If the speculation is accurate, Canadians will soon be engaged in a federal election campaign, the second in two years. Before it begins, allow me to deliver a few messages on behalf of the country’s leading entrepreneurs and job-creators.
First and foremost, thank you for your willingness to run for public office and to serve alongside your colleagues in the House of Commons. Political parties are essential institutions of parliamentary democracy, and leading them requires courage, dedication, and personal sacrifice. We commend all candidates for their desire to contribute to a better Canada.
The coming campaign comes at a critical time. The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed more than 26,000 Canadian lives and left many others with lingering health problems. New case numbers have fallen dramatically thanks to widespread vaccination, and Canadians can look forward to a short-term economic rebound. But the task of rebuilding from the crisis will take years. Hundreds of thousands of people remain unemployed, countless businesses have closed, and employers in many sectors are facing disruption. Net federal debt has increased by more than $300 billion.
On top of these challenges, Canada’s economy faces a range of long-standing structural weaknesses. They include an aging population, lagging rates of private sector investment, an inefficient and unpredictable regulatory environment, and persistent skills shortages in sectors ranging from construction to information technology.
As a country, we must also act decisively to address the threat of climate change while supporting our energy and resources sectors – and the millions of Canadians whose jobs depend on them – in the transition to a cleaner future.
Canadians have overcome big challenges before, and we can do so again if we work toward common goals. But building a better future for our children and grandchildren will require leadership and ambition. Voters deserve an open and honest debate about the problems we face and the choices that lie ahead. They will be looking to each of your parties to put forward a comprehensive plan that promotes long-term sustainable growth.
In recent months we at the Business Council of Canada have put forward our own ideas to build a stronger, cleaner and more inclusive economy. In Powering a Strong Recovery we said that ensuring a more prosperous future will require bold action on three fronts: people, capital, and ideas.
People: Canada must cultivate and enhance its human capital by developing a more agile and adaptable workforce, doing more to help young people build rewarding careers, and building on the success of our immigration system to make our country an even more powerful magnet for international talent.
Capital: Policymakers can strengthen business investment by adopting a more focussed approach to infrastructure, removing barriers to interprovincial trade, reducing the regulatory burden, and ensuring that the country’s tax system is globally competitive.
Ideas: In a world in which innovation drives wealth creation, Canadians must get better at commercializing our research, protecting intellectual property, harnessing the power of public procurement, and pursuing a more intentional industrial strategy that leverages domestic strengths for success in the global market.
More recently, we laid out a series of guiding principles for climate action in Clean Growth 3.0: Achieving Canadian Prosperity in a Net Zero World. We explained how smart public policy could ensure a healthy post-COVID recovery that creates jobs, builds strong and resilient communities, and puts Canada firmly on a path to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
The pandemic has accelerated change around the world. Our competitors are aggressively seeking to make their countries magnets for investment, fueling job creation and strengthening economic growth and resilience. Canada has an opportunity to do same.
We look forward to learning more over the coming weeks about your own ideas to ensure a vibrant economic future for Canadians. We know we won’t always see eye to eye, but we hope you will agree it is time for an honest and productive national dialogue about our aspirations as a country and what we must do to achieve them. Canadians deserve nothing less.
On behalf of Canada’s business leaders, thank you again for your commitment to public service.
President and Chief Executive Officer
Business Council of Canada