Wednesday, 30 April 2014

An Overview of Canadian Economy and Canada’s Top Performing Industries

From a discussion of economic slump and recovery to an exciting discussion about Canada’s CleanTech industry, we have yet to offer a summary of exactly what Canada’s economy looks like and what is currently performing well and what is not.

An Overview of Canadian Economy

As far as Canada’s economy goes, the three major types of industries in Canada are “manufacturing, services, and natural resources” (CanadaFAQ). Canada’s economy is largely dominated by the service sector, while natural resources such as oil and logging are exceedingly important, and Canada still maintains a sizeable manufacturing industry for aircraft and automobiles (CanadaFAQ). Other key industries include chemicals, biopharmaceuticals, wireless communication, agriculture, and energy – the most important in this sector being environmental technologies and renewable energy (including bioenergy, solar, and wind).

Here is a quick overview of Canada’s economic system broken down by industry (CanadaFAQ):

Renewable Energy
Canada is a global leader in solar-power commercialization, development, and research, and also develops waste-to-energy biogas technologies and wind-power generation projects.

Canada is a global producer of machinery mining equipment, metalworking machinery, and agricultural machinery. The aerospace and defence sectors are well developed and the aerospace industry is 5th in the world. The aerospace industry supplies gas-turbine engines, visual simulators, business and regional aircraft, etc. The largest manufacturing sector in the country is the automotive industry and Canada is one of the largest automobile equipment and goods exporters.

Wireless Technologies
Also a leader in wireless technologies, operating in areas such as: RFID, WiMAX, WiFi, fibre-optics, satellite, and broadband applications. The country is also highly invested in Research & Development, one focus being amplifiers and nanomaterials, and technological advancements that will enable reductions in power consumption, weight, and size of wireless equipment.

Also has a competitive and expanding food processing sector and is world-renowned for its high quality wheat and grain products. The beverage and food processing industry is the 2nd largest industrial sector in Canada, accounting for 12% of all manufacturing shipments. Canadian companies produce beef, fish and seafood products, processed fruit and vegetables, wine, beer, and other products. Canada is known for producing healthy, natural, and pure organic foods.

The pharmaceutical industry is one of the fastest growing in the country. Canada is a leader in pharmaceutical production and R&D. Also, the medical devices industry operating in Canada is one of the largest in the world.

Industry Performance

What has been performing particularly well, though, and what has seen a decline in profit?

Canada’s top performing industries are as follows (The Globe and Mail):
  1. Banks, or the financial industry
  2. Transportation
  3. Mining
  4. Technology and Wireless
  5. Retailers
  6. Oil and Gas
  7. Federal Crown Corporations
  8. Financial Co-ops
  9. Provincial Crown Corporations
  10. Investment Dealers
  11. Management Companies
  12. Life Insurance
  13. Gas and Electrical Utilities
  14. Chemicals
  15. Agriculture
  16. Gold and Diamonds
  17. Automotive
  18. Media and Broadcasting

What has done particularly well over the past year is Canada’s financial industry; specifically the Big Six Banks (RBC, TD, Scotia, BMO, CIBC, National Bank of Canada) who, combined, saw “more than $29 billion in profits” in 2012 (The Globe and Mail). Other areas with soaring success were Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals, Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. specifically saw an annual return of 110.01% in 2013. Construction and Transportation also soared, as companies like Magna International Inc. saw an annual return of 75.32% in 2013 and Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. saw an annual return of 59.22% in 2013 (Shmuel).

Another sector that has done quite well over the past year has been Canada’s Clean Technology Industry, hitting a record $5.8 billion in exports in 2012 and $11.8 billion in annual revenue (Quantiam). There are some very exciting and profitable things happening in this sector, Westport Innovation, which focuses on replacing traditional diesel with Canadian cleantech alternatives, contributed “more than $14 billion to the Canadian economy alone in 2005” (“Project Spotlights”).  

