Home North AmericaNorth America 2005 Canada: taking competitiveness to the next level

Canada: taking competitiveness to the next level

by david.nunes
the Honourable David Emerson Issue: North America 2005
Article no.: 1
Topic: Canada: taking competitiveness to the next level
Author: the Honourable David Emerson
Title: Minister of Industry
Organisation: Canada
PDF size: 108KB

About author

The Honourable David Emerson is the Canadian Minister of Industry. Mr Emerson was elected in 2004, representing the Liberal Party of Canada, as the Member of Parliament for Vancouver Kingsway. Before his election, Mr Emerson served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Canfor Corporation, British Columbia’s largest forestry company. Mr Emerson began his career, while completing his doctorate, as a researcher for the Economic Council of Canada in Ottawa. His passion for public service brought him to British Columbia, where he quickly rose through the ranks to become the province’s Deputy Minister of Finance. Mr Emerson left the government to become President and Chief Executive Officer of the Western and Pacific Bank of Canada in Vancouver, but returned to the provincial government as Deputy Minister of Finance, where he was quickly promoted to Deputy Minister to the Premier and then President of British Columbia Trade Development Corporation. Mr Emerson was then appointed to lead the newly created Vancouver International Airport Authority, which was responsible for developing, operating and improving the airport’s services and facilities. Today, the airport is a major economic generator for Greater Vancouver and the province. David Emerson attended the University of Alberta where he obtained his Bachelor of Economics degree and his Master of Economics degree. Mr Emerson earned his PhD in Economics from Queen’s University.

Article abstract

Canada is one of the world’s most connected nations, third only to South Korea and Denmark in broadband Internet and among the world’s top five in business connectivity. Public-private partnerships provide Internet access to all Canadians through public schools, libraries and public access sites. Canada’s social agenda, though, requires a powerful economic engine. Canada is fuelling that engine by building a fully e-enabled economy, by investing in people, in new ideas and smart government and by promoting trade and investment.

