Merit Canada recommends that policy makers:
- Undertake a long-overdue review of Canada’s complex tax system, with the overarching goal to simplify its application and administration;
- Continue with the current sector-by-sector review of Canada’s regulatory burden with the goal of streamlining and simplifying the application and administration of regulations affecting businesses and citizens;
- Review the Canada Labour Code to ensure that it provides labour market flexibility and balanced labour relations and employment standards policies suitable to the needs of today’s world of work. This must begin with restoration of a workers’ right to a secret ballot vote during union certification processes in federally regulated workplaces (there is no more fundamental democratic value than the right to a secret ballot, and workers should have that right when they are deciding if they should join a union);
- Ensure that Canada maintains open access to steel products from international markets. Fundamentally sourcing cost-competitive supply to meet construction industry demand for steel inputs is differentiated across the country (Central Canada can source much of its supply domestically, while Western Canada is heavily dependent on imports from international markets); and,
- Develop a comprehensive pan-Canadian, export-oriented jobs and investment plan to leverage gains from trade with the United States, Asia and Europe.
Private sector investment is key for enabling economic growth. A growing economy provides people with jobs and governments with tax revenues to pay for health, education and social programs.
While Canada has fared well overall in recent years, outbound foreign investment flows have outpaced inbound flows since 2014, and growth and job creation has been uneven across the country. Lagging investment and lagging employment growth have, for example, hit the Alberta energy sector particularly hard, while other sectors and regions have performed somewhat better.
At the same time, the effect of the USA’s Jobs and Tax Cuts Act initiated under the Trump administration and lingering uncertainty over whether the US-Canada-Mexico Agreement will be ratified, together with turbulent relations with China and India, have made for uncertain times within other sectors of the economy.
Inbound foreign direct investment and secure and fluid access to export markets are both critical for enabling economic growth in Canada. In the construction sector, demand for institutional, commercial, industrial and residential construction services is derived from other areas of the private sector including manufacturing, forestry, mining, and energy, among others. Demand for construction services also comes directly from governments’ leading role to fund nation-building and regional infrastructure such as highways, ports, airports, hospitals and educational institutions.
Merit Canada believes that public policy choices profoundly affect investment and growth by establishing private sector confidence levels and ultimately their choices about whether to expand their businesses.
Investor confidence is strongly influenced by government policies setting taxation levels, the burden of red tape and regulation, the degree of labour market flexibility, and openness to international trade to source critical business inputs and to export goods and services.
Levels of investment, in turn, ultimately determine the amount and stability of taxes, fees and other revenues that are available for government spending to support critical “public goods” such as social services and infrastructure to move goods and people.