What has suffered loss recently is the gold industry, “tumbl[ing] below $1,500, well back from its high of $1,900 in September 2011” (Canadian Business); Eldorado Gold Corp alone took an annual loss in 2013 of -52.89% (Shmuel). Another struggling sector is mobile technology, specifically RIM/Blackberry, continuing to take a hit in 2013 of -33.05% after already falling 20% in 2012 (Shmuel).  

Although not very in-depth or thorough, this offers a basic glimpse into Canada's economic performance over the last year. 

Amanda Labelle


“Canada’s Top Countries by Industry,” The Globe and Mail, July 3, 2013. Web.

“Canada’s Top Performing Companies: By The Data,” Canadian Business, May 10, 2013. Web.
accessed April 24, 2014.

“Project Spotlights,” Sustainable Development Technology Canada. Web.

“Quantiam News Release,” Web.

Shmuel, John and David Pett, “5 of Canada’s Biggest Market Winners and Losers in 2013,” Financial Post,

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

The Great Green North?: Canada’s Cleantech Industry

A Greener Economic Action Plan

All of this talk about economic crisis and recession has been a bit of a downer; however, out of almost any negative circumstance comes something positive, if you choose to look for it. The silver-lining in this context is that of opportunity to invest in new industries, specifically clean technology and sustainable development. Some countries, Canada among them, decided to respond to the international crisis by considering it as “an opportunity to change the way governments shape and implement economic development strategies” (ILO). The many countries that are embracing this position are investing in “green, clean and sustainable sectors, supporting the creation of sustainable enterprises and creating green jobs” (ILO).

So what exactly is clean tech and what are green jobs? Green jobs are jobs that are concerned with sustainability, these are jobs incorporating production methods and technologies that “address climate change, air quality, clean water and clean soil, providing solutions to key Canadian industries that increase efficiency and enhance environmental responsibility” (SDTC). Cleantech is a ‘driver’ of these green jobs and is also focused on “productivity, economic prosperity, a healthy environment, and high quality of life for all Canadians” (SDTC). Canada’s Green Job Initiative (a partnership of the ILO, UNEP, IOE, and ITUC) is focused on 3 specific policy measures to promote a ‘greener’ world economy:

  1.     Support communities, sectors, regions and workers, suffering from climate change, including through social dialogue and expanded social protection.
  2.       Promote investment in the creation of green jobs
  3.    Strengthen skills and vocational training systems to respond better to emerging needs in the labour market. 

Ultimately Cleantech is about creating jobs and an industry that has an environmentally responsible impact.  

This is part of Canada’s economic recovery plan because “a global transition to a low-carbon, resource efficient and sustainable economy has a potential to create jobs across many sectors of the economy, and can become an engine of development” (ILO). In fact, “well-tailored green components of recovery packages” not only creates jobs, but also “stimulate[s] the economy while achieving wider objectives of cleaner production and energy savings” (ILO).

Seeing as the old industries are seeing slow improvement, and as was discussed in previous blog posts - we are headed towards an entirely different economy with different industries and therefore a different workforce - the emergence of the cleantech industry is one of those major shifts in industry. Luckily for us, it is one in which we have been proactive and are capable of competing in. According to Invest Ottawa, “It is anticipated through a number of sector economic development and forecasting reports, that by 2020 the cleantech sector will be the third largest industry, internationally,” just behind energy (oil & gas) and arms (guns, tanks and military weapons). Canada, as I said before, is in a good position to “take a lead position in the development and advancement of this potential economic powerhouse” (Invest Ottawa).

A Summary of Canada’s CleanTech Industry

Some of the major players in the Canadian Cleantech industry are Sustainable Development Technology Canada and the Canadian Clean Technology Coalition.

Sustainable Development Technology Canada is part of the Federal Economic Action Plan. They are committing $325 million over eight years to “continue to support the development and demonstration of new, clean technologies that create efficiencies for business and contribute to sustainable economic development” (SDTC).

