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

COVID-19: Bow Horn Bay Fire Department helps isolated community members connect

Residents encouraged to hang colours in their windows to indicate what they need

Oceanside RCMP urge residents to lock their vehicles at night

Parksville Qualicum Beach records high number of thefts from cars, trucks

COVID-19: ER nurse from Qualicum Beach self-isolates in travel trailer, apart from family

Marcia Kent says situation is difficult but worth it to keep twin boys safe

COVID-19: Dashwood fire department offers birthday parades for kids and seniors

‘Let people know the world is still turning despite the isolation and the quarantine’

COVID-19 death toll reaches 50 in B.C., while daily case count steadies

B.C. records 34 new cases in the province, bringing total active confirmed cases to 462

BC SPCA seeks help for abandoned German shepherd puppies

Donations have ‘petered out’ as doors are closed due to COVID-19

B.C.’s COVID-19 rent supplement starts taking applications

$300 to $500 to landlords for April, May and June if eligible

B.C. unveils $5M for mental health supports during the COVID-19 pandemic

Will include virtual clinics and resources for British Columbians, including front-line workers

B.C.’s top doctor details prescription for safe long weekend

Yes, it includes hosting an online cooking show

VIDEO: Community rallies around Campbell River fire victims

Emergency Social Services volunteers logged over 100 hours in first day after fire

Reality TV show about bodybuilders still filming in Okanagan, amid COVID-19

Five bodybuilders from across the country flew to Kelowna to move into a house for a reality TV show

COVID-19 PQB business update: looking for takeout food?

Email messages to editor@pqbnews.com

Most Read