Mary SciannaClick image to enlargeThis past summer I became a born-again Canadian.

It wasn’t an epiphany, but more of a patriotic awakening. My family and I travelled across Canada this summer and saw much of the Western, Central and Eastern regions of the country. Perhaps because of the vast expanse of our country, domestic travel by Canadians is typically not high. In 2012, just over 316,000 Canadians travelled within Canada according to Statistics Canada.

We wanted to see Canada’s natural geography and in the process, I learned to appreciate this country in new ways.

Which brings me to manufacturing and the reason we need to work hard at nurturing and growing it in this country. One of the sad observations across the country: the biggest industry is retail. It seemed like every town we passed had big box stores, but little evidence of other industries.

And while retail may create initial construction jobs, long term it doesn’t provide much economic value. Most retail jobs that don’t include management positions are typically low wage/minimum wage positions and many are part time or contract type jobs. We need to create value-add manufacturing jobs that require skilled tradespeople. To do that, we need to attract more manufacturers.

Canada has much to offer international manufacturers who want access to the North American market. Canada is the world’s second largest country by total area, covering close to 10 million sq km. It is one of the wealthiest in the world and has the 10th highest nominal per capital income globally and the 8th highest ranking in the Human Development Index. And the OECD’s “Better Life Index” ranks Canada as the best in the G-7 in terms of overall living conditions and quality of life.

It has experienced steady and robust economic growth in the past decade, even through the uncertainty of recent years, supported by a strong banking system and financial stability. It has vast areas of unpopulated land in the north suitable for energy investments, such as wind farms, away from the majority of the population. We have excellent rail transportation across the country to transport materials and finished goods. We have one of the lowest corporate tax rates (46 per cent lower than those in the US) and among the highest, most educated workforces in the world.

And yet Canada continues to lose ground to countries like the US and Mexico. While there are obvious reasons for manufacturers to locate south of the border, such as closer access to larger markets, Canada still offers manufacturers many benefits.

The best way the government can promote foreign and domestic investment in this country is to market the advantages Canada offers manufacturing businesses.

Another potential advantage is CETA (The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the EU that will eliminate about 98 per cent of tariffs between the two regions). When it comes into force, foreign investors will have access to NAFTA and the EU, a market with a combined GDP of US $38 trillion.

Canada truly is a great country and if want to keep this country economically vibrant we have to do a better job of encouraging manufacturing investment here. SMT

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