The goal of the SDTC Tech Fund is to prepare Canadian companies for growth and export markets while helping the cleantech sector reach its potential as a key driver of [...] jobs, productivity and economic prosperity. The program is helping Canada take its spot as a top global cleantech innovator, participating in a sector estimated to be $4 trillion strong and growing. (SDTC)

The Canadian Clean Technology Coalition aims to increase the number of companies (and therefore jobs) in this sector, and to “create a coherent policy for  the clean technology sector that limits potential risks and can deliver on its economic, jobs and resource productivity benefits” (CCTC). They  advocate for “market friendly mechanisms to fully unleash the economic potential of this sector, create new sustainable jobs here at home and ensure that Canada takes its competitive place in the global cleantech market” (CCTC).
The CCTC offers a comprehensive list of the top 10 things that they deem everyone should know about Canada’s Clean Tech industry:

10 Things to Know about Canada’s Clean Technology Industry
1.       Canada’s clean technology industry is becoming an economic driver.
2.       Employing 52,600 people today (with potential for 100,000 before 2020) in over 700 companies across all regions of the country and part of a global supply chain.
3.       Is an industry estimated at $10.6 billion currently, potentially exceeding $26 billion in five years.
4.       Investing $1 billion per year in private sector R&D, to develop proprietary IP for products and services that efficiently use fewer resources and lower environmental footprint.
5.       In ten sectors focused on air, water, land, and energy.
6.       To serve industries such as aerospace, automotive, utilities, real estate, oil & mining, chemicals, and food.
7.       These clean technology companies are 9 times more likely to export than the average Canadian small and medium-sized enterprise.
8.       With 82% of companies exporting and…
9.       Export revenues projected for 70% of industry revenues by 2015
10.   The Canadian Industry is a leader in a global clean technology market valued at $1 trillion today and will be $3 trillion by 2020.

Indeed this is a smart industry to get into, whether employment-wise or through calculated financial investments, as the “Canadian clean technology industry grew by 9 per cent from 2011 to 2012, easily outstripping the economy as a whole. Based on current trends, this $11-billion industry is already on track to grow into a $28-billion industry by 2022,” with the right policies, investment, and industry engagement, however, Canadian cleantech “could become a $50-billon industry and employ 100,000 Canadians by 2022” (Bak, Peltier, and McNamara).

The question that should be popping into everyone’s mind right about now is what would a $50-billion clean technology industry look like? According to Bak, Peltier, and McNamara, it would be

woven within our natural resources and manufacturing sectors, driving innovation and market diversification, and winning 2 percent of global market share. It would also transform Canadian international development, bringing together Canadian clean technologies, our trading partners and international financial institutions to help countries clean their environments and transition to clean energy economies.

The three Toronto Star writers also believe that “Canadian clean energy companies can compete head-to-head with fossil fuels, making solar power cheaper than natural gas and cellulosic ethanol.” Anything that can compete with the fossil fuel market is worth considerable consideration. The Canadian oil and gas sector exports about $100 billion a year. Competing with this type of revenue is a huge piece of pie that Canada is smart to have proactively taken a bite out of. Currently, “three-quarters of Canadian clean technology companies are exporters, with 42 per cent of product sales going to non-U.S. countries” (Bak, Peltier, and McNamara), so other countries are already noticing Canada’s active stance and powerful position within this emerging industry.

Some Clean Tech Companies and What they are Doing

Because it offers close proximity to world-class research and talent available in government labs and government departments setting policy and technical standards, “Ottawa is home to Canada’s largest concentration of clean energy and technology researchers, scientists and engineers” (Invest Ottawa). That being the case, it is also home to a large concentration of cleantech companies.

Some of the leading cleantech companies are:
  •          Thermal Energy International Inc.
  •          Energate Inc.
  •          Enerkem
  •          Triacta Power Technologies
  •          Ensyn Corporation
  •          Earth Innovations
  •          Plasco Energy Group Inc.
  •          Cooter Muck Probiotics
  •          BluMetric
  •          Waste Management
  •          Johnson Controls
  •          Wesco
  •          Honeywell
  •          Enbridge

These companies are providing competitive and responsible solutions in the areas of: renewable energy generation, energy infrastructure, and energy efficiency; water treatment, waste diversion, conversion and management; and remediation, green buildings, and resource efficiency in built environments. (Invest Ottawa)

What Does this Mean for the Future?

