Just three days after the Alberta government announced new lockdown measures on December 8 in attempt to hold back a fresh wave of COVID-19 cases, the Trudeau government’s Industrial Strategy Council released its report. You are forgiven if you missed it.
The Industrial Strategy Council, chaired by respected Quebec business leader Monique Leroux and comprised of folks like Suncor CEO Mark Little and CME’s Past Chair Rhonda Barnet, was tasked with shaping our country’s economic competitiveness amidst new pressures from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Government-appointed committee reports aren’t sexy in the best of times and, dropped in the middle of December during some of the worst days of the pandemic, this report didn’t get the proper attention and discussion it deserved.
The report recommends a reimagining of Canadian industrial sectors, beginning with reviewing and streamlining of business support and investment attraction programs – scrapping the ineffective ones and beefing up the ones that work.
It calls for the creation of a made-in-Canada industrial strategy to emerge from the pandemic disruption with strength. The Council warns that “[a]round the world, many countries, including France, Germany, and South Korea, as well as the European Union are preparing large-scale strategies for how they will thrive in a new world. Canada cannot lag and tackle this unprecedented crisis with conventional approaches.”
The report calls for the strategy to be built on four exceptionally sensible pillars:
1: Become a digital and data-driven economy
2: Be the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) world leader in resources, clean energy, and clean technology
3: Build innovative and high-value manufacturing where we can lead globally
4: Leverage our agri-food advantage to feed the planet
The Council figures that, if Canada adopts their vision, we could add $235-$310 billion to our GDP in 2030. Now, it’s tempting to dismiss these numbers as just more rosy projections from another government committee, but if you take the time to read the report, there’s some serious meat on the bones. Perhaps most importantly, it acknowledges that advanced manufacturing and investment in technology are critical to our economic wellbeing.
This brings me back to a point I’ve made in these pages several times over – our provincial government needs to create its own industrial strategy. A made-in-Alberta industrial strategy would look at our economy, not just as oil and gas or value-added agriculture, but as a complex system with countless moving parts – a system that will be driven by investment in technology and people. Our neighbours in Saskatchewan have a growth plan that considers these things. Alberta should, too.
The alternative is letting the federal government do the planning for us. Yeah, didn’t think you’d like that.
Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) is the voice of Canadian manufacturing. CME represents more than 2,500 companies who account for an estimated 82 per cent of manufacturing output and 90 per cent of Canada’s exports.