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Op-Ed: To save Ontario’s manufacturing sector, we have to reinvent it

April 10, 2019 - Humera Malik, The Globe and Mail

Canada’s industrial heartland is familiar with heartbreak. In the past few months alone, General Motors of Canada Co. has announced it will shutter its Oshawa plant and an RV factory in Cambridge has closed, laying off 900 workers. Between 2005 and 2018, Ontario lost almost 28 per cent of its manufacturing jobs, according to Statistics Canada data.

The economic sands are shifting. The question is: How should we respond?

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The biggest priority is to double down on our major strength: talent. Southern Ontario in particular is a talent hot spot for tech-based industries, thanks to its concentration of leading universities and colleges. We need to press this advantage by expanding access to STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) programs.

"You're either a disruptor or disrupted"

Second, we need to start teaming up. Silicon Valley startup culture spawned the notion that innovation is a zero-sum game: You’re either a disruptor or disrupted. The truth is that innovative new ventures and large incumbents often have much to gain by co-operating. Established players get access to new technologies and insights, while startups can plug into large customer bases and much-needed revenue sources.

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The final step to stoke our manufacturing sector is to take aim squarely at the biggest challenge our economy faces: Canada’s culture of risk aversion. In parts of the economy from banking to health care, Canadian companies are often slower to invest in new technologies than their counterparts in the United States and Europe. If Ontario’s manufacturing sector is to ride on the coming wave of innovation in the industry, that has to change. If we don’t become fast-adopters, it’s likely that the factory closings and job losses will continue.

Read the full article here.