Here's what Canadian businesses need to see from the next government

  • National Newswatch

With the Leaders' Debates behind us and just a short time until Canadians go to the ballot box, it's more important than ever that all parties address an issue that has thus far been relegated to the sidelines when it should be the star of the show: how to grow the economy.James Carville's “It's the economy, stupid” has been a well-used phrase, but Canadian voters could be forgiven if they are still searching for an ambitious economic plan that genuinely addresses Canada's sloth-like economic growth.Unfortunately for political parties, there is no real photo-op on economic policy, and it cannot be boiled down into a 280 character tweet or post on social media. The details matter, and despite a flurry of economic announcements this election, no party has put forth a strategy that ties all aspects of our economy together.Yes, the economy is beginning to reopen. But sitting back and hoping reopening will magically erase all the hardships experienced by businesses over the past 16 months is not a strategy. Businesses still face major challenges from a fourth wave of the pandemic that is far from its peak. In Statistics Canada's recent Canadian Survey on Business Conditions, over a quarter of businesses expected their profitability to decrease over the next three months. Nearly 40% of all businesses saw the rising cost of inputs as an obstacle, including 65% of manufacturers. Over one-third of businesses said recruiting skilled employees will be a challenge.Alongside these immediate obstacles, let's not forget the equally important longer-term challenges facing businesses like the infrastructure deficit, the uncertain transition to net zero and geopolitical tensions. All of these issues demand serious economic plans from all parties, ones that swap political expediency and convenience for a commitment to doing the necessary, and sometimes thankless, heavy lifting. Something everyone seems quite reluctant to do.Here are three elements Canadian businesses need from whoever forms the next government:First, we need to finish the fight against COVID-19. This includes supporting the return of economic activity through a coordinated plan for standardized digital vaccine credentials that can be used across provinces. We also need to get our public finances back on a sustainable footing within the next five years, not at some hypothetical point many political cycles away.Second, we need to get our economic fundamentals right by fixing the problems that afflicted the economy before the pandemic and that continue to drag on our economic growth. This means substantially increasing investments through the National Trade Corridors Fund to support trade-enabling infrastructure, modernizing the Temporary Foreign Worker program, and undertaking a comprehensive and independent review of Canada's tax system – a system that hasn't been looked at since before any of the party leaders were born.Lastly, Canada needs to jump on the opportunities offered by the modern economy. For example, our privacy laws are woefully outdated, and posturing in the dying days of the last Parliament prevented legislation that would have made Canadian businesses more competitive. Businesses also need a serious plan to help them get to net zero by 2050. This includes access to sustainable finance and a plan on critical minerals that enables production of environmentally friendly goods. And we must also build on the lessons learned from the pandemic and implement a life sciences strategy to make sure we can produce vaccines and other life-saving medicines here in Canada.This is absolutely a tall order, but being Prime Minister of a G7 country is not a simple job. With the public credit card maxed out, we cannot borrow our way to prosperity. Businesses, and all Canadians, have a right to see a credible plan from all parties if we are serious about moving from this on-again, off-again state into true economic growth.Because when it comes down to it, when the campaign buses have been parked for the final time and all the speeches have been made, our decision will not only determine how quickly we can resume more normal lives, but also whether future generations will enjoy more opportunities.Perrin Beatty is the President and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce