As published in the Toronto Star

Canada stands at an economic crossroads, outpaced by countries we once led. The warning lights are flashing across our economic sector, but nobody seems particularly concerned. That needs to change, quickly.

The most recent alarm to go off was the news that Canada’s per-capita GDP dropped for a sixth consecutive quarter.

As Armine Yalnizyan pointed out in a recent Toronto Star column, “GDP per capita, will shape your quality of life for the next two decades.”

Our failure to take action has cost us dearly, with Ontario now sitting just above Alabama, with five provinces among North America’s six poorest jurisdictions, according to analysis by Trevor Tombe, a professor of economics at the University of Calgary, for The Hub. That is a stark indicator of our reversed economic momentum.

Canada’s lagging economy is not a new problem. It has been stagnating for decades, and much like a frog in a slowly boiling pot of water, we have largely remained oblivious to the peril.

I believe that urgent action is needed to unlock the full potential of our economy — to replace complacency with action.

Without a powerful, growing economy, the ability to sustain the pillars of Canadian identity — universal health care, the social safety net, attainable education and affordable housing — are in jeopardy.

That is exactly why I joined with colleagues from the business community to launch Shift25, a non-profit organization with an ambitious vision of shifting our collective mindset to unleash the full potential of our economy.

Along with Tate Abols, managing partner, Forum Asset Management, Rola Dagher, former Global Channel Chief at Dell Technologies, and Mitch Frazer, managing partner at Mintz LLP, we founded Shift25 as a wake-up call to move our culture from one that avoids risk and casts blame, to one that thinks boldly, invests deeply, and bets heavily on Canada and Canadians.

As proud and grateful Canadian business leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators, we were not prepared to stand by and watch as our economy falls farther behind every year.

Part of the solution is fostering a new generation of innovative thinkers and equipping them with skills to take risks — to try, fail and try again until they succeed. To that end, the educational arm of Shift25 is working with more than 4,000 educators and more than 100,000 students with tailored learning modules for grades 5 to 8, and high school students. 

Educating the economic leaders of tomorrow is an important step, but we also need to take action now. This column is a challenge to our peers to create a coalition of disrupters with the means and the knowledge to step in, step up, and above all else, show up for your country.

Now, more than ever, we need your entrepreneurial drive to shift this country’s mindset from “Oh, Canada,” to “Go, Canada!”

Small actions you can start taking today include starting an employee resource group at your firm to action solutions. Harness your company’s AI resources to help find new approaches to improving productivity. Challenge new hires to develop bold, innovative ideas. Serve as mentor to young entrepreneurs in your community. Most importantly, invest in your companies and your culture.

We believe this is a critical time for our country. If we all step in, and step up, we can reverse the downward momentum and unlock the full potential of the economy to deliver what we all want for our friends, families and fellow Canadians.

Unleashing the untapped power of our economy cannot be achieved by the government or the business community working in isolation. We need to work as equal partners, pushing in one direction and leveraging our unique strengths to achieve the common goal of fulfilling the promise of our nation.

Join us in leading this charge to invest in our communities, our industries, and our shared future.

Let’s not just dream of a better Canada. Let’s build it, together.