Remarks to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance on Budget 2020

Mr. Chair, committee members, thank you for the invitation to take part in your pre-budget consultations.

The Business Council of Canada represents the chief executives and entrepreneurs of 150 leading Canadian companies, in all sectors and regions of the country. Our member companies employ 1.7 million Canadians, account for more than half the value of the Toronto Stock Exchange, contribute the largest share of federal corporate taxes, and are responsible for most of Canada’s exports, corporate philanthropy, and private-sector investments in research and development.

Canada’s economy faces serious headwinds, including an aging population, weak productivity and rising global protectionism. Our economy is barely growing on a per capita basis – over the past decade we have witnessed growth of around 0.5%, half the pace achieved by the U.S. and the OECD average for the same period.

Slower growth over the long run will inevitably mean fewer opportunities for our children and grandchildren, higher rates of unemployment, and less money for vital public services such as health care, education and transit.

To better understand the challenges facing Canada and to identify solutions, the Business Council of Canada launched the Task Force on Canada’s Economic Future last year, which engaged Canadians from across the country to advance policies that enhance growth and ensure a better future for all.

The Task Force’s report and recommendations outline how governments, businesses and other stakeholders can work together to strengthen Canada’s economic capacity, accelerate growth and spur investment for the benefit of all citizens. At the same time, it calls on employers to enhance Canada’s human potential by embracing diversity and inclusion in the workplace, promoting mental health and supporting a more skilled and innovative workforce.

The report recommends that the government modernizes the regulatory environment, prioritizes nationally significant infrastructure projects, modernizes and simplifies the tax system, rethinks Canadian foreign policy for a changing world, increases immigration inflows to build the future labour force Canada needs and develops a national resource and climate strategy.

Of these recommendations we believe that regulatory modernization has the greatest potential to improve the lives of citizens, drive innovation and enhance business activity across the board. During our consultations, participants cited inefficient regulation as the single greatest obstacle to Canadian competitiveness and economic growth. Every government pays lip service to red-tape reduction, and now and then there are moves in the right direction. Yet the regulatory environment continues to increase in both complexity and unpredictability, creating unnecessary barriers to innovation and growth. It is time for a new approach.

As Canada’s largest employers, our members are committed to doing their part to nurture Canada’s workforce. That includes improving labour force participation among Indigenous people, encouraging greater diversity and inclusion in the workplace, promoting the adoption of proven mental health strategies by businesses of all sizes, investing in employee learning and development, expanding career opportunities for young Canadians and supporting the next generation of Canadian innovators and entrepreneurs.

Now I recognize that some of the priorities I have just talked about are probably what you would expect to hear from the Business Council of Canada. As I said at the beginning of my remarks, we represent 150 of Canada’s leading companies.

We recognize that as parliamentarians your focus is on building a better future for all Canadians. That means not just large companies but entrepreneurs, small businesses in every part of Canada, indigenous-owned firms, innovators of all kinds.

In other words, we have challenged ourselves to focus on the broader interests of Canadians, today and in the future. Tomorrow we plan to release a statement in partnership with the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, and Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters. Collectively, the member companies of these five organisations employ millions of Canadians in every corner of this country and every part of the private sector.

Now these five organisations don’t always agree on the same priorities, but we are coming together because we all recognize that without a healthy and growing economy, our society and our governments will not be able to afford the vital programs and services that Canadians depend on. And without a healthy and growing economy, our children and our grandchildren will not be able to look forward to a better future.

I look forward to any questions you may have. Thank you for the opportunity to address your Committee.