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  • Report looks at captured nature of BC’s Oil and Gas Commission August 6, 2019
    From an early stage, BC’s Oil and Gas Commission bore the hallmarks of a captured regulator. The very industry that the Commission was formed to regulate had a significant hand in its creation and, too often, the interests of the industry it regulates take precedence over the public interest. This report looks at the evolution […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Correcting the Record July 26, 2019
    Earlier this week Kris Sims and Franco Terrazzano of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation wrote an opinion piece that was published in the Calgary Sun, Edmonton Sun, Winnipeg Sun, Ottawa Sun and Toronto Sun. The opinion piece makes several false claims and connections regarding the Corporate Mapping Project (CMP), which we would like to correct. The […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Rental Wage in Canada July 18, 2019
    Our new report maps rental affordability in neighbourhoods across Canada by calculating the “rental wage,” which is the hourly wage needed to afford an average apartment without spending more than 30% of one’s earnings.  Across all of Canada, the average wage needed to afford a two-bedroom apartment is $22.40/h, or $20.20/h for an average one […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Towards Justice: Tackling Indigenous Child Poverty in Canada July 9, 2019
    CCPA senior economist David Macdonald co-authored a new report, Towards Justice: Tackling Indigenous Child Poverty in Canada­—released by Upstream Institute in partnership with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA)—tracks child poverty rates using Census 2006, the 2011 National Household Survey and Census 2016. The report is available for […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Fossil-Power Top 50 launched July 3, 2019
    What do Suncor, Encana, the Royal Bank of Canada, the Fraser Institute and 46 other companies and organizations have in common? They are among the entities that make up the most influential fossil fuel industry players in Canada. Today, the Corporate Mapping Project (CMP) is drawing attention to these powerful corporations and organizations with the […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
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The Progressive Economics Forum

We’re Number Sixteen!

For as long as I can remember, the Canadian government has been obsessed with “competitiveness.” It is part of the lexicon of government-speak, despite the fact that unlike productivity there is no established measure of “competitiveness”. So the term is more of a values statement than anything else.

To address this shortcoming, the World Economic Forum created an index of global competitiveness. It is about as problematic as any index out there in terms of choices about what gets in, how it is weighted, and whether the outcome is meaningful. But quibbles aside, it is now an annual publication.

This year’s result for Canada: a drop to 16th place. Back when I worked for the feds in the mid-1990s, my Deputy Minister, Kevin Lynch, now Clerk of the Privy Council, wanted us to be number one. The federal government has done everything it has been told to do by the policy elites (like Kevin) and various corporate advisors: we signed the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement then NAFTA and any other trade deal we can get our pens on; we cut taxes then cut them again; we have had a series of program reviews to cut back “wasteful” expenditures; we’ve deregulated so much that we now cynically call it “smart regulation” for a wary public; we’ve privatized public enterprises.

Interestingly, at the top of the WEF list are some of the countries that should be basket cases, according to the conventional wisdom. Switzerland (slightly lower taxes-to-GDP than Canada) gets top spot, up from number four last year. The next three: Finland stays at number two; Sweden jumps from seven to three; and Denmark drops one spot to four. These high-taxing, childcare-providing, union-friendly Nordic countries are consistently at the top of the rankings.

Meanwhile the US dropped from one to six. Ireland, number twenty-one.

Perhaps we need to rethink what makes an economy “competitive” – at least, our policy elites should understand that there are many paths to a strong economy, and the neoliberal model of small government, low taxes and weak unions will not necessarily deliver the goods, yet comes with some nasty side effects such as the poverty and inequality problem we’ve created for ourselves.

From the Globe’s coverage:

Canada, U.S. are less competitive: report

… Canada and the U.S. are seeing their economies become less competitive, while four European countries are now the world’s most competitive nations, a global survey showed Tuesday.

Canada slid to 16th position this year from 13th last year, while the U.S. sank from first spot to sixth, a report by the World Economic Forum showed.

Four European nations — Switzerland, Finland, Sweden and Denmark — assumed the top four spots. Indeed, European countries account for seven of the top 10 most competitive economies this year.

“The top rankings of Switzerland and the Nordic countries show that good institutions and competent macroeconomic management, coupled with world-class educational attainment and a focus on technology and innovation, are a successful strategy,” said Augusto Lopez-Claros, chief economist and director of the Global Competitiveness Network.

The report didn’t specify why Canada slipped in the rankings. But the country’s weakest scores were in the institutions, macroeconomy, higher education, technological readiness and business sophistication categories.

Canada finished strongly in health and primary education along with market efficiency.

…Switzerland’s place at the top of the list “reflects a combination of a world class capacity for innovation and the presence of a highly sophisticated business culture,” the report said.

It added that Swiss companies also spend more on research and development and has a high level of technological innovation. The tiny Alpine nation is sixth in the world for per capita patents registration.

Ireland, a nation touted in recent years as one of the best to do business, finished in the 21st spot, unchanged from last year.

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