Innovation, Canada Style

Yesterday I listened to a panel on CBC radio talking about innovation in Canada. There was a Canadian entrepreneur who moved to New York from Toronto , a entrepreneur who lived in a smaller city in Canada , a professor , and the host. The New York bound entrepreneur explained that she really had to go to the US to get venture capital, that there were lots of sources for that in the US versus in Canada. The small city person spoke of being concerned that the new federal Government might just look at a few big cities in their actions to stimulate more innovation. The professor , an obvious apologist for the new Government spoke of how good it was to hear the word innovation spoken again. Obviously he has not read the throne speeches or budget speeches of Governments in the past .  Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s Government actually had Professor  Michael Porter of Harvard do a study on how Canada could improve on its economic performance and in his conclusions he highlighted innovation.  But two things really stood out :


  1. The  professor forgave the federal government for not doing more right now with the comment that it was early . This is after a new budget which incurred  a lot of new spending driving the deficit for this year from a promised $10 billion to $30 billion . Early ? That is part of our problem. It is always another time .
  2. But more importantly the whole discussion was framed around what the Government could do. There was no discussion that right now the business sector does not pull its weight and invests mush less on R and D that their counterparts in the US. There was no discussion of the fact that our education system places little emphasis on entrepreneurship or teaching basic economics. Most teachers in our country are to the left and eagerly espouse their views in the classroom. There is little emphasis on pursuing excellence . Government cannot spend the country into innovation heaven . We must have a fundamental change in our culture. It goes all the way to our sports. Canada did not have one team in the Stanley Cup Playoffs , the game we herald as out own. When you aim for mediocrity, that’s  what you are likely to get, if not less.

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