The global economy is undergoing a wrenching transformation, but Canadians can look forward to a bright future if we move quickly to unleash investment at home and seize new markets abroad, says The Honourable John Manley, President and CEO of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE).

“With smart public policy and innovative, far-sighted business leadership, our country has the potential to lead the world’s major industrialized economies in growth and job creation, just as we did through much of the past decade,” Mr. Manley said today in remarks prepared for the Canadian Business Leadership Forum in Toronto.

To be sure, Canada and other advanced industrialized countries face many challenges. Economic growth has been weak throughout the developed world, unemployment remains high, Europe is struggling to get its fiscal house in order and U.S. consumer confidence is low.

Compared to many other countries, however, Canada has performed well. “When you combine our country’s relatively strong fiscal performance with our stable banking system and competitive tax environment, Canada has a very compelling story to tell,” Mr. Manley said.

Moreover, recent surveys have shown strong levels of business spending on new machinery and equipment – a trend that Mr. Manley says is reflected in the investment intentions of CCCE member companies.

Fifty of the CCCE’s member CEOs recently responded to a survey about their companies’ capital spending plans. “Collectively, those 50 companies plan to invest close to $110 billion between now and 2013. To put that in perspective, $110 billion is more than twice the total amount of federal and provincial stimulus spending during the recession – a powerful vote of confidence in Canada’s potential.”

To sustain Canada’s economic momentum, Mr. Manley said that governments across the country need to use every lever at their disposal to encourage continued business investment in growth and productivity.

One way to accomplish that is to ensure timely and efficient regulatory reviews of proposed energy megaprojects: new hydro projects in Newfoundland, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia; new pipelines in Alberta, British Columbia and the North; new wind, solar and natural gas projects; and new electricity transmission and distribution projects.

“In the electricity sector alone, these projects have the potential to create 320,000 jobs over the next two decades. Add in various oil sands-related infrastructure projects, and the total rises to more than one million new jobs over 20 years,” Mr. Manley said.

As well, Canada should be taking advantage of new trade opportunities abroad – especially in Asia, the world’s fastest-growing economic region. “Asia’s transformation is opening up all sorts of opportunities, but if Canada is going to participate fully in these developments we need a long-term strategy – a roadmap that will support and advance our interests in the region.”

To inspire new thinking on Canada’s engagement with Asia, the CCCE and the Canada China Business Council today published a major report by Wendy Dobson, one of Canada’s leading economists. Copies of the report, titled “Canada, China and Rising Asia: A Strategic Proposal”, are now available on the CCCE website.

The Canadian Council of Chief Executives brings CEOs together to shape public policy in the interests of a stronger Canada and a better world. Member CEOs and entrepreneurs represent all sectors of the Canadian economy. The companies they lead collectively administer C$4.5 trillion in assets, have annual revenues in excess of C$850 billion, and are responsible for the vast majority of Canada’s exports, investment, research and development, and training.