Canadian Strategy: Reward Success : Views Put Forward for Canada's Election Debates
March 25, 2011
Canada must now make a choice between our continuing relative decline compared to many other industrialize countries, and a refreshing lift stimulated by improved productivity. The prize in making this choice is an improved standard of living for our shrinking workforce and a guaranteed retirement for our aging population, in an era when more people are over 65 than under five.
In making the case that workers and capital should be moved to the highest contributing “energy level”, we need only consider our future in everyday terms: next time you are driving past a road crew, consider that the Canadian laborers are being paid a modest wage to dig the ditch. The Asian workers who designed and built the multi-million-dollar exactor are being paid much more -- and they are working indoors!
Overall, with limited resources, our key challenge in turning the decline around is to impose a more rigorous way to measure the economic success of the outcomes of our programs.
Our greatest challenge in shaping this future is to concentrate on the hard job of making ourselves relevant to the global economy. From the beginning, we sold commodities that the world needed, right from the forest or mine. Now, with 70% of the economy occurring in the Service sector, we need to partner with global players to deliver higher-value and more knowledge-intensive products.
IRAP, for example, is an agency with a laudable mission, and we have lobbied for and we applaud the higher level of funding that it has received. One of its most important programs, where the rubber should meet the road for our economic success, is the SR&ED tax credit program. CATA is looking for a management environment that makes it work. It now fosters a very top-heavy organization dedicated to R&D instead of commercialization. For SME's, this is less integrated with the world of competition that they know. This has been under review for two Ministers, and we still have no commitment to getting things done.
We need to get the government focused on commercialization rather than research, so business can become as competitive as possible. While obtaining more venture capital is important, it is also important to create a different public-sector environment.
To cite one program with goals we absolutely endorse, because we fought hard for its creation, the federal Canadian Innovation and Commercialization Program is off to a great start, under an energetic Director General. However, the organization’s job of procuring and testing innovative technology is hampered by its need to negotiate for funding for each new project with each department that has the budget for the project-area in question. It’s like trying to run a grocery store where the customers have to buy each item on the shelves from each manufacturer, instead of at the front check-out. This needs streamlining. We want a government that works with the bur to make things happen. If each delivery mechanism is struggling against its environment, it won't work. There are many areas where the right paths are being followed, such as the initiatives for telecommunications strategy and new media, but the underlying attitude has to change or the measures will not be effective.
We are looking for creation of an umbrella environment controlled by a program cutting across all departments, that mark programs by results. The results-driving program should focus mainly on initiatives aimed at commercialization. In the SR&ED program, for example, the department has no interest in the delivery of results as the government has requested, but in delivering the letter of the law. Intent is missing.
CATA has broad recommendations to enable the success of its Innovation Nation platform
, that address issues such as support for tech-intensive companies. It also is working on specific issues such as enhancing the role of women in technology, improving the productivity of our First Responders, and creating a community-based high-broadband network that spurs prosperity at the grass-roots level. Underlying it all, is the presumption that any program will be driven by a bureaucracy that is motivated by results. Our future depends on the success of this transformation.
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