As is well-known, the proportion of women who are active in the paid work force has grown very rapidly since the 1970s, transforming the workplace and society as a whole in the process. The rising participation rate of women was a major economic force over the past three decades in that it kept real family incomes afloat despite stagnant, if not falling, male wages.Read more
While we tend to celebrate private entrepreneurship, the state is crucially important in driving and shaping innovation. The question of which economies will thrive and which will lag behind on innovation has a lot to do with sound public policy.
With an economy historically reliant on natural resources and one with high rates of foreign ownership, the role government plays is even more important for Canada.
The fact that income inequality in Canada today is significantly greater than it was 30 years ago is not in serious dispute. But there is much less agreement on the underlying causes.
It is important to look at trends in the “pre-distribution” of income by the market in the form of wages and salaries, and changes in the impact of government taxes and income transfer programs that redistribute market income from the more affluent to the less affluent.Read more
It’s no secret that Ontario needs to create jobs. Our unemployment rate is too high. But it’s very strange to suggest that job creation can be accomplished by killing jobs that people actually have today. And yet, that is exactly what Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak proposed in his jobs plan, which he tabled in the legislature last week.
In addition to some drastic cuts to public sector jobs, Hudak’s pledge to end subsidies to wind and solar power would have the effect of killing thousands of jobs in Ontario’s newest manufacturing sector — green energy.
Three economists on how the manufacturing sector can bounce back
This article originally appeared in the Toronto Star.
Know your advantages
Manufacturing absolutely has a future in Canada, and in particular southwestern Ontario. The key to understanding the future of the industry is in knowing where our competitive advantages lie.
Low labour costs will never be a comparative advantage for Canadian manufacturing, but given those “costs” are largely wages, this should not be seen as a problem. Less obvious is how proximity to markets is no longer a comparative advantage for traditional manufacturing regions. The world’s economic centre of gravity is heading toward Asia, which places goods from southwestern Ontario at a geographic disadvantage compared to most other parts of North America. Even markets within North America are changing. In 1900, neighbouring cities such as Cleveland (7th), Buffalo (8th) and Detroit (13th) were among the biggest cities in the U.S. Now those cities are 48th, 73rd and 18th in population.
This disadvantage may pose less of a problem than it to appears at first glance. With supply chains becoming increasingly global, a smartphone assembled in China may have an operating system designed in Kitchener-Waterloo and Brantford, applications programmed in London and Windsor and use precision-crafted parts from St. Thomas and Sarnia.
The region maintains a number of advantages, including a financial sector that is familiar with the industry. We have one of the most well-educated workforces in the world, which gives us an advantage when it comes to precision manufacturing and products where high-quality control is important, such as food. Although our labour costs are high, there are significant cost advantages in other areas, such as access to land and clean water. Manufacturers that use these advantages are well-positioned for future growth.
— Mike Moffatt, assistant professor, Ivey Business School
Three ways to act now
Ontario manufacturing has had a rough ride over the last decade. A number of factors have been at play, including the rise of the dollar, the deep U.S. recession, and the growth of competition from emerging economies. However, we should not conclude that Ontario manufacturing is down for the count. Far from it.
In some research looking at leading Canadian firms done at Ivey’s Lawrence Centre, we find reasons for optimism. Firms such as Linamar, Magna and Shawcor are competing and winning at home and in global markets. Focusing on high value-added manufacturing, they are making the most of Canada’s skilled workforce and capacity for innovation to win new business around the globe.
Business and public-sector leaders convened with Ivey researchers in November to translate our research findings into action. They agreed on three recommendations for immediate action.
Leaders agreed that the primary responsibility for manufacturing success lies with the private sector. Therefore they aimed their first two recommendations at firms. Their first was to find a mentor: Firms seeking to expand into international markets need the counsel and advice of seasoned executives.
Their second recommendation was to form partnerships with local educational institutions. To attract the next generation of skilled workers and managers to manufacturing, firms need to connect directly with students by visiting classrooms and hosting plant tours. Linamar is a good example of a firm that is putting these ideas into practice.
