Via The Globe and Mail
by Jeffrey Simpson
Canada has a serious productivity problem. The statistical evidence is unambiguous and of long standing.”
Heard that before, or versions thereof? Probably not, unless you’re a policy wonk. Productivity is a word editors dislike, television disdains, politicians fear, and from which the general public recoils.
It’s the great Canadian bore, right up there with Senate reform, equalization and the latest iteration of Quebec secession, tedious for readers, too complicated for television, abstract as a concept, and scary for citizens who think productivity improvements will mean working more for less, or working not at all.
But there it is, again: another learned group telling us that we’ve got a productivity problem. This time, it’s the Council of Canadian Academies (from which the opening quote is taken), warning and cajoling the country, or trying to, about this Achilles heel of our future.
Without productivity improvements, future economic prospects will be, well, middling, especially not exclusively because as the population ages a smaller share of the population will be working to support the larger share in retirement.
Then there’s the competition with China, India and Brazil, and the uncomfortable fact that we have hitched our star to the United States, whose own productivity is slumping. That our productivity consistently lags that of the U.S. is now especially ominous, given that country’s massive economic problems.
In Ottawa today, a clutch of university presidents, corporate types and civil servants will put their heads together to ponder the role of research and innovation in Canada’s economy. The presidents will want more money for their institutions – they are paid to make this pitch, and it is a good one – but the Council of Canadian Academies report points the finger of blame squarely at Canadian business.