On Monday June 13, the Conference Board of Canada released its quarterly economic report with a short-term outlook for the Provinces. According to this forecast, BC’s economy is projected to outperform all other Provinces, with a real GDP growth of 3% in 2016, and a real gain in 2017.
While this is definitely good news, the picture is not as rosy once we start delving into the details. Turns out it’s the continuing housing boom that will be one of our key economic drivers rather than any of the knowledge economy sectors.
This economic forecast was released less than a month after another report gave Vancouver a paltry “C” for labour productivity. The Greater Vancouver Economic Scorecard 2016, which compared 20 metro areas across the world, linked this modest performance to the human-capital and innovation challenges.
Without a highly educated and highly skilled workforce, a boost in labour productivity is impossible. Unfortunately, Greater Vancouver earns just a “C” for the number of people aged 25 or over with post-secondary degrees. According to the Scorecard, we are also disadvantaged by our aging workforce, as the number of baby boomers leaving the workforce will accelerate for at least another 15 years.
If Vancouver wants to be competitive and boost its capacity to offer goods and services that are higher up the value chain, it needs to have access to the right people at the right time. Yet there are still hurdles to attracting top global talent.
According to the city’s topnotch entrepreneurs, scaling businesses up in Vancouver remains a challenge due to a shortage of experienced and talented professionals from around the world. And it’s not just high housing prices in Vancouver that are a deterrent. A wide range of top-level talent are simply finding it challenging to come to Canada to work. Faced with this crunch, high-tech companies are creating jobs outside Vancouver, and when they do we lose out on both innovation and productivity.
Shifting to a knowledge economy has been identified as one of the strategic goals for Canada. “Our natural resources are important and they always will be,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the World Economic Forum earlier this year. “But Canadians know that what it takes to grow and prosper isn’t just what’s under our feet, it’s what’s between our ears.”
Immigration and global talent attraction are of strategic importance to BC. We need to act collectively to provide the necessary programs, policies and supports to welcome top international talent to our Province. We need to recognize that creating world-class talent hubs will be critical for BC’s long-term economic success, and will help this region become a global leader in productivity and innovation.