The recent unveiling of this year’s World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) reveals that Canada continues to fall on the worldwide stage. In 2009 we were holding our own in ninth position of all worldwide nations considered competitors with us. Since then we have dropped steadily to a current ranking of twelfth in the 2011-2012 GCI. Although the current global economy is dismal at best, we cannot cite it as a reason for our decline, since all other nations are experiencing the same stagnant economies. For some reason, three of those nations have passed Canada in the past three years, in spite of suffering from the same economic maladies that we Canadians face. What can we as a nation do to overcome this downward trend in our global competitiveness?

In a recent speech at the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Ontario, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty challenged Canada’s private sector to become more involved in research and development throughout our nation. “Every person in this room… knows that the global economy we now compete in is increasingly driven by new ideas and knowledge-based industries. Despite this global reality, Canada still lags other nations in overall business expenditures on R&D.” He went on to say that R&D spending by businesses in Canada had actually been decreasing in real terms since 2006. His final statements were eye opening, as he said, “Failure to invest in innovation will leave the country a laggard in the digital economy. At great expense, both economically and socially, we will be reactive rather than proactive. And our businesses will continue to lag in productivity compared to their competitors in other countries.”

We here at Vancouver Island Technology Park see the future as one of great promise. We do not believe that our best days are visible only in the rear view mirror. Nor do we hold to the conviction that the great institutions and engineering programs and research platforms that we Canadians have founded in the recent past are doomed to take a back seat to the competition the world is offering us at this juncture.  Here’s a few reasons why:

  • Our number twelve ranking in the GCI is out of 142 countries worldwide. That puts us in the top 8 ½ % globally. In fact, our slip in the last three years was not due to our numbers dropping, but rather to some other countries, especially the United Kingdom and Hong Kong, experiencing rather unusual growth. Canada’s competitiveness score actually increased slightly this past year even though we dropped in the GCI rankings. This is because these other nations had higher increases than we did.
  • Canada has 27 research and technology parks nationwide. All of these parks are at near capacity and most of them are making plans to enlarge their facilities so they can attract even more R&D enterprises. This bodes well for the expansion of research and development facilities throughout Canada.
  •  The GCI uses 12 different metrics when analyzing each of the nations in its ranking. Canada’s score was extremely high on several of these:

 

  1. Soundness of banks and banking systems – #1
  2. Corporate auditing and reporting standards – #4
  3. Efficacy of corporate boards – #4
  4. Strength of investor protections – #5
  5. Ethical behaviour of firms – #7
  6. Availability of financial services – #5
  7. Availability of local financing – #9

 

As you can readily see, we Canadians have much to be proud of, both about our country and about our institutions. Sadly, the strong worldwide rankings cited above were offset by poor rankings in wasteful government spending (#26), burdensome government regulations (#48), and business costs associated with terrorism (#93). These are areas of real concern and must be addressed if we are to rise back into the top ten of worldwide economies.

As we go forward, it is imperative that we band together to become one of the greatest countries in the world in the area of innovation. It is incumbent upon us to turn our brilliant ideas into commercially viable products and/or services. The World Economic Forum concluded that Canada’s institutions of higher learning were among the world’s finest. They discovered we as a nation have one of the highest high school graduation rates. Due to the great life style Canada offers, we scored very high in the “brain drain” category, as we are able to attract and retain scholars and scientists from other nations to come here and live permanently as well as retain our own graduates at a high rate. With so many positive features about our great nation revealed, it is time to come together and put our innovative spirit and nature to work for the good of each of us and for our country. As many an athletic coach has opined: “Why Not Us? Why Not Now?” Thanks to the wealth of knowledge and expertise represented in Canada’s growing research and development parks we as a nation have the opportunity, and the destiny, to forge into the forefront of global economies!