When it comes to economic policy, the new Conservative government and the US Bush administration are virtual kissin' cousins. Both are firm believers in a low-tax regime, the elimination of trade barriers and a hands-off approach to industrial assistance. They assert that the private sector is the primary engine driving innovation, competitiveness and productivity.
Fair enough. But the reality in the US reveals a more complex picture. Federal grants to business and other R&D funding programs abound, providing key industries with public assistance to level the playing field with competing nations. When it comes to aerospace and defence, US public support is among the most generous in the world. (See stories on page 3).
This is the world in which Canada must be player - a formidable challenge requiring entrepreneurial savvy, world class products and services and, yes, public assistance in the earlier stages of the innovation process.
When the Conservative government talks of reducing and ultimately eliminating assistance to business, the private sector has a right to be concerned. Talk to any Canadian aerospace or defence company executive, and they'll tell you that programs like Technology Partnerships Canada and others are essential to help them complete in the global arena.
The Liberal philosophy to business assistance was a pragmatic one of risk mitigation. The Conservative government must recognize it has a critical role to play in increasing productivity and competitiveness. Its job is to improve and build upon the current suite of programs, not trash them in the name of ideology.