Jim Balsillie, Council of Canadian Innovators, arrives to appear as a witness at a Commons privacy and ethics committee in Ottawa on Thursday, May 10, 2018. Business leaders want Canada’s newly elected lawmakers to shift their attention to the economy following an election campaign that they say sorely lacked a critical conversation: how to secure the country’s future prosperity. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Canadian business leaders urge new government to focus on economy

Much of the campaign’s focus zeroed in on pocketbook commitments

Business leaders want Canada’s newly elected lawmakers to shift their attention to the economy following an election campaign that sorely lacked a critical conversation: how to secure the country’s future prosperity.

Much of the campaign’s focus zeroed in on pocketbook commitments, which were designed to win individual voter support. Pledges emphasized redistribution of government money, with vows including tax cuts and credits, rather than detailed game plans on how to lift Canadian sectors.

The election’s result — a minority mandate for the Liberals — will likely add an additional layer of uncertainty about the future of economic policy. To pass legislation, the Liberals will now have to find partners among their rivals, which creates doubts around what the government will eventually deliver.

The business community is urging the incoming government to build blueprints on how best to boost growth and to ensure Canada keeps up with the rest of the world.

“Lack of proposals or even discussions of a prosperity strategy by candidates seeking public office is very disconcerting,” Jim Balsillie, former co-CEO of Research In Motion and chair of the Council of Canadian Innovators, told The Canadian Press in an email.

“Regardless of who governs, the only way we can pay for this country is by having a strategy to generate new revenues on a per-capita basis.”

Balsillie, whose council represents some of Canada’s fastest-growing firms, said in today’s economy the most-valuable assets are intellectual property and data. He warned the economy will continue to face head winds unless Canada makes a real effort to encourage the commercialization of these assets.

Analysis: B.C. shined bright for major parties in 2019 federal election

Even with the global economy showing signs of a slowdown, the political parties largely steered clear of any thorough debate on the state of Canada’s economy.

Dennis Darby, president and CEO of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, said the party leaders probably decided against putting forward growth-boosting strategies because some indicators — such as the low unemployment rate — have suggested the economy has been doing well.

He argues that Canada’s performance has been far less encouraging in other areas — including weaknesses in GDP per capita, labour productivity relative to other OECD countries, capital investment and growth in exports.

“We were disappointed, I think our members were disappointed, that none of the parties really had a substantive discussion or emphasis on building the economy,” said Darby, whose organization represents 2,500 manufacturers.

“We’re never against consumer tax cuts, but you have to be: ‘What are we doing to try to get companies to invest?’ “

The focus of the campaign became more about the qualities of the leaders than the qualities of party proposals, Darby added.

He said the Liberals’ minority government likely means at least part of their platform “is out the window,” leaving business groups trying to figure out what they’re actually going to do.

With 10 days remaining in the 40-day election campaign, the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance took an unusual step of sending an open letter to party leaders to express its disappointment that there had been no serious discussion about how to ensure Canada’s “long term economic success” by growing exports.

Claire Citeau, the alliance’s executive director, said Friday the lack of a deep campaign debate about trade was particularly troubling at an uncertain time of international trade tensions and threats of expanding protectionism.

She said Canada’s agri-food exports reached a record level in 2018 and are a big contributor to the country’s economic growth and employment.

But Citeau said the opportunities for further growth “are being threatened by … the uncertainty and erosion of predictability.”

A spokesman for Finance Minister Bill Morneau said, after the new cabinet is sworn in on Nov. 20, the Liberal government will look at measures to grow the economy, increase productivity and add to the investments it made during its first mandate.

“Over the last four years, our government has worked hard to grow the economy, strengthen the middle class, and invest in making industries more competitive and innovative,” Ryan Dunn said in an email.

Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Stolen Truck found in Christina Lake

Family happy the vehicle was found

Boundary non-profits now eligible for emergency funds

Local charities can apply to get grants from the $40,000 pot, managed by the Phoenix Foundation

Trial date set in Castlegar RCMP shooting death

Constable Jason Tait has elected a jury trial.

Drive-in theatre proposed for Grand Forks

City councillors will vote next month on whether to permit the use of the private property

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

B.C. legislature coming back June 22 as COVID-19 emergency hits record

Pandemic restrictions now longer than 2017 wildfire emergency

B.C.’s essential grocery, hardware store employees should get pandemic pay: retail group

Only B.C.’s social, health and corrections workers are eligible for top-ups

Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto vying to be NHL hubs, but there’s a catch

The NHL unveiled a return-to-play plan that would feature 24 teams

B.C. sees 9 new COVID-19 cases, one death as officials watch for new cases amid Phase Two

Number of confirmed active cases is at 244, with 37 people in hospital

Nanaimo senior clocked going 50 km/hr over limit says her SUV shouldn’t be impounded

RCMP say they can’t exercise discretion when it comes to excessive speeding tickets

Illicit-drug deaths up in B.C. and remain highest in Canada: chief coroner

More than 4,700 people have died of overdoses since B.C. declared a public health emergency in early 2016

CMHC sees declines in home prices, sales, starts that will linger to end of 2022

CMHC said average housing prices could fall anywhere from nine to 18 per cent in its forecast

B.C. Paralympian named to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame

Three-time world and Paralympic gold medalist Sonja Gaudet is part of 11-member class

Restorative pole project underway in Edgewood

The pole was made almost 50 years ago to pay respect to local First Nations

Most Read