Like any major change in economy, it brings about the need for other changes as well. With the development of green jobs and the cleantech industry, there will be an emergence of new skillsets that will be required in the workforce. As the International Labour Organization puts it, “investments and enterprise development for a greener economy include demand for new competencies and a different kind of entrepreneurship skills. The structural changes wrought by the transition to green technologies or new energy sources modify the skills needed in labour markets.” What will be necessary, therefore, is the development of a consciousness to educate in this direction – addressing the skill-sets that will be in high demand – and producing a curricula and training with which to educate those coming in to the new market, within both the education system as well as on the job. Generating campaigns to target a new demographic to join this particular industry would be helpful too. (ILO)


In conclusion, it’s not all economic downturn and recession, this new industry promises a bright future for Canada and the world. Yes indeed, the future looks bright…Bright GREEN!

I think that this is a particularly bright future because not only does it mean a future of employment and economic success, but it also means a healthier less harmful future for us and those who come after us: these “investment decisions taken today are going to determine global greenhouse gas emissions for tomorrow and a good number of years to come” (ILO).

I will leave you with some words from Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, The Honourable Joe Oliver: Canada is committed to “creating jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity. We are proud to play a role in developing [funds] which will drive new clean technologies that build our economy and protect the environment"

Amanda Labelle


Bak, CĂ©line, Tom Richard Peltier, Cheryl McNamara, “Canadian clean technology is going for gold,”

Canadian Clean Technology Coalition,

“Global Jobs Pact Policy Briefs: Promoting Green Jobs for Recovery And Sustainable Development.” Brief
No 09, International Labour Organization (ILO), 2010. Print (pdf). 

Sustainable Development Technology Canada – Canada’s Economic Action Plan

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Job Sharing is Caring: Successful Recession Strategies

The Concept

In the last blog post I mentioned the need to think ahead and to incorporate some economic-relief ideas that can better prepare us for a shortage of work in the future. One such idea that seems to be a fruitful prospect is that of work sharing. 

Work sharing has been a hot topic of discussion in the conversation of economic recovery from this most recent recession. Although this is not a new concept – as the idea was originally implemented during The Great Depression of the 1930’s and again in the later recession of the 1990’s – countries that practiced some form of work sharing in the recent recession fared better than those that did not have similar economic ‘safety nets’ in place. 

Not to be confused with job sharing which is a voluntary contract between two people to share a single job position – essentially splitting that full time job into two part time positions – work sharing is “a reduction of working time intended to spread a reduced volume of work over the same (or similar) number of workers in order to avoid lay-offs” (ILO).  Put more simply, instead of a company laying-off 20% of their employees, they can instead reduce labour or working hours by 20% and retain these employees, while also partially compensating these employees for lost hours – in the end, let’s say, the employees work 20% less hours for 10% less pay. For example, say the firm that Angela is working for cuts her hours from 35 to 25 hours per week, thus reducing her salary from $1000 to $714. Angela is then compensated $171 or 60% of her lost salary by the government (which is more affordable than compensating her entire lost salary. She is now making $885. She is making less than she was during her regular full-work employment (allowing the company to spread around that saved income), but she is making more than she would be making on unemployment, which would most likely be half of the total lost salary, so just over $500(Hassett).

