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Archived - Competitiveness Agenda: Public Policy Priorities for Action

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Taxation

18.  The federal, provincial and territorial governments should continue to reduce corporate tax rates to create a competitive advantage for Canada, particularly relative to the United States.

19.  Provinces should expedite the phase-out of provincial capital taxes, and the provinces of Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Prince Edward Island should move expeditiously to harmonize their provincial sales taxes with the goods and services tax.

20.  The federal, provincial and territorial governments should give priority to reductions in personal income taxes, particularly for lower- and middle-income Canadians, and should provide incentives for investment and work by shifting a higher proportion of governments’ revenue base to value-added consumption taxes.

21.  The International Tax Panel should give particular attention to an assessment of tax provisions disadvantaging Canadian companies relative to non-Canadian companies in Canadian acquisitions, with the objective of recommending ways to allow Canadian-based companies to compete on an equal footing.

22.  The International Tax Panel should assess the provisions of Canadian tax legislation limiting interest deductibility by Canadian companies in respect of foreign acquisitions to ensure that Canadian companies seeking to compete globally enjoy every advantage relative to their foreign competitors.

Attracting and Developing Talent

23.  Governments should continue to invest in education in order to enhance quality and improve educational outcomes while gradually liberalizing provincial tuition policies offset by more student assistance based on income and merit.

24.  Post-secondary education institutions should pursue global excellence through greater specialization, focusing on strategies to cultivate and attract top international talent, especially in the fields of math, science and business.

25.  Governments should use all the mechanisms at their disposal to encourage post-secondary education institutions to collaborate more closely with the business community, cultivating partnerships and exchanges in order to enhance institutional governance, curriculum development and community engagement.

26.  Federal and provincial governments should encourage the creation of additional post-secondary education co-op programs and internship opportunities in appropriate fields, to ensure that more Canadians are equipped to meet future labour market needs and that students gain experiences that help them make the transition into the workforce.

27.  Governments should provide incentives and undertake measures to both attract more international students to Canada’s post-secondary institutions and send more Canadian students on international study exchanges.

28.  Governments should strive to increase Canada’s global share of foreign students, and set a goal of doubling Canada’s number of international students within a decade.

29.  Governments, post-secondary education institutions and national postsecondary education associations should undertake regular evaluations, measure progress and report publicly on improvements in business–academic collaboration, participation in co-op programs, and the attraction and retention of international talent.

30.  Reforms to Canada’s immigration system should place emphasis on immigration as an economic tool to meet our labour market needs, becoming more selective and responsive in addressing labour shortages across the skills spectrum.

31.  Canada’s immigration system should develop service standards related to applications for student visas and temporary foreign workers, and should be more responsive to private employers and student needs by fast-tracking processing and providing greater certainty regarding the length of time required to process applications.

32.  In order to ensure that Canada is able to attract and retain top international talent, and respond more effectively to private employers, Canada’s immigration system should fast-track processing of applications for permanent residency under the new Canadian Experience Class for skilled temporary foreign workers and foreign students with Canadian credentials and work experience.

Head Offices and Cities

33.  Given the national importance of Canada’s largest urban centres, the federal government should provide leadership to deal with critical urban issues, particularly those affecting infrastructure, immigration, and higher education and training.

34.  In addressing urban issues, municipalities need a more stable, secure and growing revenue source. In particular, provincial governments should assess the feasibility of allowing any municipality to levy a 1 percent value-added tax within their jurisdiction, assessed on the harmonized goods and services tax base, which would be collected by the Canada Revenue Agency (or Revenue Quebec) on behalf of the municipality.

35.  In dealing with these issues, municipal authorities that have not already done so should make greater use of financing mechanisms such as user fees, cost recovery programs, debt financing and public–private partnerships.

Fostering Growth Businesses

36.  Federal and provincial governments’ small and medium-sized enterprise policies should focus on those firms that demonstrate the desire and capacity to grow to become large enterprises. Small and medium-sized enterprise policies and programs should be subjected to regular review in order to assess and measure whether this objective is being met.

37.  The Minister of Finance and the Minister of Industry should develop and release a public report on options, including tax incentives, to facilitate the provision of more private venture capital, particularly at the “angel” and late stage, by June 2009.

Strengthening the Role of Directors in Mergers and Acquisitions

38.  Securities commissions should repeal National Policy 62-202 (Defensive Tactics).

39.  Securities commissions should cease to regulate conduct by boards in relation to shareholder rights plans (“poison pills”).

40.  Substantive oversight of directors’ duties in mergers and acquisitions matters should be provided by the courts.

41.  The Ontario Securities Commission should provide leadership to the Canadian Securities Administrators in making the above changes, and initiate action if collective action is not taken before the end of 2008.

