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Canada’s largest business lobby group wants the nation’s political parties to focus on long-term growth issues as they get ready for elections as early as next month.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is calling for the parties to commit to smaller deficits, tax reform, reducing tax burdens for business and supporting the nation’s resource sectors. Those are among 37 recommendations in a report the chamber will release Thursday.
The call comes amid speculation Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will trigger an election, possibly within days. Within corporate Canada, some executives are worried that political leaders are devoting little serious attention to fixing the nation’s long-term competitiveness problem.
“At this point none of the parties have set out a strategy for growth that will enable us to get to where we need to be,” Perrin Beatty, the chamber’s chief executive officer, said in a phone interview. “We need to have much better growth than we did prior to Covid and that’s going to be very hard to achieve.”
Canada’s economy has been pummeled by the pandemic, with many businesses forced to close their doors for months to curb the spread of Covid-19. Now that vaccinations have picked up and most of the economy has been allowed to reopen, the chamber says it’s time to look past the virus and plan for a strong economic future.
Business investment in Canada was weak even before spending collapsed during the pandemic. Productivity growth, meanwhile, has deteriorated to historic lows.
Since 2005, the nation’s real output per capita has grown by 0.2 per cent annually on average, according to Bloomberg calculations. That’s about one-tenth the pace in the period from 1996 to 2005.
Beatty said policy makers need to do more to reverse that trend, especially now that the country’s debt has surged during the crisis.
The last election campaign in 2019 -- which saw the two major parties more preoccupied with mudslinging and voter handouts -- also undermined confidence within the business community.
“What we need to say is post-COVID, where do we go,” Beatty said, adding that Trudeau’s 2021 budget, released in April, will fall short on meeting long-term growth objectives despite a US$100 billion (USUS$80 billion) price tag over the next three years.
The budget “was focused on the short-term,” he said.
In its report, the chamber did ask all parties to extend pandemic-related support for businesses into next year, as well as forgiving interest payments on government short-term loans.
The recommendations were far-ranging, and include calls to make the recovery more inclusive by speeding up the indigenous reconciliation process, creating new opportunities for diversity-owned business, and providing more generous tax deductions for childcare expenses.
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