Canada: The Case for Canada

31 Oct, 2012

By: Juli Anne Patty

Sometimes we overlook the opportunities that are right next door. Sometimes, in Canada’s case, those opportunities are just a bit to the north. A country that boasts 10 provinces, each with its own vision, character and unique set of remarkable resources, Canada might just be exactly the strategic partner you’re looking for.

Already Famous
If you’ve seen Academy Award-winning Good Will Hunting or that holiday classic, A Christmas Story, that plays endlessly every winter season, you’ve already gotten a glimpse into Ontario’s economic success. The film industry clued in long ago to the advantages of operating out of Ontario, and thanks to the province’s recent successes across the economic board, the rest of the world’s industries are catching on, too.

“We’re very pleased with the outcomes we’ve been getting, leading to our ranking as third in North America in foreign direct investment,” saif Economic Development and Innovation Minister Brad Duguid. “That is the result of putting in place very strong fundamentals that attract investment and a very aggressive approach to recruiting potential companies.”

Those fundamentals begin first and foremost, said Duguid, with education. “We’ve invested a lot in education, and the result is this: we’ve developed one of the best education systems in the world, one that graduates more students per capita and sends more people to post-secondary education than most other countries.”

The outcome of a world-class education system is a highly trained and competitive workforce, but only if you have the jobs and industry to keep that workforce at home. Fortunately, Ontario is on top of that as well.

“We have taken a tax system for corporations that was once one of the least competitive and transformed it into one that’s seen now as one of the most competitive in North America,” said Duguid. “We’ve created about $8 billion in tax cuts for corporations, and that has been very significant and helpful in recruiting companies to Ontario.”

Constant investment is Ontario’s third fundamental, and the province maintained its dedication to that principle even throughout the recession, ensuring that as the world pulled out of its economic slump, Ontario’s infrastructure — including the energy grid, transportation, schools and hospitals — were ready to lead the new global economy.

Planning ahead for the future is crucial, but Ontario takes that one step further, always looking for ways to make tomorrow even better than today. “The fourth thing our Premier embarked on a number of years ago was the innovation agenda, and we have committed ourselves to becoming a global leader in research and innovation,” explained Duguid. “Ontario has become a hotbed of research development. The Greater Toronto area is number four in the world’s urban areas for attracting and creating start-up companies. You’ve got Silicon Valley, New York City, London, and then Toronto.”

That commitment to innovation has filled Toronto and Ontario with the next generation of future-shaping companies. But innovation also requires risk, and Ontario aims to do its part to encourage forward-thinking companies to keep thinking that way.

“We’ve put in place a number of business supports as well as incentives,” said Duguid. “Through more than 40 different programs, for example our strategic jobs and investment fund, Ontario invests about $2 billion annually in Ontario business, allowing us to form partnerships with businesses, to recruit foreign direct investment and help companies interested in significant expansions.”

The story of business in Ontario is sure to be a long and award-winning one, just like the films made within the province, but there’s a point to all of this, and it’s a simple one: “We work aggressively to recruit firms and help them grow once they get here,” said Duguid. That’s the short of it.”

With an economy that’s ranked second in the financial services industry, first in mining investments and the fastest-growing clean technology industry in the world, not to mention jobs growth that is up 122 percent since the recession, Ontario has obviously figured out its bottom line.

The Grass Really is Greener
Jim Morton is the Kings North Member of the Nova Scotia Legislature. He’s also the Ministerial Assistant to Economic and Rural Development and Tourism Minister Percy Paris. But what you also need to know, and what really makes this Nova Scotia: this September Morton and his teammate took home top honors at the 50th Annual 2012 Sheffield Mills Harvest Fair Cow Milking competition.

That’s the Nova Scotia secret: a highly advanced metropolitan area surrounded by stunningly scenic countryside; a province that’s reaching far ahead into the future, but is grounded solidly with self-reliant roots.

“Economic development has been a key element in our overall strategy,” said Morton. “We’ve been involved in a number of big projects to support that strategy.”

One project involves a shift in energy. “We’ve made a commitment to ensuring that by 2040, 40 percent of the electricity we produce will be renewable. Through an arrangement with Nova Scotia Power, we’ve been developing hydroelectric power in Newfoundland [the Lower Churchill Project], connecting to us by an undersea cable.”

The province’s energy potential doesn’t stop there. Nova Scotia’s Play Fairway Analysis estimates that there are 120 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 8 billion barrels of oil in its offshore, and Shell Canada is investing $970 million to explore Nova Scotia’s offshore.

Nova Scotia’s capital, Halifax, is nicknamed Canada’s “University Capital,” thanks to the six universities and numerous colleges that call it home. Halifax is also home to another of the province’s big wins. Irving Shipbuilding is embarking on an exciting $25-billion federal combat vessel shipbuilding program for the Canadian Navy. In support of the bid, the province committed to a financial assistance package crafted to support key competitive features, including providing access to working capital and modernizing the yard.

“This is probably the biggest opportunity for Nova Scotia of my lifetime,” said Morton. “It will create thousands of jobs, a whole range of opportunities for suppliers and attract people from all over the world.”

