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Canada, I love you, but you can do better

by Patrick McKenna January 14, 2020
Canada, I love you, but you can do better

Look, Canada I love you a lot, but we need to talk. I’m worried about our future.

You act like you’re number one but the facts say otherwise. The OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) says you’re very middling: your Gross Domestic Product per person is sixteenth in the OECD family of 36 members. Worse, your social spending lags – public pension spending, family benefits, and spending on incapacity are 7th, 6th and 5th – from last. Gender earnings equity is 4th worst, household debt 9th highest, tax on personal income 7th highest and savings 8th from last. The September 2019 unemployment rate at 5.6 per cent was more than double the rates of the Czech Republic and Japan and trailed Mexico and the USA, tied at 3.5 per cent. What can I say? You’re just not number one.

And even your middling performance is precarious. Most of your trade goes to a single market – the increasingly volatile USA. You were doing well, by diversifying trade with China until you arrested Meng Wanzhou at Washington’s request, and that was that, wasn’t it? Then there are your “cash crop” industries: oil, mining and forestry that in a greener, cleaner world could disappear just as quickly as the baby seal hunt, asbestos and fur coats. Let’s face it, much of your service sector is a house of cards: real estate, financial services driven by mortgage and other consumer debt, and three levels of government.

You should be innovating like crazy to create new, green, industries but you aren’t. R&D spending lags the OECD average of 2.4 per cent and the 2019 Global Innovation Index ranked you 17th in 2019, down from 15th in 2016 (you once were in the Top 10). Although the Global Affairs website states that: “The Arctic is fundamental to Canada’s national identity,” you aren’t the world’s leading builder of icebreakers… Finland is. Agriculture? The Netherlands is the world’s second largest exporter of agricultural products. You’re number eight. According to Environment Canada, you’re the world’s third largest producer of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). You’re also the first in the world with a GMO animal product – salmon. But with much of the world GMO-averse, what on earth were you thinking?

I know, Canada, you say I worry too much and I might agree with you if you weren’t warning newcomers of the employment risks they face “…being accepted to come to Canada does not guarantee you employment in Canada in your preferred job or any other job.”

So you see Canada, it’s time for an adult conversation about our future. Trouble is, there’s little sign of that happening.

The last general election wasn’t much of an adult conversation, was it? Will the next one be any better? I wonder. For the moment I’ll have to rely on the OECD data — they’re my best bet for getting to the truth about our future.

Graphic by @sundaeghost

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