Five ways Canada can boost long-term growth

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MONTREAL – Dominic Barton, global managing director of consulting company McKinsey & Co., was appointed chair of the federal government’s team of advisers who will help build a plan to boost the country’s long-term growth.

Here are five things Barton says Canada could do to increase growth:

1. Peer across the Pacific. Barton believes Canada could be doing much more to broaden its economic relationships with Asia, from the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership to free trade with China. He said Japan, Indonesia and India also represent huge opportunities. Barton also believes more should be done to attract Asian students to Canadian universities. “We should be going deep,” Barton told an audience Thursday at McGill University in Montreal. “We are missing in action in Asia.”

2. Health-care innovation. He sees opportunity in health care, which he says is generally recognized as merely a cost. “It’s actually one of the biggest consumer markets in the world,” Barton said. He said there are possibilities linked to the innovations around health delivery, product design, therapies and medicine.

3. Find out exactly why small companies struggle to scale up. “Where is it in the innovation chain that we have a bottleneck?” Barton said. Is it because patents are failing to turn into commercial activities? Is it because people sell off their firms once commercial activities reach a certain scale? Or is it that companies just can’t find the financing? Barton said his council will try to figure it out.

4. Entice foreign investors to spend on Canadian infrastructure. Barton said Canada should work hard to help create conditions for bankable, reliable projects with steady returns. He said there are huge piles of capital beyond Canada’s shores looking for opportunities. “In my view, who cares if it’s Japanese, Chinese, Singaporean? We’re the ones going to use the road. They can’t come in and take it away. There’s no vulnerability, I don’t think.”

5. Prepare Canada’s agri-food industry for what he considers a bright future. “We’re going to have 2.2 billion middle-class consumers in the next 15 years… They’re going to eat and live like we do,” he said. Barton believes Canada should already be one of the biggest food players on the planet, but it’s nowhere near it. He said the industries need to be assessed.

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