Canadian Productivity

By Bruce Firestone | Uncategorized

May 07
[A version of this article first appeared in Ottawa Business Journal, http://www.obj.ca/article/op-ed-productive-advice-canadian-business]

I was
flabbergasted to learn recently from my oldest son, Andrew, who works for the
national government in Canberra, that Aussie
productivity is quite a bit higher than Canada’s. He’s right about that,
and he should be—he’s an economist.

Here’s a
comparison between Australia GDP per capita and Canada’s—

Australia
GDP per capita $67,035.57 ranked 5th  

Canada
GDP per capita $52,218.99 ranked 8th

Australia 28% more than Canada              

[USD,
2015] [Source: http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/compare/Australia/Canada/Economy]

That’s a
mighty big difference.

What
might account for the difference between two very similar nations (I’ve lived
in both countries)?

Here are
a few factors I believe may be at work:

-weather,
Canadian weather is much more extreme, from – 30 degrees Celsius to plus 30

-bureaucracy,
Canadian governments at all levels (municipal, township, county, provincial,
national) don’t seem to be able to do anything or approve anything without
lengthy and costly studies, which, at least in my experience, hardly anyone
ever even bothers to read

-fitness,
Australians are far more focused on lifetime fitness than are Canucks

-dependence
on the US market—Canada’s economy is largely a branch plant one—for example,
Canada’s national government spent billions propping up Chrysler and GM,
foreign automakers, in the Great Reset of 2008/09 but inexplicably would not
lift a finger to save tech icon Nortel

-support
for and development of excellence whether in sports, scholastics, trades,
industry… is far more prevalent in Australian culture than Canada’s where there
is more emphasis on helping those in need rather than in providing an
environment and resources to those with potential to excel in their chosen
field[1]

-lack of
confidence, no one can accuse Aussies of a lack of confidence, but Canucks say,
“Sorry,” even before they are.

I’m sure
there are many other factors at play. So how would Canada
go about improving its productivity and close this gap with Australia not to mention Canada’s largest trading partner, the US? Here’re
some of my thoughts on the subject:

-if
Canada did nothing other than improve levels of national fitness, reduce
smoking rates as well as abuse of alcohol and legal (prescription) and illegal drugs,
this would help not only to improve personal productivity but also significantly
lower national health care costs as well

-apprenticeships,
develop much more active apprenticeships starting in middle school

-education
reform including more about finance and entrepreneurship (again starting at
middle school age) plus a renewed focus on fitness for life as well as lifetime
learning

-create
high schools for the arts, for the technological arts, for apprenticeships—tailoring
curricula to the interests and capabilities of individual students—get their
creative, imagination and innovation engines running from a young age

-improve
on-the-job training, which at most companies in Canada seems to go something like
this: “Welcome to Acme Inc. Here’s your chair, this is your computer, good
luck!”

-bureaucracy
reform (simply reducing head count by 30% at all levels would be a good start
in my view)

-free
tertiary education (which Australia did—that’s where I got my PhD—they paid me to go to the ANU, Australian
National University)

-national
infrastructure improvement, the fact that Canada’s trans-Canada highway is
mostly a dangerous 2-lane goat trail is a disgrace; in addition, internet
speeds when compared to, say, South Korea’s are terrible; and we need a
national energy grid extending gas, oil, and hydro power across the entire
nation

-take
down inter-provincial barriers to trade and services

-combat inefficient
marketing boards and “supply management” systems

-teach
everyone how to be more financially savvy, again from an early age

-teach
everyone how to start and manage a PB4L, a personal business for life

-“sponsor”
every would-be snowboard-loving Tobias Lütke (co-founder of Shopify) with
$5,000 to start a business, no questions asked… it doesn’t take many
entrepreneurs to radically change the prospects of a village, town, city,
county or nation

-add
differentiated value and a modern, well thought-out business model to every
enterprise, startup, organization, not-for-profit, charity, NGO, and even
government department

“The riches are in the niches,”
Anon

-put
round pegs in round holes and square pegs in square holes, ie, improve labor
mobility, putting people in jobs they are passionate about, and actually know
how to do

