Economic advisers pushing feds to focus on business investment, job re-skilling

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OTTAWA — The federal government’s economic advisers are calling for more changes aimed at driving business investment and helping Canadians acquire new skills as they brace for the job-killing effects of technology’s march.

The overarching goal of the influential Advisory Council on Economic Growth is to help Canadian households add an extra $15,000 to their projected annual pre-tax incomes by 2030.

In its third wave of recommendations, to be released later this week, the council says Canada urgently needs another $15 billion in annual investments for adult skills development to help workers adjust to the demands of the rapidly changing labour market.

The group recommends the creation of an RRSP-type lifelong learning fund that enables workers to accumulate tax-free savings, combined with contributions from employers and government, in order to cover the cost of developing new skills midway through their working lives.

The council is also calling on Ottawa to support businesses by pursuing a more agile regulatory environment, make the tax system more supportive of innovative sectors and help smaller Canadian firms increase their exports.

The group, headed by Dominic Barton, managing director of global consulting giant McKinsey & Co., has helped the Trudeau government shape policy decisions in the past.

Without action to help adult workers acquire new skills, Barton says technological change could force 10 per cent of the Canadian workforce — or two million people — out of work by 2030.

“With all of the disruption coming down the pipe, especially from automation and other technologies, there’s going to be a need for constant re-skilling of the work force,” Barton said.

“The scale of what’s required is going to be much more significant than we have.”

The Canadian Press