All of this works well with the province’s overall strategy of preparing the population with the skills for the work today and tomorrow, encouraging innovation and helping Nova Scotia companies become globally competitive.

The government is committed to employing a number of investment strategies to support those ends. For example, the government is making an ongoing investment in continuing education as well as helping companies join the global marketplace. A new initiative has so far helped 324 companies expand their reach internationally.

“We’re also pursuing an ongoing series of cuts to the Small Business Tax rate,” said Morton. “When we were elected three years ago, the rate was five percent, and now it’s 3.5 percent.”

While you might be thinking of Nova Scotia as an expanse of beautiful countryside with an easily reached urban center, and you’d be right, add one thing to your vision: world-class connectivity.

“We know in terms of innovation and productivity, the way people learn and get information is the Internet,” said Morton. “That’s why we implemented a rural broadband program over the last three to five years. It has successfully connected everyone in Nova Scotia with high-speed Internet services, and it means that it’s now possible to do even the most advanced operations in some really stunning and remote areas.”

A Country of Potential
But Ontario and Nova Scotia are just the beginning. A country of varied landscapes, features and people, Canada’s regions have a lot to offer. Here’s a quick look at just a few of the promises of the provinces:

Le Nouveau Québec. As a new government takes charge in Quebec, including the province’s first female premier, changes are certainly coming to Quebec. That means now is a good time to take a good look at where the province stands. In terms of economic development, Quebec stands on two things: innovation and exports, the main drivers of Quebec’s economy. With a focus on encouraging innovative thinking and globally promoting the expertise, products and services of its companies, Quebec’s economic development ministry aims to:
• Create jobs
• Enhance economic prosperity
• Develop scientific progress
• Create sustainable progress.

To accomplish all of this, the ministry is building a new Quebec to meet the needs of a new global economy. One aspect of that effort is the Plan Nord, which has attracted several companies to locate in or develop partnerships with Quebec, including Rio Tinto Fer et Titane, a main supplier of raw materials for the titanium dioxide industry, as well as a leader in the production of high-quality pig iron, steel and metal powders, and ArcelorMittal Mines, one of Canada's leading suppliers of iron ore to steel markets around the world.

To support its economic development vision, the ministry also developed a range of other strategies, including an aerospace strategy, the new economic space strategy, a biopharmaceutical strategy, a research and innovation strategy and an action plan to support the manufacturing sector and an electric vehicles action plan.

Homegrown success. “The innovative thinking and savoir fair of New Brunswick entrepreneurs has attracted much interest from foreign investors,” explained Louis-Philippe Gauthier, vice president, Strategic Initiatives, Invest NB. A short list of some of the recent corporate investments in New Brunswick bears that out:

• acquired Radian6, a world leader in the field of social media analysis and monitoring
• IBM acquired Q1 Labs, a global provider of Security Intelligence products
• Xplornet Communications Inc., Canada’s leading rural broadband services company, continues to grow as it launches its second satellite
• Soricimed Biopharma is developing a targeted cancer-management program for ovarian cancer, from early diagnosis to treatment.

These companies have more in common than just seeing New Brunswick as a good investment opportunity. Each of these companies emerged directly from New Brunswick, being the result of the creative entrepreneurship of New Brunswick citizens.

“It might come as a surprise that New Brunswick is the most cost-competitive location for business in North America,” said Gauthier. “KPMG’s Competitive Alternatives 2012 study ranked two of our major cities in first and second positions as the most cost-competitive. New Brunswick’s low labor, real estate and utility costs alongside its competitive corporate tax structure provide companies with the best location from which to operate in North America.”

Strategy first. The “Manitoba Advantage” has many elements: competitive costs, diversity, a logistically advantageous location, an intense focus on research and low-cost, high-quality utilities and corporate real estate.

The province’s strong planning and performance have resulted in Manitoba’s strong provincial credit rating— six credit rating upgrades since 2002—and a long list of success achieve in 2011:
• Real GDP grew by 2.2 percent
• Manufacturing shipments grew by 6.2 percent to $15.3 billion
• Manufacturing capital investment rose 68.7 percent to $603.2 million
• International exports increased 14.1percent, with exports to the U.S. up 8.4 percent, non U.S. exports up 24.0 percent.

All of that growth and success can be attributed to Manitoba’s carefully created set of incentives and economic development programs, which are too diverse to cover here. But even a quick look at these strategies shows that Manitoba has put considerable thought into constructing plans that support the province’s strengths and develop areas that have room to grow.

Tax structure is also on Manitoba’s side. A variety of studies have confirmed in recent years that Canada’s income tax treatment of research is among the most generous in the world, especially when coupled with provincial incentives.

Manitoba takes that benefit even further, with economic development programs, such as the Manitoba Industrial Opportunities program, that provide financial support to encourage the kind of growth that creates jobs and positions Manitoba to compete globally.

Dedication Required
Economic success is a long-term goal, and Canada clearly has perseverance on its side. Just take the Boston Christmas tree as one example. To thank Boston citizens for their aid after a devastating Halifax explosion, Nova Scotia sends the city a towering tree every holiday season. That explosion was more than four decades ago. The forty-first example of Nova Scotia’s dedication will be lit in the Boston Commons this year.