Letter to Premiers ahead of the Council of the Federation meeting in Winnipeg on July 10-12, 2023
RE: 2023 Summer Meeting of Canada’s Premiers
Canadians have been forced to deal with one geopolitical crisis after another. World events – including the COVID-19 pandemic, war in Ukraine and shifting global alliances – have had a significant impact on the lives and livelihoods of people in every province and territory. The effects of rising inflation and supply chain disruptions are being felt coast to coast to coast.
And yet there is much we can do as a country to protect our economy and bolster Canada’s growth and prosperity.
As Premiers, you have an important role to play in improving the lives of all Canadians through enhancing predictability within Canada’s borders, ensuring our labour force is strong, protecting our supply chains and keeping our economy competitive.
As you prepare for your July meeting in Winnipeg, we urge you to focus your discussions on practical measures within your control that will improve Canada’s economy, thereby improving the livelihoods of Canadians. In our view, the following are key priorities:
Create the conditions for freer trade in Canada
As a country, we have more open trade with other parts of the world than we do between provinces and territories. Countless reports stretching back decades have documented the significant benefits of removing trade barriers within Canada. Now we need to see actual progress. A November 2021 report released by Deloitte demonstrates that removing trade barriers can increase household income and wages by 5 and 5.5 per cent, and government revenues by nearly 4.5 percent.
As Premiers we urge you to:
- position mutual recognition as your central policy principal to accelerate the removal of trade barriers while minimizing the cost to taxpayers; and
- eliminate barriers to labour mobility and allow skilled workers and professionals to work across the country.
Boost economic growth by taking bold action on foreign credential recognition
Many newcomers to Canada are unable to use their training, experience, and qualifications due to restrictive professional licensing rules. This includes unnecessary requirements for Canadian work experience, repetitive and costly language testing, and unreasonable processing times.
The mismatch between the training and the work that immigrants often perform represents a loss of economic opportunity for both newcomers and the Canadian economy. Underemployment affects newcomers’ job satisfaction, quality of life, and health status. It also limits the economy’s productivity and competitiveness as workers’ talents are not fully realized.
The Province of Ontario, through measures such as the Working for Workers Act, 2021, is leading the way in removing barriers internationally trained immigrants face when attempting to get licensed in a broad range of regulated professions, such as law, accounting, and engineering.
We urge the rest of the Federation to follow Ontario’s lead and take bold action to ensure that newcomers arriving in this country can fully contribute to Canada’s economy.
Commit to developing a national trade infrastructure strategy
International trade generates more than half of Canada’s GDP, sustaining more than three million jobs and generating revenues that fund our social programs and other priorities. Canada’s leading employers are well positioned to respond to increasing demand for resources such as agrifood products, critical minerals, and low-carbon energy. Further, Canada’s allies are relying on our products, especially at a time when geopolitical realities are shifting.
However, the quality of Canada’s trade-enabling infrastructure is eroding and the country’s longstanding reputation as a reliable trading nation is at stake. For example, the World Economic Forum’s global ranking of transportation infrastructure shows that Canada’s position dropped from 10th in 2009 to 32nd in 2019.
As Premiers, you are uniquely positioned to work collaboratively with the federal government to develop a national trade-infrastructure strategy that improves the country’s economic and productive capacity.
Increase clean and affordable electricity capacity
Canada’s ambition to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 will require at least a doubling of current electricity capacity. We will also need additional capacity in the next few decades to capitalize on emerging industries like hydrogen, low-carbon steel and battery manufacturing. These changes must be implemented in a way that does not detract from reliability and cost competitiveness, qualities that for decades have been a hallmark of Canada’s attractiveness as a location for industrial investment. There is an urgent need to get this right.
The required expansion of electricity capacity, transmission and distribution systems cannot be accomplished by public dollars alone. Governments will need to plan for and encourage much greater private sector investment. This year’s meeting of the Council of the Federation provides an important opportunity for Premiers to outline their plans to build out clean electricity capacity in their respective jurisdictions.
As Canada’s Premiers you have an opportunity to show leadership by advancing and supporting a stronger economy that benefits all Canadians.
The Business Council of Canada and its members are committed to working with you in building a better future for all.
Thank you for your service to the country.