Ultimately work sharing “is a measure designed to share the burdens of a difficult economic situation – not only among workers, but between workers, employers and government as well” (ILO). The worker benefits from better pay than unemployment insurance alone and isn’t forced to join the growing ranks of the unemployed and look for work in a weak labour market. This is actually a significant success of the program, as workers who are “unemployed for long periods of time have great difficulty getting re-employed,” because employers are “reluctant to hire workers who have been out of the workforce for 1-2 years or longer” (Baker). The short work allows the employee to maintain work skills as well as upgrade skills in some cases (as some work-share programs offer additional training and seminars during reduced hours of employment). The company benefits from eliminating costly and time-consuming firing and (re)hiring as well as (re)training costs when production increases again and is able to ‘jump back into’ full production much quicker. Finally, the government benefits from paying out less compensation than they would if covering full unemployment benefits and is able to deal with an overall lower unemployment rate. On top of this, even on reduced wages, if more people are still earning an income, there will still be household spending occurring (albeit also decreased). Even this reduced trickle of income flowing into the economy is helpful in aiding economic recovery. Also, if companies are able to ‘ramp up’ their production faster when the economy is back in recovery, then the economic recovery will also be that much faster.     

The International Labour Organization offers five key elements that should be included in work sharing policies and programmes:
1.       The reduction of working hours for all workers in a company or a specific work unit within a company, in lieu of layoffs.
2.       A corresponding (pro-rata) reduction in earnings (total wages).
3.       The provision of wage supplements to affected workers to ‘cushion’ the effects of temporary reductions in earnings.
4.       The establishment of specific time limits on the period of work sharing (to ensure that the programme is a temporary measure in response to the economic crisis).
5.       The creation of links between work-sharing programmes and training/retraining activities.

The Plan in Action

The country that has been credited the most success with this type of economic relief program is Germany with their Federal work sharing programme called Kurzarbeit, which was “by far the largest work sharing programme in the world during the crisis, reaching a maximum participation of approximately 64,000 establishments and 1.5 million employees at the height of the crisis in mid-2009” (ILO). The success of Germany’s Kurzarbeit is being widely discusses because Germany’s unemployment is “1.5 percentage points lower today than it was at the start of its recession,” even though Germany’s “growth performance” has actually been “worse than the U.S.,” and it entered the recession in a worse off position than the U.S. (Baker). Work sharing programs were also implemented in Austria, Canada, Belgium, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and small programmes in a few individual states in the United States (ILO). Much of the discussion has compared Germany’s handle on the recession against the U.S., and although an exact replica cannot be adopted in the U.S. and the higher population count would also increase the cost of wider work sharing, research still seems to suggest that a Kurzarbeit-esq implementation would still be more affordable than the economic stimulus. Germany’s program has cost $2.85 billion, and it is estimated that implementing such strategies in the U.S. would cost around $10.6 billion compared with the $787 billion U.S. economic stimulus that it has incurred (Hassett).

The Implementation

According to the International Labour Organization, these programs are more likely to succeed if:
1.       The government takes an active role in promoting work sharing
2.       Work-sharing schemes are negotiated and implemented through social dialogue at the national level and via collective bargaining at industry levels and in specific firms.
3.       Wage supplements (e.g. partial unemployment benefits) are provided to partially offset reductions in workers’ earnings.
4.       Work-sharing schemes are inclusive, covering regular and non-standard workers.
5.       Managers make the necessary changes in the work environment to make work-sharing pay off, including redesigning work processes when needed and supporting training.

Although other countries have used work sharing successfully, in the U.S., “work sharing requires amending state unemployment insurance laws” (Rix). Right now workers in the U.S. are not compensated for lost hours or lost pay. The way that the unemployment laws are set up, those on EI “get roughly half of their pay in benefits,” which “encourages employers to go the route of layoffs rather than shortening work hours, since that is the only way that workers can benefit from unemployment insurance” (Baker). In order for there to be any success with such a ‘economic relief’ program, laws will have to first be amended to ensure that partial compensation accommodates short-work employees and greater benefits the employer as well. One way to accomplish this is to offer (benefits to companies to work-share instead of layoff).    

