest competitive advantages.

Just think about all that we share:

  • The longest undefended border.
  • Strong and enviable personal ties.
  • A manufacturing base that is so integrated that products often cross the border multiple times as they are being built.

Yet, here too, I fear we have become complacent.

We should never take our relationship with the United States for granted. And make no mistake, our international reputation is tied to how healthy our relationship is with our number one neighbour and trading partner.

When President Joe Biden spoke to Canada’s Parliament in March, he listed three shared responsibilities: prosperity, security, and values.

When it comes to prosperity, we need to live up to the commitments we made in the Canada-U.S.-Mexico Agreement to ensure the economic vitality of North America.

When it comes to security, our countries must work together to protect our people and our economies from those who would do us harm.  Economic Security is national security.

Just yesterday I was at Stanford University for a meeting with the heads of the Five Eyes intelligence agencies. Security is a partnership, a shared responsibility and must be taken seriously.

When it comes to shared values, we need to stand up for democracy and the rule of law, and we need to live up to our international commitments.

Now to my third point – fiscal discipline.

Awakening our economic giant requires us to have our fiscal house in order.

Our federal debt has more than doubled over the last three years. Public debt charges are up 23 per cent year over year.  We simply can’t keep spending money that we don’t have.

We continue to urge the federal government to adopt a realistic fiscal anchor – specifically the one advocated by former Bank of Canada Governor David Dodge. It would limit debt servicing costs to a maximum of 10 per cent of revenue so we can live within our means.

This week, I wrote to Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland outlining the priorities business leaders believe she must address when she delivers her Fall Economic Statement.

Fiscal responsibility tops the list.

If we want to ensure our children have the same or better standard of living that we’ve been privileged to enjoy, we can’t saddle them with mountains of debt.

I recently saw a public opinion poll in which a whopping 65 per cent of respondents believed the next generation of Canadians will have a lower standard of living. I’m saddened by that. And I truly believe we can change that number.

We can change it by embracing a long-term economic growth strategy that plays to our strengths and that begins NOW.

This is a call to action for all of us …Federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments… big business and small to medium sized enterprises … unions … Indigenous peoples … and civil society in every region of the country.

That is why two years ago, the Business Council helped to establish the Coalition for a Better Future. It brings together more than 100 different organizations from across the full spectrum of civil society to advocate for inclusive and sustainable economic growth.

We need to work together.

We need to wake up, embrace our strengths, and celebrate our successes.

We must rally around a common vision of prosperity for our country that:

  • supports and champions Canadian innovation,
  • ensures all workers have the skills to succeed in the new economy
  • is proud of businesses that grow from small firms into large enterprises that compete with the best in the world.

Now, as passionate as I am about these issues and the need to achieve Canada’s unrealized potential, Annette is arguably more so.

A respected business leader and serial entrepreneur, Annette has made a career of speaking truth to power.

It is my pleasure to join Annette now for what I know will be an excellent discussion.

Thank you.