Manufacturers are not only responsible for producing essential goods, but they also contribute to economies and communities where they operate. They are all around us. In Canada, 1,707,600 people work in the sector.
On several occasions, manufacturers have answered the call to protect Canadians from COVID-19. From visors to masks, from antiseptic gels to medications, companies increased their production, while others pivoted to make new products or ingredients altogether. For example, Wellmaster, located in Tillsonburg, Ontario, is one of the many companies which demonstrated that locally supported domestic manufacturing capacity is essential to responding to any major crisis, including the current pandemic.
But the urgency today is not to list manufacturers’ contributions to this recovery. Rather, it is about making sure the federal government takes the appropriate actions to support their growth, so that we do indeed build back better, stronger, and more able to compete across North America and the world.
No place for the status quo
On the eve of a return to “normalcy”, the lack of a comprehensive federal industrial strategy for the recovery of the manufacturing sector is rightly of concern to millions of Canadians who have been waiting too long for a clear plan. Day-to-day management of key issues such as borders and challenges posed by the strikes that have affected strategic supply networks is putting jobs at risk, weakening supply chains, and threatening the sustainability of our industry.
An industrial strategy with strong and specific measures for manufacturers is needed to make sure we can bounce back stronger. A global vision of the whole sector will allow us to improve the production capacity for all manufacturing sub-sectors, to give Canada the means of its ambitions and to compete with the world’s largest economies.
Growing the manufacturing sector
First, it is essential that the federal government adopt an industrial strategy with strong measures that allow the rapid adoption of new technologies in order to modernize production and improve supply chain competitiveness. These measures will also allow manufacturing companies to position themselves as international leaders and accelerate the clean energy transition to a net zero sector. This industrial strategy will also have to address the labour shortages issue that is hitting us hard and making any opportunity for development and growth virtually illusory. The statistics are overwhelming: according to Statistics Canada, 52,205 positions are vacant in the manufacturing sector in Canada. Our businesses need workers to operate at full capacity. Let’s raise the immigration thresholds and make it easier to bring in temporary foreign workers, and let’s accelerate plans to train more people from all communities and backgrounds to be able to gain the skills needed to succeed in the sector and improve productivity.
The equation is very simple: a federal industrial strategy, including efficient innovation and workforce measures, will allow us to produce and export more, to ensure a clean energy transition and thus guarantee the sustainability of more than 1.7 million jobs while supporting the growth of Canada’s manufacturing sector.
Dennis A. Darby, P.Eng., ICD.D
President & CEO
Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters