Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Reimagining our Economy

As our federal leaders bicker and cat fight over who is going to save the economy or if they've already done it, job losses notwithstanding, we need to consider what kind of economy we want. We already know Canada has sucky productivity. We also know from RIM and the Perimeter Institute that we have some amazingly bright, innovative, entrepreneurial minds in Canada. We've been coasting on the price of oil, but like commodities have a habit of doing, the price has dropped. It will rise again, but basing a country's economy on a resource is the worst thing you can do. No or few value-added jobs come out of strictly drilling and selling or mining and shipping across the border. Training people to polish the diamonds here creates a knowledge and skilled economy more valuable than simply shipping raw diamonds to Europe. The same is true for all aspects of our economy. We can no longer afford to subsidize resources that are shipped out of Canada; we need to predicate it on it being value added here first, from refineries to steel making to paper making. And also, we need to subsidize those areas that provide jobs for our knowledge and green workers over jobs that simply pump finite resources out of the earth.

Ontario traditionally relies on manufacturing. But for too long, the bulk of that has been cars. We now need to consider other kinds of manufacturing, the kind that relies on research and development here, not in another country; the kind that can be created and manufactured here and then exported to the globe, not just the United States; the kind that spins off many, different good-paying jobs that allow workers to buy product made by their fellow Canadians. Allowing so many manufacturing jobs to leave Canada and head for China is not only bad for our economy and the stability of the left-over jobs here, but also to our health -- easily counterfeited or adulterated prescription drugs, contaminated foods, poorly-made toys, to name the repercussions we know about. Relying on other countries to come up with innovative products like wind mills means we pay for their erection and only generate income from the electricity they create instead of also benefitting from exporting the wind mill technology itself to other countries and creating jobs here. Devaluing our bright minds means that the Tory government almost allowed the selling off of our Canadarm manufacturer.

Whichever government gets the majority support of Parliament needs to do more than chuck money at the auto sector, they need to reimagine what our economy ought to be and start making it happen.

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