What can be summed up as a lack of creativity and foresight is weighing down the economy, the health-care system and the environment, while weakening Canada’s ability to compete globally, according to a Conference Board of Canada report card to be released today.

For years the country’s poor innovation record and low productivity levels have been “masked by good fortune,” said Anne Golden, president and chief executive officer. The once-low Canadian dollar, close Canada-U.S. ties and more recently, high commodity prices, all have buoyed our socio-economic status. But in truth, she said, “we’ve been more lucky than smart.”

In the report’s innovation category, Canada ranked 13 out of the 17 countries studied, receiving the lowest given grade — a D.


The board considered a variety of indicators to compile the grades, and for the first time conducted a historical comparison, looking at data as old as four decades old.

“What was startling is we have had a D in innovation all the way through,” Golden said. “No wonder we’re slipping.”

The report says Canada’s deteriorating transportation infrastructure, longer hospital wait times, and the affordability of social programs are all linked to its “innovation problem.” Canada has failed to keep pace with competition for global investment, the report says, and its economy has slumped from third place in the 1970s to 11th today.

“Part of it is we aren’t as risk-oriented as others,” Golden said. “And that’s not right across the board — the BlackBerry is a great example of innovation. Unfortunately, you’re hard-pressed to name another.”

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