Prospectus: Business leaders must be the voice of reason in minority government – it’s the economy, stupid

Ottawa business

In each issue of the OBJ newsmagazine, publisher Mike Curran gives his prospectus for the Ottawa business community.

Way back in 1992, in a U.S. presidential election featuring Bill Clinton and George Bush, political strategist James Carville coined the phrase “the economy, stupid” to bring clarity and purpose to Clinton’s campaign.

It worked.

Not only was Clinton elected the 42nd president of the United States, the U.S. economy entered a period of uninterrupted growth. The U.S. government even recorded a budget surplus from 1998 to 2001, its first since 1969. Imagine that.

Sure, you can argue about how much any government controls a country’s economy, but Clinton’s campaign priority ultimately led to a rejuvenation of the American economy based on a centrist political philosophy that kept economic growth as its firm foundation.

Contrast that sharp focus with Canada’s federal election campaign, where serious discussion about the economy was almost entirely absent. The Liberals floated vague notions about “building a green economy” and cutting taxes for companies with zero emissions. (By the way, the federal Liberals might want to check with their Ontario counterparts on such an idea. Ontario taxpayers have paid dearly for a provincial green energy plan that, according to experts, was a colossal failure. Billions of wasted taxpayer dollars.)

The Conservatives talked about ending corporate welfare and budget cuts to slowly bring the budget back into balance.

With all due respect to our political leaders, those are not bold, transformational ideas that are clearly defined, with measurable goals and realistic timelines.

If plans to significantly grow the economy were obscure, the same cannot be said about spending. Federal political leaders were crystal clear on their spending priorities. Consider, for example, the Liberal and NDP support for a national pharmacare system. (The Parliamentary Budget Office estimates this cost at almost $33 billion annually.)

And what of the Liberals’ plans for a balanced budget? It would appear they have abandoned any such goal, instead opting to increase the deficit to $27.4 billion in the next fiscal year.

So what are business leaders to make of all this? Should they throw up their hands in despair?

No. On the contrary, their input on economic strategy and fiscal prudence is needed more than ever.

CEOs live in a very different world than politicians. You grow or you die. Revenue growth outpaces spending increases or companies fail. It’s honestly that simple.

In a minority parliament where politicians will get into horse trading involving billions in spending, business leaders need to be the voice of fiscal reason.

They need to engage politicians to help Canada build competitive advantage that takes us beyond a resource-based economy.

Yeah, it’s the economy, stupid. Don’t take it for granted.

A lifetime of achievements

In this month's edition of the OBJ newsmagazine, we profile our 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, Ottawa Hospital CEO Dr. Jack Kitts. Print editor David Sali chronicles Kitts's rise from a young high school student in Barry's Bay whose stated ambition was working at the local LCBO outlet to one of the country's most respected health-care executives.

Also in this issue, OBJ.social reporter Caroline Phillips puts a spotlight on Kanata North Business Association president Jamie Petten in her Up Close profile, while Techopia editor Craig Lord examines how a new VC fund called Twelve-7 Ventures aims to help entrepreneurs take their startups to the next level without losing ownership control.

nd don't forget to check out the latest editions of OBOT Connect! and HR Update, which are also included in the November issue.

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