Five things on radar of federal government's economic growth council

OTTAWA – Dominic Barton, chair of the federal government’s growth council, gave an update this week on what these economic advisers have on their radar as they look for ways to improve long-term growth.

Here are five areas that Barton said the influential council has explored — or will explore — that could help the economy:

1. How to tap into the massive, emerging middle class in Asia and parts of Africa. Barton said there’s a “huge economic power shift” toward these regions, which will be home to 2.4 billion new middle-class consumers who want to eat and live like their counterparts in other parts of the world. “That is an unprecedented number — it’s 1,000 times larger than the industrial revolution,” he said.

2. Opening Canada’s doors wider. He said the country must seek more trade deals. Barton noted that Mexico, with 40 trade agreements, is more of a hub than Canada. On foreign direct investment, he said Canada is one of the most restrictive jurisdictions in the world. The country must invite investors from abroad and make it easier for them to invest.”We are punching way below our weight on attracting capital,” he said.

3. A closer look at supply management for the egg, chicken and dairy industries. Barton said Canada needs to unleash more of the economy’s potential and competitiveness in agriculture and food. Speaking for himself — not for the council — he thinks re-visiting supply management should be on the table. “It’s one of those Holy Grails I think we have to deal with at some point,” he said. “We’ll talk about it. I don’t know where we’ll come out — we’re discussing it in the group.”

4. Boost the labour force and productivity. He said the country needs to encourage more women and older people to enter the workforce or to work longer. “We’ve got to get them to work and I think there’s incentives that we can do around that,” he said. Barton added that the biggest lever to expand the workforce is opening up immigration.

5. Play up Canada’s assets. He said Canada can do more to emphasize its strengths, which include its world-class universities and political stability that makes it a relative place of calm in the world.