The past is present

The problem with the blockades that have halted economic activity from Vancouver to Montreal is not the hereditary chiefs or the listless Ottawa crowd. No, the problem is that Canada is stuck in the nineteenth century. We have always been hewers of wood and drawers of water, shipping our birthright – usually to American buyers – rather than create as many jobs at home as we could. Instead of spending billions on pipelines to feed others, why not build a refinery in Alberta that uses Western oil and yields consumer products from synthetic fibres to plastics, tires to crayons?

To be sure, there have been a few shining lights along the way. BlackBerry looked like an international player for a while until it was toppled by the launch of the iPhone. But you can count on one hand the number of Canadian-based global manufacturing firms that have existed during the life of this country. With less than one-third of the population of Canada, Sweden has such powerhouse firms as Ericsson, Volvo, Electrolux and H&M, among others.

There have been too few cases of launching something new. The Medical and Related Sciences (MaRS) Discovery District in Toronto combusted after Dr. John Evans sold a company to a U.S. buyer that started shipping product back to Canada. In response, Evans and others invested seed money, won government funding and then bought the land and erected the building that now has numerous tenants seeking to be the next Big Thing.

MaRS has had financial issues, now solved, but we need more such forward-looking entrepreneurs who are willing to put their own money into an entity and stay the course. Otherwise, all we’ll ever do is ship our natural resources out of the country in their raw state. And foolishly waste time fighting amongst ourselves rather than building a better tomorrow.

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