The Canadian Chamber of Commerce unveiled its Top 10 Barriers to Competitiveness for 2013 recently. The Canadian Chamber undertook this initiative last year to draw attention to the barriers that are holding back Canada's progress and to urge all levels of government to act more swiftly to improve our country's ability to compete globally.
Canadian Chamber President and CEO Perrin Beatty declared the initial year of the initiative a success.
"As we take stock of the first year of the Top 10, we made progress on several of the items we targeted," he stated. "For example, our members recorded a major victory when our appeal for change to the regulatory processes around natural resource projects was overwhelmingly accepted by the government. For a country so dependent on the success of natural resource projects, implementing a more efficient process is a huge contributor to competitiveness," said Beatty.
The Canadian Chamber's number one issue last year, as identified by the membership, was Canada's skills shortage. "We held consultations across Canada that enabled us to gain a better grasp on this critical issue.
We were very satisfied to hear the Prime Minister also identify the skills shortage as the major challenge facing our country," added Beatty. The Canadian Chamber intends to maintain its focus on skills in 2013.
2013 Top 10 Barriers to Competitiveness:
- Skills shortages
Governments and businesses across regions and sectors will need to work cooperatively and aggressively to address this ubiquitous issue, particularly in four key areas: upskilling, immigration policies, education-employment alignment and aboriginal education and workforce development.
- Barriers to world markets for Canadian energy products
The overseas market will be of critical economic importance to Canada in the 21st century. Federal, territorial and provincial governments must act now to support the development of the infrastructure and relationships needed to realize the full potential of Canada's energy endowment, or risk missing out on a historic opportunity.
- Inadequate workforce productivity
Improved trends in business investment in productivity-enhancing technologies and equipment are encouraging but still leave Canada underperforming relative to its competitors. To improve its productivity, Canada must leverage advanced technologies and efficient infrastructure, support efforts to raise literacy and numeracy levels among workers and ensure its EI program is not a disincentive to work.
- Inadequate public infrastructure planning
Government commitments to infrastructure have been intermittent and the criteria changeable, making private sector investment difficult and expensive. Mobilizing private investment to finance public goals is essential for infrastructure development.
- Tax complexity and structure
Canada's tax system over-relies on income and profit taxes, the most economically damaging forms of taxation. Canada's tax system is also overly complex and, as a result, imposes unnecessary and significant compliance and administration costs on businesses and consumers. Canada must create a simple, fair and growth-oriented tax system.
- Poor innovation performance
Canada lacks a definitive innovation strategy that brings coherence to the many government policies and programs affecting private research, academic research and commercialization. A clear approach that leads to action is urgently needed.
Poor innovation leaves Canadian business vulnerable to competitors and to changing economic conditions.
- Deficient strategies for trade success in new markets
Canada's competitiveness is constrained by a focus on slow-growing, traditional markets. Canada must reduce its dependency upon its usual trading partners and expand its access to new markets in Asia, Africa and South America. Legal access to these markets is but the first step.
Canada needs to construct trade strategies that will turn access into success.
- Internal barriers to trade
Canada is still far from being a barrier-free internal market. Internal trade barriers cost our economy up to $14 billion each year. Canadian business still has to petition governments for the "right" to sell goods and services in Canada. There needs to be a new agreement that will deliver a single, unimpeded marketplace for internal trade, labour mobility and investment.
- Uncompetitive travel and tourism strategies
Through a combination of high transportation costs and steadily reduced marketing efforts, Canada has slipped from seventh place among the world's tourism destinations to 18th place in just a decade. A huge industry, critical in every region, is struggling with its competitiveness and needs public policies that are forward-looking and supportive.
- Lack of access to capital
A critical element of business competitiveness in any industry is access to capital-be it through venture capital or through foreign direct investment. Canada must support a sustainable private-sector led venture capital market and increase its appeal to foreign investors.
- The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is the vital connection between business and the federal government. It helps shape public policy and decision-making to the benefit of businesses, communities and families across Canada with a network of over 420 chambers of commerce and boards of trade, representing 192,000 businesses of all sizes in all sectors of the economy and in all regions.