TORONTO—The more stuff it takes to make something, the greater the impact that product has on the economy.
And with that caveat, Sandra Pupatello, director of business development and global markets for PwC, decreed the time has come for Ontario’s manufacturers to finally get the respect they deserve in public policy.
Pupatello delivered this message as the keynote speaker opening this year’s Canadian Manufacturing Technology Show (CMTS) in Toronto.
“It’s striking how much of an impact public policy has on the success of a business and we need to get on it,” she said, citing the success of the federal accelerated capital cost allowance on machinery purchases as an example of public policy that works for business.
That program was recently extended by federal finance minister Jim Flaherty, based on sector response and implementation.
But more must be done, and Pupatello says it’s now incumbent upon Canada’s federal and provincial leaders to step up to the plate and start levelling the international playing fields where our manufacturers increasingly are forced to compete.
She flashed on the screen a picture of ex-French prime minister Nikolai Sarkozy shaking hands with China’s then president Hu Jintao after inking a deal involving major aerospace manufacturer Airbus.
“I would do cartwheels if I saw a Canadian Prime Minister in a picture like that,” she quipped.
With so many countries signing trade agreements, Canada has been conspicuous in its absence on this portion of the international stage. And it’s these agreements that bring real dollars in the form of direct investment. Jobs often follow.
Indeed, Pupatello thinks the biggest trade agreement Canada needs to sign is the Comprehensive Economic and Trade agreement between Canada and the European Union. (Pupatello helped plant the seeds for this agreement in her role as Ontario’s economic development minister.)
She says companies based in the European Union are looking for jurisdictions to target their foreign direct investment and inking a deal now puts Canada in good stead as a destination for that money.
“Our companies need to see these types of deals landed,” she says. “And it’s more than just trade. The simplest of gestures from our key leaders help grow our companies. How you become memorable matters.”
Manufacturing districts from around the world are already doing this and their public policy has been developed to help them.
And ours, Ms. Pupatello?
“Canada’s leaders have always said they don’t want to pick winners and losers, but this isn’t that. It’s playing to our strengths … our public policy needs to deliver the biggest bang for the buck.”
She says the best way to get our policy developers to enact meaningful change that helps business succeed is to start by becoming an active member of your industry association. Don’t just sign up. Engage.
And yes, this is often more expensive and requires plenty more work to accomplish, especially for the small businesses that don’t have middle managers they can assign to draft the letters and chair the committees.
But these measures make a difference.
“Money talks, and when you are willing to spend the money to get your message to these politicians, they see that these issues matter. It has always been this way,” she says.