A report on global competitiveness has placed Canada 15th out of 144 countries — a drop of one notch to the lowest level since 2006.
In the annual ranking from the World Economic Forum, Canada scored poorly in innovation (4.5 of 7), pushing it down the competitiveness ladder in 2013. It also saw steep declines in infrastructure, particularly the quality of roads and railroads. The country was, however, graded high in health and primary education (6.6 of 7) when compared to its global counterparts.
According to the WEF, there are two main problematic factors for doing business in Canada — access to financing and tax rates.
“Smart investment in skills and innovation is key to enhanced productivity and competitiveness,” said the report. “Economies that consistently rank high in the competitiveness rankings are those that are able to develop, attract and retain talent, and constantly introduce new and higher value-added products and services into the market.”
In a news conference today, Finance Minister Joe Oliver said the Harper government was attempting to spur innovation in the private sector.
“This is a long-standing issue and its one our government is seized with dealing with,” he said after making an announcement in Toronto.
Oliver claimed Ottawa has invested more per-capita in innovation than other G7 countries, but private sector investment is lagging.
“It’s not what the government is doing, it’s what industry is not doing,” Oliver said.
The Conference Board of Canada also reacted to Wednesday's release, arguing Canada must do better for future generations.
"Failure to do so will put pressure on our standard of living and the things that we, as Canadians, cherish, including our health care, education, and social security systems," said Daniel Muzyka, president and chief executive officer.
The WEF measured each country based on 12 pillars of competitiveness, ranging from institutions and infrastructure to financial and labour markets. Strong performance in each of the 12 categories means a country is likely to grow faster, said the report.
The Swiss named 'most competitive'
For the sixth consecutive year, Switzerland topped the ranking for the health of its public finances, attractive tax regime and “exceptional capacity for innovation.”
U.S. competitiveness is on the rise. The country climbed two spots to 3rd behind Singapore. The report cited improvements in its financial markets and public institutions.
Mostly European countries made up the rest of the top 10, including Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Sweden. Three Asian economies took the remaining three spots — Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong.
Read the full report here.