Heading into a new year with new challenges, it’s a good opportunity to reflect on this last year and see where we can go from here.
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) released its own report on this topic, titled Supporting Economic Growth in Uncertain Times.
What have we learned?
A predictable and stable policy environment underpins business confidence, prosperity and economic growth. This includes economic strategy that raises up those sectors and regions that didn’t fair so well.
We’ve learned that we need a more resilient workforce that is inclusive of everyone and all abilities. This includes addressing backlogs and processing delays in immigration that have resulted in a wait list of more than 2.4 million applications.
Recent years highlighted decades of underinvestment in strategically important areas, including healthcare and infrastructure.
What can the government do now?
Government is the architect of the ‘industrial commons,’ that ecosystem of public goods in which citizens, communities, and businesses can thrive. We need a long-term strategy to invest in common components that are key determinants of growth, including health care, education and training, R&D and innovation, and infrastructure (particularly digital and climate resilient infrastructure).
At the same time, government must protect its investments by reducing the barriers to growth – outdated legislation, policy and regulation, an inefficient and overly complex tax system, and obstacles to interprovincial trade and labour mobility.
Economic growth should involve clear consultation and two-way communication between government and the private sector. It should not be up to industry to push the government into the future rather, both should be equally invested and united in the pursuit of growth and prosperity.
Mainly, the government needs to act in ways that are predictable, accountable, strategic, measurable, outcomes-focused and coordinated.
The OCC has identified critical areas that must inform the government’s strategy for economic growth, including:
• Develop policies that support small businesses and Ontario’s entrepreneurial spirit, including enhancing access to capital, developing and scaling training for digital literacy skills, and investing in reliable broadband connectivity.
• Be bold on interprovincial trade and enhance labour mobility between provinces.
• Modernize regulation that supports recovery efforts, including creating an independent panel to regularly run evidence-based evaluation of outcomes and unintended consequences of new regulation.
• Foster an inclusive workforce that leverages Ontario’s diversity and increases our immigration intake. Our government must prioritize economic reconciliation by supporting Indigenous partnerships, procurement, education, employment and entrepreneurship.
• Invest in growth-enabling infrastructure, from roads to housing, that is climate resilient, energy efficient, and informed by smart planning principles to ensure population and economic growth can be supported for decades to come.
• Prioritize innovation through procurement and policy action on technology transfer and adoption, commercialization, and capitalization. The government should encourage data-driven innovation while protecting against the potential risks and support a Canadian intellectual property strategy.
If nothing else, we’ve learned a lot in recent years. Next year is going to bring some challenges, but it’s largely rooted in the challenges businesses are currently facing. What we need our governments to do is use that knowledge to create a thorough, sustainable plan that supports our private sector in growing our economy and investing in our communiti