November 2, 2017

How Trust and Confidence can Drive – or De-Rail – our Economy: Peter Schwartz, CATA Innovation Leadership Council member

Over the past 2 months Peter Schwartz, Chairman of Laurence Capital Corporation,
member CATA Innovation Leadership Council  and accomplished tech investor and entrepreneur member, has written more frequently and more vociferously than at any time in his career. Join with us in reading Peter’s latest blog post:

My writing hasn’t been because I’ve recently discovered LinkedIn or revel in spending hours in social media debates. No my writing is because, like many of my fellow Canadians, I have been deeply worried by the recent actions of our Government and remain significantly concerned that they appear to have neither the experience nor the will to drive our economy forward.

As an entrepreneur and investor I’ve a rather simple yardstick by which I measure the organizations I invest funds or energy into. “Am I confident in the actions and decisions made by this group?” and “Do I trust these individuals and this organization to make the right calls, no matter how tough?”

Sure, when you’re investing millions into a technology start-up there are a myriad of other financial and technical details and evaluations that you do, but when you peel all that back you really do come down to some very simple – but enormously critical – determinations.



We can argue “chicken & egg” here and does Trust precede or follow Confidence. It is all academic in the end. You either have both or you have nothing.

In fact, you either have both or you have this instead.



If Trust and Confidence can accelerate innovation, unlock capital and build powerful new companies, then Skepticism and Uncertainty do the exact opposite.

They create an aura of doubt versus exuberance. They fuel a perspective of “Let’s wait and see” versus “Let’s get on with it” – or worse, a perspective “This ain’t for me, it’s time to move on”

I’ve used this yardstick when evaluating potential business partners, new investment opportunities and new vendors. And I very definitely use this yardstick when I evaluate those in positions of power like the media and politics.

Sadly I’ve seen little in the actions of the current Government that fills me with Confidence.

  • Deeply-flawed Tax proposals that all sectors from business, academia, agriculture and healthcare universally saw as devastating to economic growth and ham-fisted in its execution and communication.
  • A series of hastily-revised concessions and equally inane recommendations including $50K limits on passive income and increases in child care vouchers that won’t do anything to stimulate economic growth in this country.
  • A recurring theme of big PR-driven initiatives that are long on column inches in the media but ominously short on any kind of meaningful detail or Plan.

A more blunt and deeply insightful commentary on how the Government is falling short on building real prosperity in Canada, appeared recently in the Globe & Mail:

“Yet, our growth has stagnated, and the main culprit is our innovation performance. Since 2000, weakness in our innovation performance slowed down our economic growth by 0.25 per cent compounded annually, whereas innovation outputs drove overall U.S. growth over the same period by 1 per cent compounded a year. If Canada had kept pace, there would be an extra $100-billion wealth annually in our economy.”

Any of the actions listed above would independently be enough to create a degree of uncertainty for business leaders and investors domestically and internationally – but when these are coupled with actions that erode the Trust of those communities, then we have a real problem.

  • The use of emotionally-charged words like “fair” and “open consultation” when the former was a misnomer and the latter never occurred.
  • The deeply perturbing set of double-standards between the reprehensible actions of numerous business people engaging in “loopholes” that our Minister of Finance was keen to eradicate, and the manner, and timing, with which he has conducted his own business and financial affairs. The $200 fine levied against the Minister after business dealings that could result in millions of dollars of income is almost Shakespearean in its comedy.    

These are not actions that build Trust. These are actions that erode it.

In fact what worries me most is not these actions…but the level of inaction I see.

  • Inaction on a genuine Innovation Agenda when our global competitiveness is in decline.
  • Inaction on a real Plan to build our local technology ecosystem rather than merchandising a broad Supercluster program that lacks any substantive details.
  • Inaction on the worrying double-standards of some of our most pivotal Government Ministers.
  • Inaction on policies that will drive small business growth for small business and prosperity rather than populist voucher programs and ill-conceived tax proposals that will neuter business growth. 

Quite simply I, and I imagine every other Canadian in this great country, believe the Government has a very simple mandate from us.

Build Our Confidence.

In our market. In the viability of this country. In our ability to compete globally. In our desire to grow world-class businesses locally, rather than import them. In our small-business owners, doctors, farmers as the engine of our economy.

Earn Our Trust.

That you’ll make the tough decisions. That you’ll hold yourself to a higher standard. That you will create meaningful Plans, not forgettable PR. That you’ll engage and work together – rather than in opposition – with groups that want to help build this amazing country.

That’s how you build Trust and Confidence.

That’s how you drive an economy and a country forward.

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