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

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

Duncan Christian School will be closed from Jan. 25 to Feb. 1 due to COVID-19 precautionary measures. (Citizen file)
Duncan Christian School, DogHouse Restaurant close doors due to COVID

Voluntary temporary closures announced as precautions

The new Malahat Skywalk is expected to be completed by this summer. (Submitted graphic)
Malahat Skywalk expected to be complete by this summer

$15-million project will see 650-metre elevated wooden pathway constructed

Tim Schewe
Drivesmart column: It’s the highway’s fault!

One component of Vision Zero (our current road safety strategy) is highway design.

Moira Mercer spent her summer riding her e-bike around Cowichan Lake and beyond, collecting any empties she found along the way. (Submitted)
Lake Cowichan 2020 in review — conclusion

What were your top stories from 2020?

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

Gin, one of the Kantymirs’ two sheep. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)
Sheep start up ATV, sit in cars and go for walks in Salmon Arm

Until they bought two sheep, Ken and Karleen Kantymir didin’t realize just how social the animals are

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Heather Lucier, a pastor at Kelowna Harvest Fellowship, speaks to an RCMP officer outside of Harvest Ministries on Sunday, Jan. 10. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Kelowna church fined 2nd time for violating public health order

Harvest Ministries in Kelowna has previously said they will fight the tickets in court

Mount Arrowsmith. Three skiers were rescued from the south side of the mountain on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021 with one woman taken to hospital in Comox. (Nancy Randall photo)
Injured skier among three rescued in the dark from Mount Arrowsmith

‘It was a very bad, very precarious spot to be able to locate them’

Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons was appointed to the NDP cabinet as minister of social development and poverty reduction after the October 2020 B.C. election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. job training fund increased for developmentally disabled

COVID-19 has affected 1,100 ‘precariously employed’ people

A Sooke woman is speaking up after she was almost tricked by a lottery scam, claiming she had won $950,000 with Set for Life Lottery. (File Photo)
‘I wanted it to be true so badly’: Sooke senior narrowly avoids lottery scam

88-year-old received letter stating she had won $950,000

B.C. driver’s licence and identity cards incorporate medical services, but the passport option for land crossings is being phased out. (B.C. government)
B.C. abandons border ID cards built into driver’s licence

$35 option costing ICBC millions as demand dwindles

Submitted photo of Town Park C Block apartment fire.
Apartment fire in Port Hardy forces residents to jump from building

‘Multiple people were transported to the hospital with injuries from falling’

Most Read