-develop
a national mentoring/coaching program

“To live through an impossible
situation, you don’t need the reflexes of a Grand Prix driver, the muscles of a
Hercules, the mind of an Einstein. You simply need to know what to do,” Anthony
Greenbank, the Book of Survival

-make
finance more accessible to everyone, not just the rich, so more folks can build
businesses and come to own their own residential and commercial property

-reduce
complexity of regulation including zoning codes, which are paralyzing development
of Canada’s
cities

“The model of the human habitat
dictated by zoning is a formless, soul-less, centerless, demoralizing mess. It
bankrupts families and townships. It disables whole classes of decent, normal
citizens. It ruins the air we breathe. It corrupts and deadens our spirit,”
James Howard Kunstler

-use
zoning changes initiated by
municipalities or counties to be proactive instead of reactive

-develop
a volunteer committee in each city, town, and village that works with/helps
every startup/business/organization—they’re your GOODWILL AMBASSADORS  

-register
every business and organization in your city or town or county with Google maps
and Google search using “google my business,” it’s free and effective

-find
ways to produce more affordable housing like legalizing coach houses and tiny
houses in municipalities across Canada; I’d guess that “wagon trains” of up to
150,000 tiny houses would wend their way to the GTA (greater Toronto area) to
provide affordable housing there if folks were allowed to park their Conestoga
wagons (err, tiny homes) anywhere they could find a parking spot

-take a
page from Google and other silicon valley firms—give Canucks at least one three
day weekend a month where they can do their own thing—build/develop/learn about
something in their newly created spare time (some SV firms give their employees
as much as one day a week to pursue/develop their own interests)

-create
1,000 new festivals across the nation by sponsoring every fledgling Mark
Monahan (executive director of RBC Bluesfest) with $5,000, again no questions
asked…

-boot up
a real (international) marketing program to get more (rich) experiential
tourists to come to see the wonderful geography and urban spaces/places of Canada

“Leisure is the new
infrastructure,” Eric Kuhne, Dublin’s
Titanic Quarter architect

-add more
programming to every tourist attraction

-improve
way-finding signage on Canada’s
highways and at entry points

-twin
Canadian towns with US ones so that they trade in both tourists and
entrepreneurs

-build on
a Canada brand that is as safe as it is cool and interesting, develop more
quality programming that attracts an international audience and tells a
uniquely Canadian story… not just Anne of
Green Gables
, but also more of When
Calls the Heart
and Heartland  

-attract
more entrepreneurs to every village, town and city to live there, develop more
home-grown entrepreneurs and find ways to either keep them or get them to
return when they have their own families

-develop
a farm stay network and do more with/for agritainment

-go green
for real, don’t just pay lip service

-plant
edible urban forests in every city, town and village

-make
better use of public lands

-give
every woman a full year off and a full year’s salary (or if unemployed $50,000)
when she has a baby (Sweden does something like this and they’ve had a baby
boom as a result); if she has a second, third, fourth… another $50k a year;
after that, she gets child support of $1k a month for each child ‘til her
baby(ies) is (are) 21

-help
Canadian entrepreneurs raise their sights/improve their abilities in terms of both
marketing and sales—Americans I coach will tell me, “We hope to sign up
3,000,000 clients by Christmas”; Canucks’ll aim for 30

-engage more with risk–try new things in a “suck it and see” approach–don’t be so
afraid of everything; it’s as if Canada treats each idea as a life
and death situation, therefore requiring a consulting report even before actually doing anything; Canada tends to overreact just to the possibility of change

-change
the earth’s orbital mechanics so it’s always summer in Canada (just kidding).

I’m sure
there are many other things that can and should be done, but this is my list…
Please note that much of this is within the capabilities of towns and cities
themselves—they don’t have to wait for a fairy godmother to come along and make
it happen for them.

Bruce
M Firestone, PhD, Ottawa Senators founder, Century 21 Explorer Realty broker,
Real Estate Investor and Business coach. Follow him on twitter @ProfBruce or
email him bruce.firestone@century21.ca

[1] For example, I was paid to attend the Australian National
University as a “research
scholar” where I received my PhD in urban economics from the Urban Research
Unit.