In this series of LinkedIn articles, I’ve been sharing my thoughts on how we can build a healthier, more sustainable and more successful Canada. Last week I outlined some key priorities to strengthen Canada’s human capital. Today, with the Olympic Games underway in Japan, I’m focusing on competitiveness, and how Canada can win on the world stage.

In the years preceding the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canadian sport organizations teamed up with government to launch the Own the Podium initiative. Its aim was to create winning conditions for Canadian athletes. And it worked: Canada won more gold medals than any other country in those Games.

Since then, Own the Podium has continued to support Canadian athletes with the avowed goal of ensuring that Canada is “a world leader in high performance sport at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.” Team Canada’s achievements are something we can all rally around. Success in international competitions is a source of national pride. 

There are no Olympic and Paralympic Games for business, but make no mistake: Canada and Canadian companies compete every day around the world. Our country faces fierce competition for investment, now more than ever. Last month the Swiss-based business school IMD ranked Canada 14th in the world in terms of competitiveness. That’s a six-point drop from last year.

How can we create the winning conditions for Canada and Canadian businesses?

As in sport, a Team Canada approach can make a big difference. Governments can play an essential role by building a competitive, stable economic and regulatory environment. That in turn gives investors and employers the confidence to start new ventures, expand existing enterprises, and create more well-paying jobs for Canadians.

Working side-by-side, employers and governments can go for the gold.

Here are a few ways to make that happen:

Connecting the country

As a trading nation, Canada needs to get its goods to market. Modern roads, bridges, rail networks, pipelines and ports enable the efficient flow of goods across this vast country. And it’s not just our physical infrastructure that needs attention. More and more of our economy relies on digital infrastructure to keep us all connected no matter where in the country we live.

Infrastructure spending isn’t always flashy, but it has a direct impact on how we live, and whether businesses choose to invest here.

Removing roadblocks

In much of Canada, it’s illegal to purchase beer or wine in one province and travel with it to another province. Limitations on the transportation of alcohol are just one example of the myriad unnecessary restrictions that hold our economy back and make us less competitive.

2019 report for the IMF estimates that lifting internal trade barriers could increase Canada’s per capita GDP by almost four per cent.

Clearing the hurdles

Efficient and predictable regulations are as important for businesses as they are for individuals. Just look at the confusion we all experienced this past year as a result of conflicting COVID-19 guidelines.

Businesses encounter confusing, inconsistent and duplicative rules every day from federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments. They cost time and money and discourage business investment.

A glaring example is found in a 2019 study by Deloitte. It notes that obtaining a permit for new construction takes 168 days longer in Canada than in the United States.

Levelling the playing field

Tax policy can be a powerful tool to attract and retain investment and talent. When tax rates are too high compared with those of our major trading partners, it becomes more difficult to attract foreign investment to Canada. It also makes it harder for employers to attract and retain top talent.

Going for Gold

Right now in Japan, Canadian athletes are competing against the world’s best. Their achievements reflect a lot of hard work and personal sacrifice. But they also benefit from supportive governments and organizations that want to help them succeed.

We can take a similar mindset when it comes to Canada’s economy. Let’s work together to ensure Canada’s international success. Let’s go for the gold.

Next week I’ll discuss how we can do a better job championing made-in-Canada research and know-how.