The Objections
Of course like any good theory, there are always going to be some objections to it. One primary objection is that work sharing “only postpones lay-offs that are inevitable at some point in the future and are thus a ‘waste’ of resources” (ILO). Indeed it was actually estimated that after the 1990 recession wherein job sharing was implemented, “half of all the workers whose jobs had been preserved as a result of the programme were eventually laid off after they left the work sharing scheme” (ILO­). Even if this is the case, postponing unemployment and reducing the time of unemployment are still signs of success of such programs and should be seen as motivators to adopt them, along with the attempt to preserve existing jobs.  

Another objection has been that “such schemes may have the effect of keeping economically non-viable enterprises on ‘life support’, thereby interfering inefficiently in the normal processes by which enterprises are created or go under” (ILO). Although this may seem like a harsh concept to be in favor for, the necessity to let the weak fall off so that the strong can take their place is essential for progress and development. Reminiscent of Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection in On the Origin of Species, having the weak die off and the strong survive ensures that that species only gets stronger and more capable of adapting to and thriving in its environment. Letting sinking businesses go under, then, actually works to encourage the growth of a stronger, more competent economy.  

In order to avoid upsetting the natural balance of things, work sharing programs can be specifically targeted “on firms experiencing temporary problems resulting from a cyclical downturn – rather than those facing economic adjustments” (ILO), although this is not always that recognizable a differentiation. There are a few methods that can be implemented to not only ensure that stronger firms benefit and that employees partaking in work share programs don’t inevitably get let go anyway; these are ensuring that there is an “explicit requirement that the positions supported by the programme be continued following the end of the subsidy period,” and another strategy is “a requirement that firms repay all or part of the subsidy payments if the employee is laid off after the programme ends” (ILO). Most importantly, though, is a safe-guard to ensure that reduced hours and wages are not a permanent thing, but remain merely a temporary relief, which can be controlled by setting “time limits on work-sharing subsidies to ensure that the schemes do not block inevitable structural adjustments” (ILO).

Not every system is going to be fool-proof though, and there will be some who fall through the cracks, but even if some employees who were on work sharing programs do find themselves out of work at the end of the subsidy period, the work sharing programme can still be seen as creating a positive outcome, because the employee was able to maintain his or her training and skills, maintain a foothold in the workforce, and had the time and necessary skills to prepare to move to new jobs when the economy recovers (reducing the risk of long-term unemployment).

In Conclusion

Of course we can assume that these efforts are no longer needed when we are in a period of economic recovery, but the fact that an idea from the 30’s came back into use in 90’s as well as in this past recession shows that having such ideas on retainer is never a bad thing. What needs to be considered when moving forward, is putting things in motion to safeguard the future. What I mean by this is to think of the pros and cons of this method and to tailor it to work even more effectively and efficiently in the future. Those countries that do not have similar work sharing schemes in place might be wise to “develop and implement them in preparation for the next economic downturn,” and countries that do would be wise to “carefully evaluate them and make any necessary revisions” (ILO).
Work sharing is not a fail-safe and it may not generate a whole bunch of new jobs out of the ruble of the recession, but it is a good method to think ahead for dealing with hardship: it can mean the difference between a country keeping its head above water and staying afloat, weathering the storm, and completely sinking and drowning.  If work sharing policies are properly designed and implemented, they enable “companies not only to survive the crisis, but to be well-positioned to prosper when growth returns” and they assist economic recovery by “minimizing the costs of social transfer payments and, ultimately, social exclusion for governments and society as a whole” (ILO).

Amanda Labelle


Baker, Dean. “Work Sharing: A Creative Way to Avoid Unemployment,” The Guardian Unlimited,
February 27th, 2012. Web. Center For Economic And Policy Research,, accessed April 2nd, 2014.  
“Global Jobs Pact Policy Briefs: Work Sharing – Working Time Adjustments As a Job Preservation
Strategy,” Brief No 18 International Labour Organization (ILO), 2010. Print (pdf). 

Hassett, Kevin. “U.S. Should Try Germany’s Unemployment Medicine,” Bloomberg, November 8, 2009.

Rix, Sara. “Sharing Work When Times Are Tough,” The Huffington Post, 20th Aug 2013. Web.

accessed April 3d 2014.