Generally anything that makes government facilitate as opposed to over regulate is a positive step. The government of Ontario has just announced initiatives that could reduce red tape for businesses and create cluster developments to help drive regional economic growth and create jobs. Will these reforms ever see the light of day in a minority legislature flirting with an election or are they just pre-election temptations to attract votes away from the conservatives?
Regardless both of these ideas focus on critical areas in the face of a fast paced global economy where all countries are fighting for talent and for markets. Governments at all levels need to become more efficient and more effective. Over regulation serves no purpose other than to increase the cost of government and limit the competitiveness of the private sector, discouraging investment in the province in the process. There is a place for regulation and there are important roles for government but the former needs to be reeled in while the latter needs to be more selective. One preferred area should be to co-operate with the private sector and academia to create ecosystems that foster business opportunities in a variety of areas where we can build comparative advantages. This is now a stated goal for Ontario.
The most startling evidence of cluster development is Silicon Valley where 350,000 Canadians live and work. That’s right 1% of our population and a much higher percentage of our intellectual capital are resident in northern California. The Valley offers the most dominant ecosystem for an industry that exists, nurturing tech startups and venture capital investment at a phenomenal rate. It is not one that can easily be replicated and it’s been underway for over sixty years.
In other words this project requires genuine commitment from all concerned. We can only hope that the Ontario government follows through and that the Feds add a level of support. We are in a new era dominated by change. The culture of government and business alike has to change. Government must move away from a culture of bureaucracy that has become an unbearable burden. Big business must move away from a culture of control to a culture of empowerment as change dictates that the status quo is short lived.
These new initiatives serve as a reality check that we must become more competitive. Government can not be the agent of change that makes this happen but it can facilitate a co-ordinated approach by reducing the costs of doing business and helping to create ecosystems that support the efforts of the private sector. Let’s hope that all parties rally in support of these programs that will create jobs and point us toward a better future.