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  • Wayne Conrad

Making Canada Competitive Again

We’ve lost our edge! Canada is now ranked 13th of the world’s most competitive economies, leading to criticism that our lack of innovation and creativity, cautious nature about taking risks, and lack of embracing new ideas is harming our productivity.

As an inventor with hundreds of patents used in many products, I feel that I have a good understanding of creativity. Easy access to information, design software and low-cost rapid prototyping is fostering enormous innovation throughout Canada and around the world. I am exposed to a wide spectrum of bright Canadian minds, both young and old, and I am amazed by how many ideas to improve our world are being conceived in Canada every day.

Creativity in Canada is not a major problem. We face two other insidious issues that are crippling our productivity and limiting economic growth. The first is our tacit social belief that our great ideas need to be manufactured somewhere else where costs are lower. The second is that we are content buying inexpensive, disposable, foreign-made goods which end up choking our landfill, usually within a year or two of their purchase.

The social and economic consequences of these two problems are enormous. The lack of manufacturing jobs is limiting our economy and disenfranchising a segment of society. Many Canadians would thrive in a manufacturing environment, but are simply not cut out for a desk job, be it in high tech, finance, legal, science, health care, service or government.

Historically, good paying factory jobs combined with a strong agricultural and natural-resources sector built our country and provided employment for a significant portion of the population. Factory jobs gave people an opportunity for a good, stable working life with wages that would enable people to have a home, a car, regular vacations and for many, even a cottage. In the past, high-quality products were designed and manufactured in Canada to last a “lifetime.” These products, which could be repaired and maintained, were the mainstream of consumption. Canada was built on a combination of creativity, entrepreneurship, hard work and a manufacturing backbone that made world-class products for sale both here and abroad.

The Canada of 2019 is still a great place to live and work. Canadians share a belief in a lawful, safe society that respects the rights of individuals and where education and initiative are encouraged. However, while many believe that a knowledge economy can successfully propel Canada into the 21st century, I believe that a knowledge economy without a plan for robust, competitive, locally distributed manufacturing is fatally flawed.

We need manufacturing jobs throughout the nation to create universal prosperity. Manufacturing and the associated trades create knowledge, education, and experience that pass between generations and strengthen society. We can create appealing manufacturing jobs by re-embracing the concept of purchasing high-quality, durable products and rebuilding an infrastructure to maintain these products, rather than generating endless pollution by going for inexpensive, essentially disposable, foreign-made goods that generate endless pollution and jam-pack our landfills.

By embracing modern manufacturing which involves both people and technology, not just robots, we create the potential of a good income for everyone.

We need to build a well rounded society where meaningful careers in so many varied fields, from making things to managing information to discovering new medicines to entertaining on stage can all be embraced. By building this type of well-rounded society, Canada can regain its competitive edge. We must give people choices in education and employment to have a productive, successful society.

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