GUEST COLUMN – Canadian Chamber of Commerce
Canadians everywhere want to look past the pandemic and know what comes next. While they can expect many spending announcements, lofty promises of jobs and boutique tax cuts during this election, what they’re looking for has been missing so far. Conspicuously absent in the election to date is a serious, sustainable and bold plan to grow our economy, despite the fact the economy is the number one concern for Canadians.
The need for strong, sustained economic growth is now beyond debate. Canada’s credit cards have been maxed with pandemic debt, and the cost of dealing with climate change and confronting other urgent issues will only increase for everyday Canadians and businesses. A serious, bold strategy to grow our economy is Canada’s only way forward, and Canadians have the right to know where the parties stand before they go to the polls.
We have outlined our recommendations for what it takes to grow an economy and challenge all parties to adopt them.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is Canada’s largest business association representing 450 local chambers of commerce and boards of trade, accounting for more than 200,000 member businesses from every Main Street in the country. These recommendations reflect the economic realities of Canada’s job creators and growth generators.
JOB ONE: Finishing the fight against COVID The sacrifices each of us has made have brought us a long way in our efforts to beat the pandemic. Now that the hope of more normal lives is finally in sight, we need to make sure everyone makes it safely to the shore.
Offering an extra hand for the hardest-hit Many small enterprises and businesses in the hardest-hit sectors, including tourism, travel and hospitality, will not recover until public health restrictions are lifted and economic activity returns to normal. Until that time comes, these fellow Canadians require ongoing support.
To help the hardest-hit return to growth:
Borrowing capacity is significantly more limited today. To protect our government finances and sustain public services, we need to get maximum mileage for every dollar spent. It is essential to restore a solid fiscal anchor.
To protect Canada’s finances:
JOB TWO: Getting the fundamentals right As Canada emerges from COVID, we must not mistake spending for economic growth. Even before COVID, Canada spent significantly but lagged in economic growth, in attracting investment and in creating good jobs for Canadians.
COVID-era recovery programs, while important, were not designed to address the fundamental problems plaguing Canada on infrastructure investment, regulatory burdens, taxation, SME competitiveness and internal trade barriers. Canada must get its house in order to fuel real growth that creates jobs for its citizens.
Supporting our SMEs Canadians are hardworking and innovative, so it is no surprise SMEs are Canada’s biggest employers. The next Parliament must ensure an environment that helps Canada’s entrepreneurs grow and create jobs.
To support Canadian entrepreneurship:
To build Canada’s growth-supporting infrastructure:
Growth must be inclusive
To achieve economic growth, we must include all Canadians, including those who have been left behind until now. Our shared prosperity depends on a strong business community that can innovate, attract talent and capital and expand into new markets. To create inclusive growth, Canadians from all sectors, regions and backgrounds must be able to participate in the workforce and share in the benefits.
To achieve inclusive growth:
Getting Canadians working
Particularly given its aging population, Canada needs its workforce to generate economic activity as productively as possible.
To build an inclusive, productive workforce:
Now, to grow we need to finally make Canada’s economy truly national. We must end the regulatory patchwork and interprovincial trade barriers that separate Canadians.
To reach Canada’s potential:
To have a tax system that meets the challenges of the 21st century:
JOB THREE: Creating 21st century opportunities The Canadian brand is strong. We are seen as ethical and rules-based. We are blessed with world-class cities, abundant natural resources and talented, entrepreneurial people. While our country and people have all the ingredients for success, our global competitors are working hard to attract investment that can create the next generation of opportunities elsewhere.
Canada must ensure the types of jobs and opportunities people want are being created here.
Digitizing our world In a digital world, Canadians are connected like never before. Our educated workforce and advanced digital infrastructure give Canada a strong starting point to be a leader in the global digital future, but our competitors are on the move.
Safely connecting Canadians and the world
As virtual activities increase, businesses and their customers must be confident that their data is protected. We also must help companies innovate to meet the digital needs of the world. In parallel, Canada needs to ensure it has the talent and skills in place to prepare Canadians through ongoing upskilling and reskilling.
To better support Canada’s digital ecosystem:
Achieving our net-zero future
We must ensure Canada’s pathway to net-zero allows our businesses to compete successfully, enhances investment, creates jobs for Canadians, promotes innovation and genuinely benefits the environment. How we get there matters. Canada’s business community wants to collaborate with government to develop solutions to our country’s greatest environmental challenges and enable economic opportunities for Canadians.
To achieve net-zero emissions and ensure the viability of Canadian businesses:
Canadian agriculture is part of the solution
Canadian agriculture and agri-food leads the world in the fight against climate change, and we have an opportunity to be a global leader in food production. From producers to processors, to manufacturers and everywhere in between, each is doing its part to feed the world sustainably.
With targeted investment programs and smart regulation, Canada can serve as a model to the world in reaching a net-zero future by unleashing the sector’s potential.
To champion Canadian agriculture:
Selling to the world
Ensuring Canadian interests are reflected in international trade rules will allow businesses to compete on a level playing field to support growth and create jobs.
To expand Canada’s market reach:
To allow Canada to sustainably supply the resources of the future:
Canada must end its inability to make vaccines and other life-saving medicines. We face the dual challenge of an aging population and a weak biomanufacturing capacity to produce vaccines and life-saving drugs domestically. Improving our country’s ability to host vaccine and medical technology supply chains is crucial to Canadians’ health and economic security. It will also improve Canada’s ability to help others around the world. Additionally, we need to modernize how we procure for our healthcare industry to protect the health of Canadians more effectively.
To create resilient health infrastructure: