Straight Talk
EDITORIAL - Canada slipping in competitiveness



If a make-believe North Pole Inc. had produced the commercial Christmas, odds are it would be a multi-national headquartered in Geneva with its factories in southeast Asia.

Not in Canada, you say?

Nope, not even close.

How come?

Because tiny Switzerland and Singapore, mere elves in a world economy dominated by giants like the US and China, are the globe's No. 1- and No. 2-ranked nations by economic competitiveness, according to the World Economic Forum's latest global competitive index.

Education, innovation, investment, nimble business and supportive government -- those are the hallmarks of a competitive economy. Firing on all cylinders, they confer high living standards even on countries overshadowed by mega-economies.

If anyone could figure out how to scoot a gift-giving guy in a sleigh to the millions of homes Santa covers in just one night, patenting the process and profiting off it, the ratings tell us it would be the Swiss or some of the other Top 10 countries in the index, which include the U.S., others in northern Europe and Hong Kong and Japan.

Canada, alas, checks in at No. 14 in the 2012-13 rankings -- nothing to sneeze at, for a country that barely accounts for 2% of the world economy, but not good enough to be anything but a sub-contractor to our fictitious North Pole Inc.

Worse, our ranking in the index has been slipping. Only a few years ago we were 10th, ahead of Hong Kong.

In that, there's an eye-opener for Canadians: For too long, we've seduced ourselves into believing we punch much higher than our weight class on the world economic stage, often listening to the wrong messages and paying attention to deceiving figures.

A generation ago, as we came out of the 1990s recession, Jean Chretien liked to crow how the UN consistently ranked Canada the world's best place to live. Since the 2008 meltdown, we've similarly consoled ourselves, smugly, we're better off than the U.S.

In fact, it was an awakening U.S. economy that towed Canada out of the grim early 1990s and, for all its woes today, the U.S. remains economically far more competitive than us.

With Christmas fantasies tucked away, that's a New Year's reality to chew on.

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