Finally, leaders are looking for governments to raise their game, particularly in the area of attracting investment. Despite Canada’s many advantages, jurisdictions such as Mexico are winning the investment attraction game, even when wages are a small part of the total business proposition. Ottawa, provinces and municipalities need to work together to put our best case forward.
Ontario can compete and win at manufacturing. The leading firms we studied prove it. We need to stop focusing on our problems and start taking action on solutions.
— Paul Boothe, director of the Lawrence Centre at Ivey
How to work together
The recent depreciation of the Canadian dollar combined with recovery in the United States opens up a temporary window for recovery of Ontario’s hard-hit manufacturing sector. Those companies that have survived a brutal decade have the opportunity to grow. However, recovery will not happen automatically, and will require a major effort on the part of many players.
Support for new corporate investment is critical, but lowering the overall corporate tax rate has had little impact. Ontario’s corporate tax system should use enhanced tax credits to reward companies that invest heavily in new machinery and equipment, research and development, and worker skills.
Governments must also ensure access to the “patient” equity capital needed to finance investment that has a long-term payoff. Given the small scale of venture capital funds in Ontario and the focus of banks on short-term loans, we should establish an Ontario public investment bank focused exclusively on manufacturing. Such a body should operate at arms’ length from government, on the model of the federal Export Development Corporation.
Ontario has had a patchy record of fostering collaboration between the key players in a successful modern economy: government, companies, the post-secondary educational system; local governments; and unions. Drawing on past successes, Ontario should establish province-wide and local sector councils, bringing key players together to promote and deliver skills training and collaborative research programs. Community colleges can play a major role in rebuilding local manufacturing.
A revival of Ontario manufacturing will require active government leadership, and a spirit of partnership. It will certainly not come about if public institutions and unions are seen as the enemy.
— Andrew Jackson, Senior Policy Advisor, Broadbent Institute
Geoff Meggs and Rod Mickleburgh. The Art of the Impossible: Dave Barrett and the NDP in Power, 1972-1975. Harbour Publishing. 2012.
This impressive and readable book by two well-known and respected British Columbia authors sheds light on a now largely forgotten episode in Canadian politics and is a welcome reminder of the very real gains that can be made by a determined and genuinely progressive government.
Geoff Meggs is a journalist and current Vancouver City Councillor, and Rod Mickleburgh writes from Vancouver for the Globe and Mail.Read more
How long would you be willing to wait to be paid for your work? A normal paycheque may be held back for a couple of weeks or a month, but most of us can be pretty certain when it will arrive.
Not so in for many contractors and their subcontractors in the Ontario construction industry. They often have to wait months or even years for payment, even though they are out of pocket for the labour and materials costs of keeping up their end of the bargain.Read more
Statistics Canada released Friday Canada's January Labour Force numbers, showing Canada's job market remains mired in a weak recovery.
On the surface, the labour force numbers look alright. The national unemployment rate fell from 7.2% to 7.0%, and employment rose by 29,000, all in full-time employment.
However, the employment rate (the proportion of the working age population with a job) was unchanged at 61.6%, and the unemployment rate fell mainly because of a decline in the number of persons seeking work.Read more
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says the economy is too weak to support a modest, phased-in increase in Canada Pension Plan (CPP) premiums divided between employers and employees.
This is disputed by experts, and also contradicts Conservative messaging in two important ways.
First, in every other context, from the Speech from the Throne, to the recent Economic and Fiscal Update, the Conservatives have bragged about Canada's economic performance and highlighted the chances of a strong recovery. Except when it comes to the CPP debate, "the land is strong."
There is broad agreement across the political spectrum that we need to create more 'good middle-class jobs', especially for young people leaving the educational system, recent immigrants to Canada, and aboriginal persons.
Middle-class jobs can be seen as those which provide decent pay, working conditions, and benefits; a measure of employment security; and, above all, opportunities to build skills and progress over time in a career. In today's labour market, these kind of jobs generally require a professional or advanced technical qualification acquired through postsecondary education.Read more