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What we heard

The Economic Strategy Tables are a new way for industry and government to work together. Many views helped to shape the recommendations CEOs made in their reports. The numbers tell the story: more than 60 engagement sessions, a total of 34 meetings between all six Tables, 90 CEOs, and 20 public submissions.

Scroll down to find out what Canadians had to say about Canada's economic growth and competitiveness. You can also read the Report from Canada's Economic Strategy Tables: The Innovation and Competitiveness Imperative

Skills and Talent

"Labour has been highlighted as an area of great concern. Actions by government to ensure a competitive supply of labour, including engaging Canadian youth to advance careers in horticulture, are important. Longer term, automation strategies to reduce the use of low-skilled labour will be important to increasing productivity."

"As the sector continues to increase and diversify production to meet global demand for our products, it will be challenged to not only find the quantity of workers needed but the quality. Like many other sectors, agriculture is evolving and advancing all along the agri-food value chain. While many of these developments will help the sector to increase productivity and bolster our competitiveness, they cannot be realized without the support of a skilled workforce."

"Canada's food, agriculture and veterinary sectors have significantly greater demand for graduates of degree programs than our faculties are currently supplying. We need to establish a platform by which to assess and address this need for targeted investment in higher education. Key efforts would include… indigenous success… skills development… domestic and international student recruitment… experiential coops skills training."

"The shortage of software development talent is a global problem, not just a problem for Canada. The growth of Canada's digital industries is constrained by this lack of talent—and it is not just at the junior levels, but all levels including mid-level and senior-level."

Technology Adoption

"All in all, introduction and adaption of digital technology in advanced manufacturing will result in significant changes in how firms are operating, what their business models are, how strategic partners can be developed and what are the skills required to strive. We believe the topic of how to address these important challenges—especially for SME's—is one that the Economic Strategy Table could and should address."

"Global demand for health technology is growing, creating an enormous opportunity for Canada to become a worldwide leader in health technology innovation and production. While great potential exists for prosperity in this segment, Canada faces a number of challenges in capitalizing on growing global markets.”

"Canada needs to make technology more inclusive – not just solving business problems, but social problems as well. We need to be concerned, in order to avoid the emergence of two Canadas – one urban and one rural – digital technologies have the capacity to shrink the country and enable economic growth.  A digitally aware society embraces digital change and technology.  We need to increase digital literacy so we become 'digital by default'." 

"We see Canada, with its single payer health system, empowering the sharing of data crucial to advancing the field of precision medicine. Combined with the rich genetic diversity of our country, from First Nations to new immigrants, this will deliver a globally representative genetic database, which can put Canada in a world-leading position; a position Canadian industry would use to benefit countries around the world as an innovator in the field of precision medicine."

"Automation and robotics can be an important part of the solution to the labour challenges the agri-food sector faces, but adopting these systems involves significant investment and levels of risk. Policies and programs which de-risk the adoption of technology will help Canadian businesses to remain competitive. Adopting sustainable practices will also require investment and incentives for industry that can be used to increase sustainability (i.e. energy efficiency, market incentives for bioproducts and biopackaging, zero waste, reduced GHG emissions)."

Agile Regulations

"The current regulatory approach creates impediments to industry growth, as well as a potential uneven playing field with foreign competitors. A proposed long term recommended action could be to adopt a more forward-looking regulatory approach that incorporates industry competitiveness as a consideration in regulatory development."

"Canada needs to have industry groups working together across various commodities to address non-competitive issues or concerns in the public trust area such as: food safety, human health, animal care and environmental stewardship so they do not become part of marketing competition."

"Regulations regarding privacy limit innovation and adoption and do not easily address the patient having the right to take the informed risk of sharing data. This can be used to block innovative usage of technology using reasons such as "the servers do not reside in Canada”, "the security protocol is not proven”, etc. A minimum standard of a patient's right to care would assist innovators when discussing adoption with local IT departments."

"Regulations should, wherever possible, be outcome or performance based instead of prescriptive. This will allow the market to determine the most effective and economically viable solution and will spur innovation."

