Canadian companies and economic development

I don’t know, maybe I am just a plain old vanilla socialist but I have felt for a long time that Canada’s national companies don’t give a rip about regional economic development and, in fact, are working against it in many cases.  I know that many of you will say that ED is not part of a company’s mandate but there was a time when companies wanted to be known as national firms and have operations cross country.  The centralization into central Canada has not always been a foregone conclusion – or maybe it has.

But a guy can dream.

Why does Bell Canada have to put its three new data centres in Montreal, Toronto and Calgary?  You can’t tell me that a Bell Canada data centre down here would not have been cost and people competitive.  I think that’s a joke.  Take over Aliant and slowly hollow it out and repatriate all the high paying jobs to central Canada.  That’s thinking like a national company.  At least putting a data centre here would have placated the natives such as myself.

But it’s not just Bell.  Walmart has a policy of having a warehouse within 100 miles of every store in the US.  Not Canada.  Walmart’s distribution is done out of Montreal.  And on and on.  Take the top 500 Canadian companies and extract the ones that aren’t headquartered in Atlantic Canada. Then see how many of them have significant primary operations in this region (not retail activities).  You will see.

It is kind of funny that when Halifax started attracting financial back office activities – they were coming from Bermuda, the US and the UK.  Where are Canada’s top financial institutions?  Ooops.  Manulife pulled out of Halifax a few years ago.  To be fair, there are some bank call centres down here but it would be nice to see some higher value work done here.

But the national media continues to hammer this region as lazy and dependent.  International firms don’t see this and that might be why they are more likely to invest here than national firms.

Whatever the reason, it would be nice if the Canadian Council of CEOs and the national Chamber, et. al. would actually take a position on regional economic development and what their role could possibly be.

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