The Canadian Economic Union

42.  The federal government should provide leadership in the elimination of all internal barriers between the provinces and territories that inhibit the free flow of goods, services and people by June 2011.

43.  Federal and provincial governments should establish by June 2009 a work plan to achieve this goal and provide interim reports on progress every six months.

44.  The federal government should show leadership regarding national securities regulation and resolve this matter expeditiously.

45.  The federal government should more fully harmonize federal environmental assessment procedures with provincial processes.

46.  Beginning January 2009, the federal government should abide by timelines that are not longer than the environmental assessment timelines set by the relevant provincial jurisdiction for a proposed project subject to assessment and incorporate such timelines as part of the broader national review required for 2010.

Canada–US Economic Ties

47.  Addressing the thickening of the Canada–US border should be the number one trade priority for Canada, and requires heightened direct bilateral engagement at the highest political levels.

48.  Canada should act to create a more seamless US border crossing process, focusing on priorities jointly identified by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and US Chamber of Commerce in their February 2008 report, while responding to legitimate US security needs, and funding and expediting vital border infrastructure.

International Trade and Investment

49.  The federal government should set an ambitious timeline for concluding priority trade and investment agreements, led by the Minister of International Trade who should pursue a flexible, results-based approach, beginning by simplifying Canada’s model foreign investment protection agreements and streamlining our free trade agreements negotiating processes.

50.  Beginning in 2009, on behalf of the federal government, the Minister of International Trade should report at least annually on Canada’s trade and investment liberalization initiatives generally and in specific sectors.

51.  Beginning immediately, the Minister of International Trade should build on the Global Commerce Strategy by developing and publicizing annual plans and priorities for enhanced trade and investment, and by identifying priority trading partners, economic impacts of prospective agreements and services to businesses. Comprehensive input from business should guide and inform Canada’s approach across government.

Regulation

52.  A senior federal economic minister should be mandated to lead and oversee progress on regulatory reforms, implementing a new regulatory screen by June 2009 that would subject all new regulations to a rigorous assessment of their impact on competitiveness.

53.  Each major federal regulatory department and agency should reform its processes to increase transparency, reduce overlap and duplication, and set clear standards to yield time certain decisions, reporting annually, commencing in 2010, on outcomes and performance.

54.  The foregoing recommendations for regulatory reform are equally applicable to provinces and territories.

55.  Canada should harmonize its product and professional standards with those of the US, except in cases where, and then only to the extent that, it can be demonstrated that the impairment of the regulatory objective outweighs the competitiveness benefit that would arise from harmonizing.

Innovation and Intellectual Property

56.  The federal government should monitor the scientific research and experimental development tax credit program annually in order to ensure that business investment in research and development and innovation in Canada is effectively encouraged.

57.  As a matter of priority, the federal government should ensure that new copyright legislation will both sufficiently reward creators while stimulating competition and innovation in the Internet age. Any prospective changes to Canada’s patent law regime should also reflect this balance. The federal government should assess and modernize the Canadian patent and copyright system to support the international efforts of Canadian participants in the global economy in a timely and effective manner.

58.  Before December 2009, the federal government should strengthen counterfeit and piracy laws to ensure that intellectual property rights are effectively protected.

59.  Canada’s post-secondary education institutions should expedite the transfer of intellectual property rights and the commercialization of university-generated intellectual property. One possible method to achieve this would be to move to an “innovator ownership” model to speed commercialization.

Driving Change: A Canadian Competitiveness Council

60.  The federal government should establish as expeditiously as possible an independent Canadian Competitiveness Council under the Minister of Industry. The Council should be staffed by a Chief Executive Officer and a small core staff, overseen by a Board of Directors.

61.  The Council’s mandate should be to examine and report on, advocate for measures to improve, and to ensure sustained progress on, Canadian competitiveness. The Council should not enforce laws and regulations but should have a public voice, including the power to publish and advocate for its findings.

62.  The Council should set its own agenda, reviewing matters or conducting research on its own initiative as well as in response to the request of a federal or a provincial minister or a municipal mayor. Governments should not have the power to compel the Council to undertake or discontinue a review or study.

63.  The Council should be required to report to Parliament on its activities on an annual basis through the Minister of Industry.

64.  The Council’s Board of Directors should consist of not more than nine persons, including the Chair, and should include a majority of non-governmental members, as well as members with experience representing the federal, provincial and municipal governments.

65.  The Council should be mandated and fully funded in a manner that would allow the Council to operate in an effective and responsible manner for a five-year period. Prior to the end of the five-year period, the Minister of Industry should undertake a review to determine whether the Council’s mandate should be renewed and, if so, on what terms.