Excerpt from a speech by Calin Rovinescu, President and Chief Executive of Air Canada, to the Canadian Club of Montreal delivered February 4, 2019:
“Before closing, in this election year, I do need to say a few words about Canada’s competitiveness and economic growth prospects. Last week, I attended a meeting of the Business Council of Canada, where CEOs of Canada’s leading companies are members. This group of 150 companies employs about two million Canadians – and like our team at Air Canada, all are committed to building a future of good jobs, strong communities and a higher quality of life for Canadians – in effect, increased prosperity.
Many at the Business Council expressed frustration with Canada’s competitiveness. I share that frustration. I would rank Canada a 5 out of 10 in terms of helping to build or sustain globally competitive companies. We have numerous regulatory impediments and burdens that severely impact capital investment, trade, domestic and international growth and job creation. Our country is not at this time configured to develop globally successful competitors in many industries and this needs to change.
What can we do about it as a country?
- We need to respect business (both large companies and SME’s) and the enormous prosperity driver that the private sector represents.
- We need to build pipelines. This drives our economy – we need to figure it out once and for all. In the west and in the east.
- We need a globally competitive tax system that encourages investment. If Canadian companies don’t invest, why should foreigners.
- We need to get serious about reducing inter-provincial trade barriers; rather than seize wine or beer being brought in someone’s trunk across provincial borders, we need free trade in Canada.
- We need to tackle the overlapping regulations emanating from federal, provincial and municipal authorities.
- We need to encourage national investments in real growth-enhancing infrastructure – yes, pipelines, but also roads, railways, airports and electricity grids.
- We need a strategy on skills development and keeping talented immigrants in Canada.
- We need to balance well-intentioned consumer protection regulation that may look good on paper (and, perhaps cynically, may help to win some votes in an election) with the damage it may cause to an over-regulated environment where costs, charges, taxes and barriers are already high. In our industry, for example, we already have among the highest government costs, taxes and charges in the world – yet we are adding burdensome additional costs, in the billions of dollars, compliments of several government departments all at the same time – without any real coordination or consultation. Adding to exorbitant airport ground rents, security surcharges, fuel excise taxes and airport improvement fees, we will now face an increased uncoordinated regulatory burden with massive costs from passenger rights legislation, new fatigue rules, carbon tax, etc, etc…
- We need to have government departments and agencies that invest the time needed to understand business much better, and that are not antagonistic to growth by Canadian companies. Let’s look at
- other successful economies around the world where governments encourage national champions – U.S., Germany, UAE, Singapore, dare I say, China…
- We need to roll out the red carpet, not the red tape when companies want to invest, take risk, expand, or seek to become global champions.
- And we need to do this with the same sense of urgency and purpose as Governments can muster when they really want to get something done.
The Cannabis legislation is a case in point. Whether I personally agree with it or not, the fact is the government got it done and almost in record time. Surely we can address pipelines, engineering, procurement, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, telecom, media, and aviation amongst the many that need addressing, with the same sense of urgency as we did cannabis.
All the issues I raise are within our control, as a country. These are not things we can blame on others. These are self-made issues that are certainly fixable. And doing so would change the economic prosperity for Canadians for generations to come.
We need a big billboard and a communication strategy that says Canada is open for business; Canada likes business; Canada wants to develop the best talent in the world. Canada admires and supports global champions. In many industrial disciplines, not only the flavour of the day.”