The Canadian Association of Management Consultants (CAMC) will this week begin seeking direct support for its national productivity-improvement strategy from Canada’s high technology community. CAMC will be reaching out to Canada’s high-tech
hotbed when it brings its “”Enhancing Productivity Through Innovation”” study to the Ottawa Centre for Research and Innovation (OCRI) Showcase 2002 Wednesday. George Wright, CAMC’s eastern Ontario chapter chairperson, said the campaign will then continue on to other Canadian tech centres like Toronto and Vancouver.
“”We’re trying to create an awareness,”” Wright said. “”We’re trying to get people to go to their local MP.”” Wright said he expects mayors from eastern Ontario to be in attendance and figures their support – the mayors of both Ottawa and Kingston are very committed to the idea, Wright said – will filter up to more senior levels of government. “”One of the things we’re trying to suggest to them [tech companies] is to think beyond their expertise, into human resources, taxation, marketing.””
CAMC first released its study to the federal Industry Ministry and to Opposition industry critics at the end of January, in it claiming Canada’s standard of living is threatened by a relative drop in the country’s productivity. The study, which examined Canadian industry in general, claims the productivity gap between Canada and the United States has widened by 25 per cent over the last two decades with Canada’s standard of living declining 20 per cent relative to its southern neighbour since 1961.
Among the study’s recommendations are for the federal government to replace its policies of subsidization – which it says provide an artificial safety net – with funding and investment directed at projects that promise growth. It argues, for example, that the billions of dollars Ottawa has spent on the Cape Breton Development Corp. have had negligible long-term positive impact for Cape Breton. Wright said government should invest only where there is expected benefit, either through a straight return or an opening of further development opportunities.
“”Subsidization is when the government says ‘You can get the business if you agree to put the business in a certain part of Canada.’ That should be based on a business case,”” Wright said. “”It’s up to industry to create the climate for government to put in infrastructure.””
Brian O’Higgins, founder, vice-president and chief technology officer for Entrust Inc., said he supports CAMC’s study but suggests government can get the most return by supporting Canada’s high-tech industry through its own purchases.
“”It’s (government’s) most powerful button to push on the industry is buying power,”” he said, saying that while government spending in Canada could never equal such spending in the United States, it can still have a significant impact. “”They have more influence than they give themselves credit for.””
O’Higgins said the Government of Canada has bought a security license for each Canadian for its Government On-Line initiative and this investment-through-purchase has opened up international markets for Entrust, which is headquartered in Addison, Tex., but maintains a significant presence in Ottawa. O’Higgins said the federal purchases helped spur interest from the United States Congress, which is scheduled to visit Entrust for a first-hand evaluation in the coming weeks.
“”Entrust has benefited from government projects,”” he said. “”But the biggest benefit we have seen is from the government buying Entrust products.””
Along with redirecting investment, the CAMC study recommends the feds increase funding of research and development programs, work to liberalize trade between provinces and with the United States, hasten immigration of skilled foreigners, stabilize and incrementally improve the value of the Canadian dollar, and adjust tax regimes to be more friendly to independent contractors, small businesses and high-income individuals. The study also urges businesses to take advantage of government programs supporting development and export, encourage cross-border certifications for professional associations, and support non-traditional working arrangements.
It argues both the federal government and businesses should work to support Canada’s health-care system, with businesses investing in telehealth and the feds preserving a publicly-funded system and balancing it with a growing private system. It also urges both the public and private sectors to invest in education. Though education is the domain of the provinces, Wright said the feds can engage in creative funding through research grants.
“”Our universities are chronically underfunded now. You see them crying out for money,”” Wright said. “”We’ve simply got to support our training and education.””