Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Front & Centre: Canada's Future in a Global Marketplace

My Financial Post columns lately have dealt with an unusually weighty subject: the future of the Canadian economy in a global marketplace.

I have just had too many conversations lately with people who despair of the current economy and think that the way ahead is to return to the high-tariff world of the 1970s, when jobs were steady and black clouds of smoke belched from prosperous, stable factories on the outskirts of town.

There is no going back. Nor should we want to. The global economy may have taken our low-skill manufacturing jobs, and may be gunning for the high-skill jobs next. But it puts us right where we want to be: selling civilization to the rest of the world.

Canadians are in an enviable position to sell the goods and services that can build cities and developing nations: dams, roads, public services, skyscrapers, malls, governance institutions, stock markets, schools, mines, refineries, even (ironically) factories. So many developing nations are ready to splurge on high-quality infrastructure, and who better to sell it to them than us – who have built such a great country at 20 below zero?

Our economic future lies in selling services and high-end products to an emerging class of countries that want these products and can pay for them. We’re not the only people who are trying to sell this stuff – think of Europe and the Americans. But we have unique advantages – a more multicultural society than any in Europe, and a stronger and more respectful “worldview” than the Americans.

Look at the success of companies such as SNC Lavalin, which has become a global powerhouse building superhighways in Britain, ports in Spain, power-management systems in India, Central America and the Balkans, power plants in Algeria, refineries in Venezuela, gas plants in Oman... This is our future.

This opportunity is ours to seize. Or lose.

We need more entrepreneurs. People who see the opportunities in change, not the drawbacks. Skilled people who confident of their abilities and able to build trust with customers in all parts of the world. Instilling these skills and values in Canadians should be Job 1 for our governments and schools.

We can change the world.

You can click here to read my Jan. 3 column, “Prepare for the great global tournament.”

Click here for this week’s follow-up column, “Canada's future lies in knowledge.”


rajni said...

nicely done

Recruiting Animal said...

Rick, that doesn't sound so promising to me. What happens when the 3rd world countries catch up? How many generations will it take before they have their own consulting firms plus our old industries? And they charge less than we do.

Rick Spence said...

Hey, Recruiting Animal, thanks for your comment. When the developing nations catch up, that's where the beauty begins. Suddenly we have hundreds of millions of new consumers, with their own unique wants, tastes and needs.
There will me niche markets enough for everyone. Even Canadians.