Editorial: Canada’s counterproductivity problem

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Add this atop Canada’s to-do list: improve productivity.

It’s fundamental to the country’s ability to raise its wages and standard of living. However, a recent Business Council of British Columbia (BCBC) Policy Perspectives delves deep into the arithmetic of productivity, and the math is not adding up in Canada’s favour.

Realities of productivity slippage and its subsequent impact on economic growth and standards of living need to be aired now because current and future generations are becoming increasingly disconnected from the realities of where and how wealth is generated. The BCBC notes that, after its sustained labour productivity gains in the 1947-73 postwar era, Canada has been mired in an extended subpar productivity slump, and its standard of living has consequently stagnated.

There are many reasons why this country’s growth in gross domestic product per person has failed to keep pace with that of the United States, Germany and other advanced countries. The space allocated here does not permit detailed discussion of them all, but BCBC’s list of the top five ways in which GDP per person performance can be improved is instructive for employers, employees and policy-makers.

High on the list: streamline regulatory permitting and remove disincentives for companies to grow beyond small-business status.

The first underscores the increasingly counterproductive, costly and complex process of getting major projects from drawing board to reality in this country, especially in B.C.

The second speaks to a business taxation structure that favours small business but removes incentives for them to grow beyond small and, if they do, encourages them to move to jurisdictions that value mid-size and larger companies. That relegates B.C. to the innovation and technology farm-team league.

Any reduction in those top two productivity improvement hurdles would help brighten the future for workers who, unsurprisingly, are already treading water in a land where the cost of living makes it almost impossible to justify continuing the struggle.