Ignore the gossip and guesswork. The facts prove that Canada’s competitive

Posted on May 9, 2018 in Debates

NationalPost.com – Business/FP/Opinion – The Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau and economist Jack Mintz face off on how competitive Canada is today for investors
May 9, 2018.   Bill Morneau, Minister of Finance

Across Canada’s opinion pages there has been a great deal of talk about business competitiveness.

This is an important conversation — indeed, it’s one I’m looking forward to having with many of Canada’s business leaders in the weeks and months to come — but the responsible thing to do is to focus on the facts, not on speculation, anecdotes and rumour.

And the facts are clear: Canada, and Canadians, are competitive.

It is true that business investment fell from the last quarter of 2014 to the last quarter of 2015 — due largely to a decline in global oil prices. But it’s also true that year-over-year business investment has been on the rise ever since. The latest data available from Statistics Canada show that business investment grew about eight per cent during 2017 — the fastest rate of growth in five years.

We have created 600,000 jobs over the last two years and have the fastest growing economy in the G7

Business creation is also on the rise following declines from 2009 through 2015, and the Bank of Canada’s latest Business Outlook Survey shows that business intentions to invest in machinery and equipment are close to their highest levels since 2001.

Overall, the economy is doing well. Thanks to the hard work of Canadians, we have created 600,000 jobs over the last two years, have the fastest growing economy in the G7 and our unemployment rate is the lowest it has been since 1976.

Of course, there is still more work to be done, including when it comes to bringing more foreign direct investment to Canada. But even by that measure, Canada’s relative position is quite strong. In 2016, the latest year for which data are available, Canada had the highest stock of foreign direct investment as a percentage of GDP in the G7, suggesting that Canada continues to be seen by foreign investors as a good place to invest, grow businesses, and create jobs.

We saw that confidence on display earlier this week in Vancouver, when Amazon announced its plan to expand its tech hub — and bring 3,000 good, well-paying jobs to the city. From General Motors, to ABB Group, to Microsoft, businesses are choosing Canada, knowing Canadians have what it takes to compete and succeed.

Our government has been, and will continue to be, focused on making sure that Canada can continue to compete globally.

Since taking office, we have continued to advance successive governments’ long-term approach to trade, successfully completing major trade deals in Europe and Asia and giving Canadian businesses better access to global markets.

We’re making historic investments in infrastructure, to help Canadian businesses get their goods to market and create the kind of good jobs middle-class families need.

We’re moving ahead with real, practical solutions to encourage greater investment through approaches like the Canada Infrastructure Bank and support industry-led initiatives, such as the Canadian Business Growth Fund.

We are investing in people, in giving Canadians the skills they need to make the most of every opportunity, whether they’re entering the workforce for the first time or retraining for a new job.

And as we address these long-term trends and opportunities, we understand that there is a need to be responsive to challenges that arise in the immediate term — like the ongoing renegotiation of NAFTA, the need to get Canadian products to market quickly and safely, and the recent tax reform in the United States.

What our government won’t do — and readers of these pages will have heard me say this before — is react in a “knee-jerk” fashion. Instead, we’ll look at all the facts, and make the choices that are right for Canada — for our people, our businesses, and our future prosperity.

That will require a healthy dose of listening, which I am committed to doing. And it will require all of us to take a broad view of what competitiveness means. Yes, that means taking a look at tax rules. But competitiveness rests on so much more than that — from workforce participation to skilled workers to modern infrastructure to science and innovation to global trade.

As finance minister, my job is never done when it comes to supporting greater economic growth, strengthening and growing the middle class, and improving Canada’s competitiveness. It’s a challenge I welcome, because I know how competitive we can be when we invest responsibly and work hard.

But I also believe in making decisions based on the facts, and the fact is that Canada remains one of the best places in the world to start, grow, and invest in a business.

Bill Morneau is Canada’s Minister of Finance.


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