Full Article

Strong fundamentals for growth As one of the world’s most connected nations, Canada has a solid base for success in the global economy. We are working to gain full competitive advantage from that investment and we know that we must use technology to keep our economy growing and creating wealth for all. Our country already has the economic fundamentals in place for growth. Interest rates and taxes are low. Consumer and business confidence is strong, and we are seeing consistently strong macroeconomic performance. Canada is one of the best places in the world to do business and invest. We are a strong trading partner, not only within North America, but also with the world. Our budgetary situation has improved more than any other G-7 country since 1992, including the sharpest decline in the debt burden. Our technology fundamentals are in place too. In the mid 1990s, the Government of Canada embarked on an ambitious plan to encourage Canadians to integrate information and communications technologies into their daily lives. Connecting Canadians to the Internet has been a priority. As a starting point, in 1993 we opened up our telecommunications industry to more competition. As a result, Canada has one of the best communications infrastructures in the world, and is a leader in cable and telecommunications service, quality and rates. We have supported four generations of CA*net, a super-speed optical network that allows researchers at our universities, hospitals, governments and businesses to participate in leading-edge international research projects. Large amounts of dedicated bandwidth provide access to data collected from specialized facilities, such as a high-energy physics lab in Geneva connected to sensors situated on the floor of the world’s oceans. Through public-private partnerships, we have brought the benefits of the Internet to all Canadians, not just those who can afford computers and access. We have connected all public schools and libraries, as well as thousands of volunteer groups and public Internet access sites. For a new Canadian learning a language, an unemployed person in a small town or a disabled person in a remote community, Internet access creates opportunities. Many of the most commonly used government services, including those targeting businesses, are now delivered online. This represents significant cost savings for both businesses and individuals. Almost half of Canadian tax returns are now filed electronically. Government support for broadband is changing Canadian lives, especially in rural and remote areas. Injured patients who once waited days for x-ray results now receive them in minutes, and an aboriginal youth can take courses online, instead of leaving home at 13 or 14 years of age to attend secondary school. Today, more than two-thirds of Canadian households and more than three-quarters of Canadian businesses are connected. And as more people and businesses go online, they are demanding faster speeds and more sophisticated applications and business solutions. Canadians are turning to high-speed Internet access to meet these needs. In fact, Canada is third only to South Korea and Denmark in terms of broadband Internet adoption, and is in the top five in the world in terms of business connectivity. By developing measures to enhance online privacy and security, businesses have also made Canada a leader in e-commerce. Boosting competitive advantage Canada is proud of these achievements. But to ensure that Canada remains a location of choice for investment and high-tech industries, we are taking our competitiveness to another level–getting the most out of the economic and technological tools in place. Like all countries, Canada faces tremendous competition from emerging players in the global economy. While our strongest ties are with North America, we’re also a global player. We do business around the world, and we are very much part of the process of globalisation that has fundamentally altered the world’s economies and way of life. In recent years, the relatively low value of our dollar gave us a competitive trade advantage that is shrinking as our dollar rises. Since the tragic events of 9/11, border security has, understandably, increased. As a result, seamless supply chains are more important than ever. To thrive, Canada is moving beyond the development of technology to its systemic application in all sectors–from forestry and mining to health care and education. Almost every day, we read media reports about technological breakthroughs made by Canadian companies. These reports are good signs, but maximizing our economic potential must mean more than the sum of individual success stories. We are working to turn innovation into an imperative that sweeps our culture and our economy. Science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship must be a part of the very ‘DNA’ of our economy. Driving innovation in Canadian industries and businesses Canada’s economy is strong and diversified. We have competitive strengths in leading-edge industries such as aerospace and pharmaceuticals. We have also excelled in key technologies–biotechnology, marine technologies, plant and forest technology, alternative energy, as well as information and communications technologies, just to name a few. However, we must work to embed information and communications technologies to support the continued development of large industries such as automotive and aerospace, as well as in other R&D–intensive sectors where key enabling technologies, such as biotechnology, are having a major impact. At the same time, our resource industries such as forestry are also becoming high tech. Once written off in Canada as a sunset industry, forestry has turned itself around by investing in technology and by re-engineering the entire supply chain. The sector achieved a transformation that was better for the environment, better for profit and better for secure, high-paying jobs. I believe we need to adopt this kind of model throughout the manufacturing sector. Similarly, many businesses, especially small and medium-sized firms, can make better use of computerized networks to automate business functions and transform processes and supply chains. In doing so, they will become more efficient and reduce costs. Here’s an example of how a whole sector can benefit. Government support helped create the world’s most comprehensive and robust product database for the retail grocery sector. More than 80 per cent of the sector is participating, sharing information on some 266,000 products from over 2,000 vendors. The project allows small and medium-sized stores to participate in larger supply chains and sell to new markets, reducing costs and improving productivity. Maximizing research and development investments The ability to transform industries and the economy requires science, technology and innovation–all of which require research and development. The Government of Canada has made huge investments in research and higher education. Since 1997, CAD$13 billion has flowed into universities, colleges and research institutes. Recently, the government committed an additional CAD$1 billion to sustain the momentum created by our science-based investments, to develop the enabling technologies and to maintain our lead among all G-7 countries in publicly funded research. While basic research is an essential building block of science and discovery, it isn’t enough. We are scouring campuses and public research institutions for research that can be commercialised to deliver better living standards for Canadians. We are ensuring that government programmes work more coherently to make this happen. Investing in education and training At the same time, we are boosting education and training. We are taking steps to attract and retain more skilled and experienced people, to develop skills in strategic niches, to strengthen apprenticeship programmes and to provide better recognition of foreign credentials. The 2005 federal budget provided CAD$75 million for foreign credential recognition. Another CAD$125 million supports workplace skills development, including an apprenticeship programme.  Slashing ‘red tape’ Canada is also taking a close look at government regulations to ensure that we find the best ways to protect the health and safety of Canadians, as well as the environment, without unduly restricting business. We are working to eliminate uncertainty for business and to allow orderly planning and investment. Regulations at all levels of government are being harmonized. Regulators are co-operating with their peers in other countries with similar public policy imperatives. In the telecommunications field, for example, we need to make sure regulations are streamlined and adaptive to the rapid changes reshaping the industry. The trick is unleashing the power of competition, innovation and technological empowerment that will drive business competitiveness and consumer choice. Toward this end, we will be appointing a panel of eminent Canadians to review Canada’s telecommunications policy and regulatory framework. In today’s world, spam can be another barrier for a connected business. Spam accounts for more than half of the world’s email traffic. It clogs networks and spreads viruses, threatening e-commerce, increasing costs and hurting productivity. We have concentrated anti-spam efforts with a team approach. We are bringing together government, industry and users to develop and implement legal, technical and information tools to solve this problem. Building a fully e-enabled economy Canada’s economic policies underpin our identity as a nation, which is committed to social justice, fairness and environmental responsibility. A progressive social agenda, though, requires a powerful economic engine to pull it. We are fuelling that engine by investing in people, new ideas and smart government in all sectors and regions, and promoting trade and investment. Canada has come a long way in a short time. While we are now at the forefront of connected nations, we have more work to do to stay ahead. By focusing our efforts on creating a fully e-enabled economy, Canada is on the path to new successes and world firsts.

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