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Spotlight on our bold bets: Open for business – Canadian style

By Farah Huq, Director, Future of Canada Centre at Deloitte Canada

Throughout 2017, we’re writing about how Canada can build on our legacy of bold action to become the world’s best place to live and work over the next 25 years. Vital to this are the courageous, often difficult decisions that we call upon leaders to make in our most recent report, Bold bets for our country: It’s time for deliberate action.

Our first bold bet calls on government and business to work together to identify and support our future global champions. Building on this idea, we’re challenging Canada to build on its brand as an open and diverse nation to better compete at a global level.

As other countries turn inwards by restricting the flow of goods and people across borders, Canada has an unparalleled opportunity for growth and prosperity. To capitalize, we should leverage our reputation in the world as a welcoming, open and diverse society to make ourselves even more open to people — and to business.

Moving to Canada – for real

Canada must draw on our openness and dramatically accelerate our engagement in the global economy in areas of competitive advantage. We need to make Canada the destination of choice for innovative companies in those sectors by reducing barriers to talent and trade. Here’s where to start:

  1. Attract the best and brightest talent — then maximize their impact: We’ve already made progress by introducing express entry visas for skilled workers, but attracting top talent to Canada isn’t the whole picture.

    To maximize their impact, we need to ensure that newcomers to Canada can actively use the world-class skills that brought them here. Unfortunately, our patchwork system of foreign credential recognition — with complex, lengthy and expensive processes that differ widely across industries and regions — is holding us back. A 2016 Conference Board of Canada report found that Canadians would earn up to $17 billion more per year if their education and skills were formally recognized. We need to move more quickly to create a streamlined, pan-Canadian framework for credential recognition that starts earlier in the immigration process.
  2. Facilitate entry for innovative companies in emerging sectors: What would it take to bring the next Apple or Tesla to Canada? We should be thinking about how we can attract innovative companies to Canada, but our current policies don’t fully support this. For example, Canada’s start-up visa, which focuses on the creation of new companies, currently only allows up to five members of a start-up team to immigrate together.
     

    Rather than just targeting individuals, we should target whole companies at the forefront of their industries, including employees and employees’ families. Policymakers should consider how to facilitate the entry of innovative foreign companies in sectors that align to our competitive advantages. Corporate relocation frameworks could provide expedited, preferential pathways to help selected companies move their business and their lives to Canada, including accelerated visa processing and credential recognition. Entire companies, including founders, management teams, employees and their families would be eligible to immigrate.
  3. Enable Canadian SMEs to go global: Openness goes both ways. As Canada opens its doors to new talent and industries, we should also bring more Canada to the world by capitalizing on the growth potential of our small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

SMEs make up a majority of Canadian businesses and play a large role in job creation, accounting for approximately 95% of job growth from 2005-2012. By helping SMEs go global, we can offer firms in our areas of competitive advantage the chance to scale up beyond our domestic markets. Participation in global value chains (GVCs) can offer significant opportunity to SMEs by enabling them to specialize in key business functions while overcoming many traditional export barriers. However, Canada currently lags behind its peers in GVC participation: as of 2011, only 13% of SME exporters were part of a GVC.

Business and government should work together to help SMEs increase their export capacity. Businesses that act as partners in global value chains, and firms and industries that have flourished in overseas markets, can share lessons and best practices from their experiences. Government can support SMEs by bringing buyers and sellers together through targeted trade missions and working to reduce red tape and disincentives for exporters as a whole.

To ensure Canada’s prosperity for the years ahead, Canadians will have to make bold choices. By capitalizing on the strength of our openness and diversity and pushing our economy and society in new directions, we can make Canada at 175 the world’s best place to live and work.

Why does Canada need to be bold now?

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