‘Ominous’ slip in Canadian business investment: C.D. Howe Institute

Weak investment puts Canada on a path to lower value-added jobs and living standards

Business investment in Canada has slipped ominously, according to a report published by the C.D. Howe Institute on Wednesday.

The report, “Thin Capitalization: Weak Business Investment Undermines Canadian Workers,” by C.D. Howe’s President and CEO William Robson, warns that lagging capital investment in Canada has crippled Canadian workers’ ability to increase production and earn higher wages.

It said Canada is a “chronic underperformer” compared to business investment in the United States and other countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

William Robson
William Robson
President and CEO of the C.D. Howe Institute

“Canada’s anemic performance contrasts strikingly with the robust U.S. story, where workers will likely enjoy new capital investments some $9,000 higher than their Canadian counterparts this year,” said Robson in a news release.

C.D. Howe is an independent not-for-profit research institute whose mission is to raise living standards by fostering economically sound public policies.

Strong capital investment creates the machinery and equipment workers use in their job, the intellectual property that drives innovation, and the buildings where products are built and moved to market. Weak investment undermines competitiveness, and puts Canada on a path to lower value-added jobs and living standards, added the report.

Robson’s calculations show Canadian businesses investing only about $15,000 per worker in 2019. By contrast, businesses across the OECD are investing about $21,000 per worker, while U.S. businesses are investing about $26,000. 

“For every dollar of new capital enjoyed by OECD workers this year, their Canadian counterparts will receive only 71 cents. And for every dollar of new capital enjoyed by U.S. workers, Canadian counterparts will receive 58 cents,” said the C.D. Howe Institute.

Robson said bottlenecks in getting energy resources to market, a loss of tax competitiveness, rising electricity costs, and barriers to international and internal trade as possible causes for Canada’s weak capital investments.

The report recommends all levels of Canadian government:

  • remove barriers and reform regulations that inhibit business investment;
  • address growth-inhibiting taxes, including Canada’s high business property taxes;
  • Loosen restrictions on internal and international trade to mitigate the threat of U.S. protectionism.

This article was written by Mario Toneguzzi, a Troy Media business reporter based in Calgary.

© Troy Media

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