What could do all this you might ask? Well, the answer lies with something that most Canadians know little about—improving “productivity.” And while improving productivity can help us achieve such benefits, there are no guarantees that all these benefits will be realized. It will depend on the decisions that are made if we are successful in improving productivity. So, at the outset, let’s be clear that improved productivity brings opportunity for economic benefits—not a guarantee.
But What is Productivity?
Productivity is essentially concerned with how we combine our various resources—labour, tools, equipment, etc.—to produce goods and services. That is, it relates to the decisions we make, and the actions we take, to try to make the best use we can of all the various resources we have available.
I heard Frank McKenna speak about making Canada a high tech expert in oil and mining products and services. This makes great sense if industries cluster and the state encourages this market - Paul Bremmer touches on this in his book, The End of the Free Market. Here is one of the comments to this article that adds to that theme.
Rather than playing to our strengths - i.e. the basic geographic and institutional make up of the country (firms, governments, land, capital, labour), most economic policy wonks and practically every government talks about the "knowledge economy", "innovation", and "productivity" in complete isolation from what it is that Canadians *actually do*. If we want those things (and in some ways we have innovative financial services for the mining industry, a technically advance energy sector, etc) then policy and thinking needs to explicitly connect them to the reality of the country. For example we are the world's *experts* in energy use and production. Per capita we use (and waste), distribute and produce the most, it's a cold country. Let's get "productive" in energy, it's a big input cost across the board. Focusing on the "strength of our banking system" and the sexy high-techiness of Blackberries and bio-tech without linking that to productivity improvements in forestry, water and energy use, mining, oil, etc. etc. proves that there is no real national effort to improve economic productivity. If it happens it's an accident of statistics and of policy.