Own the economic podium

TheSar.com – Opinion
Published On Tue Mar 02 2010.   Jayson Myers President and CEO, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters

As Canadians are consumed by the euphoria created by Sidney Crosby’s historic overtime winning goal, we need to build on this defining moment in the nation’s history and capitalize on another golden opportunity to define our future.

Canada’s best-ever performance at the Olympics should act not only as a model, but inspiration for Stephen Harper’s government to “own the podium” in the global economic arena.

This week’s federal budget is an opportunity for the government to define its vision for our economic future. With recovery underway, Canada needs a new road map to meet the economic challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

There are still many risks that may jeopardize a return to economic growth this year. A strong Canadian dollar will continue to restrain our export sector. Tight credit conditions threaten to hamper businesses as they begin to ramp up production or attempt to take advantage of new business opportunities. Meanwhile, Buy American and other protectionist measures threaten to shut Canadian companies out of important export markets.

On the positive side, government stimulus measures have been important in getting the Canadian economy back on its feet. But it will prove much more difficult to govern in a year of recovery than in a year of recession.

The bottom line? The federal government needs to make some tough, but very important decisions as it aims to reduce its deficit without jeopardizing economic growth.

Government stimulus is a stopgap. Our economic recovery can be sustained only when Canadian businesses can count on their customers to buy enough of their goods and services to allow them to expand, employ more people, pay their employees more and invest in the new products, new technologies, new skills and new markets they need to compete and grow.

We also know that in this recovery we will not see a cyclical rebound in economic growth, consumer demand or job creation. Business conditions have fundamentally changed as a result of the recession. Consumers are now more cautious. Competition is more intense, fuelled by overcapacity in important industrial markets worldwide. Financial markets are more restrictive. And Canada has lost some of its productive capacity as the result of business closures.

All this comes at a time of major structural change. The globalization of business is forcing companies and countries to compete internationally for talent, technology, markets and investment.

Canadians need to meet these challenges and take advantage of the opportunities. Our ability to achieve this depends on developing and commercializing new technological solutions, accessing customers, building business partnerships and acquiring the best in skills and knowledge. Canadian manufacturers need to boost productivity and continue to create demand for high-value, high-paying jobs in the services sector.

New strategies are required on the part of business leaders and public policy-makers alike to ensure business success, enhance productivity and sustain economic growth. We should expect the throne speech and budget to focus on what it takes to improve Canada’s innovation, manufacturing and international business performance.

We need a concerted and coordinated policy approach. Canadian business needs lower tax rates on business investment as well as specific tax measures that leave more money in the hands of companies to encourage investment in new, more productive and environmentally friendlier production technologies, new process and product innovations, new workplace skills, and the development of new markets in Canada and around the world.

The government must also continue to invest in and improve Canada’s skills and research base. It needs to continue its support for worker retraining and make it easier for skilled immigrants to enter the workforce.

Regulatory processes must be streamlined. The government needs to counter protectionism, secure more open access to international markets and effectively enforce Canada’s trade rules. At the same time, it needs to encourage adequate financial and business support for companies that are developing new markets in Canada and around the world.

Canada’s government has its work cut out for it. One thing is certain: Business as usual is no longer an option. It’s time Canada seized the golden opportunity to own the global economic podium. And it starts right now.

< http://www.thestar.com/opinion/article/773538–own-the-economic-podium >

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