Budget 2024

Tax and spend fiscal plan will inhibit growth

This is the fourth in a series of LinkedIn articles focused on Canada’s economic future and how we can build a more resilient country coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last week I discussed Canada’s global competitiveness. This article looks at ways we can better harness Canadian ingenuity.

Last month, the U.K. government released its Innovation Strategy. It’s an ambitious document that sets a goal for the country to become a global leader in innovation by 2035. It’s also a call for partnership. In his introductory message, Secretary of State Kwasi Kwarteng told businesses: “make innovation central to everything you do and tell us what further steps we can take to help you to do so.”

They recognize the importance of harnessing ingenuity and creative thinking to help solve some of the biggest problems we face, including inequality, climate change, and public health. They also understand that the best new ideas can be commercialized and shared in the global market, leading to job growth and a higher standard of living at home.

Increasingly, our economic success will depend on our ability to innovate and harness Canadian know-how to solve big problems and be more productive. But as my colleague Robert Asselin has long argued, “we lack a solid bridge between our intellectual capital and the Canadian companies that can commercialize those ideas.”

Canada’s publicly funded research and development (R&D) is often not well linked to industry. For Canadians to reap the benefits of our collective investments in innovation, we must become better at transforming knowledge and new ideas into commercial products and services at scale.

But we also need a long-term vision that articulates what we want to achieve as a country and how we intend to get there. Our allies are putting forward ambitious plans for their future growth. Where is our roadmap? For starters, we can do a better job at targeting R&D to address some of Canada’s biggest challenges. More countries are recognizing the value of coordinating the efforts of academia and industry to develop solutions to complex problems.

Canada is well suited to embrace a similar mission-driven approach to innovation. We already have a competitive advantage in research in high growth sectors such as clean energy technology, agriculture, health and biosciences, advanced manufacturing and digital services.

What we need is an arms-length agency that brings together experts from academia and the private sector to engage in focused, demand-driven R&D. Government outlines the problems we are trying to solve, the agency coordinates the effort in researching and developing solutions.

We have one of the most educated workforces in the world. Let’s capitalize on that strength by ensuring academia, stakeholders and the public and private sectors collaborate to build a stronger post-pandemic Canada.

Next week, I’ll look at one of the biggest challenges of our time – climate change – and how we can work together to build a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable Canada.