"It is great to get rid of inefficient regulation, but we can't lose track of achieving our environmental objectives – ‘AND' – opportunities for the group to get behind solutions that bridge the gap between economy and environment."

Brand Canada

"Part of making Manufacturing attractive to the younger generation and raising general awareness will be in re-branding Canada in Canada. We need to increase the awareness of everything made in Canada by re-classifying what is allowed when putting the "Made in Canada” label to reflect the realities of the Global supply chain. Currently, it has to be 51% to be called made in Canada and 98% to be called from Canada."

"… we firmly believe that Canada should strive to be the global cleantech leader, and more than just one amongst many leaders."

"Branding Canada as a place to work in technology needs to market to both the public and private sectors.  We should be the destination of choice for the world's smartest people. Canada has a robust technology sector with an enviable quality of life."

"We need to create a media campaign to showcase Canadian innovation – like the Heritage Moment series –  "#Canada Innovates”.  Marketing is important and Canadians do not market themselves strongly enough. Canada needs to start understanding the importance and value of good marketing."

"We can have a great country and a great brand - but we need to communicate it. Most of Canada's investment decisions are made abroad, so unless our brand is communicated to the place and the people where those decisions are made, then the message is lost."

Infrastructure

"Without good infrastructure, talent is harder to attract, and accessing export markets is more costly"
"The physical assets for carbon economy present enormous barriers to entry and create market failures. We need an action to build physical infrastructure that will support the market and realign towards a low carbon future."

"There is a strong support for investment in infrastructure, and more importantly, there is a need for long-term planning, a 50-year horizon, and  more analysis to guide funding decisions."

"Long term we will lose the innovation battle to countries that have more broadband internet access. Put yourself in the shoes of an investor: where will I put my next greenfield investment? Somewhere that I will get approvals faster, and where I know it will be connected to a future-fit infrastructure. So if we want to grow investment in Canada, we need to create that bedrock."

Own the Podium

"We are building a roadmap for Canadian competitiveness in manufacturing. We will show our youth through building things, you can build a better world.”

"While many of the participants focused on specific technologies (e.g. AI) or products (e.g. ingredients), I suggest the biggest single innovation will be in how we change our institutions, structure and markets (drawing on Schumpeter). Our ability to organize in the past (coops, government policies and programs, firms, sectoral councils and research teams and networks) are the fundamental basis for our current success. While future success will be measured by how much we exploit and benefit from new technologies and products, the key to that success will be how we innovate our institutions. Our policy system, the program landscape and our industrial structure can and should evolve to the changing international opportunities.”

"… Canadian health innovations need to find the ‘first customer' beyond the pilot phase to be competitive in the market. We need to develop growth policies and provide funding mechanisms that accelerate the move beyond the pilot stage towards a pathway where innovations generate sustainable revenues and are positioned to scale."

"From a corporate structure perspective, we need to provide incentives that foster strategic partnerships between large companies with small and medium-sized companies, laying the groundwork for becoming a unicorn factory in the life and bio-sciences sector."

"Public markets (public organisations and para-public companies) can have a significant impact on the business development in the clean technology sector by serving as a demonstration project. They could become accelerators of the adoption of certain clean technologies, by enabling SMEs to reach critical mass, and by contributing to the internationalization capacity of the companies. The nature of the State therefore involves testing and demonstrating technologies from here, which become extraordinary showcases for Canadian business."

Where Did We Reach Out? map of Canada
Description of Figure 1

The above is a map of Canada which documents the places around Canada wherein engagement sessions were held. The places include:

  • Nova Scotia: Halifax
  • Prince Edward Island: Brudenell, Charlottetown, North Cape
  • Quebec:Montreal
  • Nunavut: Iqaluit
  • Ontario: London, Ottawa, Peterborough, Toronto, Waterloo
  • Manitoba: Winnipeg
  • Saskatchewan: Regina, Saskatoon
  • Alberta: Calgary
  • British Colombia: Abbotsford, Nanaimo, Vancouver

Table Reports

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