Bold bets spotlight: building and supporting global champions
By Blaine Woodcock, Partner at Deloitte Canada and Chief of Staff to the Managing Partner and Chief Executive
Canada’s history is one of bold bets and big decisions. Since Confederation, visionary leaders have responded to challenges with courageous and decisive action. We’ve written before on this blog about our belief that Canada can build on this legacy and become an unparalleled place to live and work. To achieve this goal, it’s vital that Canada’s business and government leaders make the uncomfortable decisions we called on them to make in Bold bets for our country: It’s time for deliberate action.
A crucial first bet Canada must consider is identifying and then providing considerable support to our current and future global champions, concentrating government and private investment in areas of competitive advantage. While the resource sector has long served as our source of competitive advantage, and will be one continue to be one, Canada’s people advantage is now more important than ever. The global economy is increasingly competitive, yet Canada’s productivity has historically lagged that of other developed nations. Our highly educated workforce, with a 55% post-secondary education rate that far surpasses the 35% OECD average, will be a source of great strength.
Canada’s people advantage has already created a wide range of growing knowledge-based industries, such as artificial intelligence (AI), biotechnology, cybersecurity, quantum computing, and fintech. We are establishing a real advantage in AI, with the Toronto-Waterloo corridor, Montreal, and Edmonton emerging as globally renowned AI hubs. Deloitte and other industry partners have joined the Canadian and Ontario governments in a unique public-private partnership to fund Ontario’s Vector Institute, while AI investments from companies like Google and General Motors demonstrate that the market is interested in Canada.
We can’t pick champions from the top down. Nor can we rely on luck, simply maintaining the status quo in hopes that new business champions arise. Instead, I believe that Canada needs to do two things to ensure our continuing prosperity.
- We need a national conversation to identify sectors and technologies that market signals indicate are ready to compete globally. Champion sectors, technologies and/or academic institutions should have international recognition, networks of interconnected businesses and institutions, geographic advantages, and existing investment. Continuous conversation is vital, because today’s champions may not be those of tomorrow.
- We need the right business environment for champions to emerge and flourish. Education, R&D investment, and the regulatory environment must align to reinforce those sectors in which we have chosen to win. By targeting our time and resources, we can ensure that these provide a strong foundation for the Canadian business environment able to support our champions’ growth. Taxes also need to be globally competitive and encourage entrepreneurs and businesses to scale-up and grow. Pairing the right education and investments with smart policymaking will spark innovation.
Ultimately, this will require a collective effort. Governments need to be willing to make tough decisions and to be realistic about focusing resources where we can compete and win. Businesses need to play an active role in shaping emerging champions and reinforcing our advantages where they exist. This includes actively engaging in curriculum development to create the talent needed to address tomorrow’s needs, and supporting collaboration where required. Finally, as individual citizens we need to support courage in government that helps position us well for the economy of the future. While these decisions will take courage, and may not always receive unanimous support, they are in the best interests of our country’s future.
Why does Canada need to be bold now?