A recent two week work schedule in Toronto had me reflecting not only on how much snow there can be in my homeland, but also the need for a real electric charge to the province’s policy making. The province is facing near meltdown, after an ill-conceived pursuit of manufacturing jobs in the automotive sector, with some 150,000 manufacturing jobs lost over recent years, never to be seen again. Trying to jump-start this industry with taxpayers’ money seems a bit like investing in buggy whips while watching Henry Ford’s Model T drive you to town for a nice lunch!
Investing in universities and research has been coupled with a punitive tax regime, that drives new businesses into the arms of other provinces, or to the US. Early-stage venture capital is scarce, and the mandarins on Bay Street that do profess to know what to do are more focused on generating returns to their funds (or these days just keeping the rent going on their plush offices), than on understanding the driving force that is the commercialisation of research.
Brains not brawn should be the cornerstone of provincial policy. This will become especially important as the US, largest trading partner with a 10:1 ratio of US scientists to Ontario/Canadian scientists ramps up scientific investment after a near-decade of scientific politics under the last elected regime. That sucking sound you will hear (apologies to Perot) will be American scientists returning home to the US.
Ontario, time to get the boots on, review taxation policy, look to rethinking what the best use for bail-out money really is. Some industries will go and that is sad, but what will replace it will establish the future credentials for the province for at least this half of the 21st century.
Unless, of course, you like buggy whips.