Now that Dubai has collapsed, Canada's looking like the next best place to weather the economic storm. "When the tidal wave comes, the question is can you still feel the ground under your feet? And we can." That's the view of Sandra Pupatello, Ontario's minister of International Trade and Investment, who I met with today in New York.
Surprisingly, Canada's economy is outperforming the rest of the developed world. Its banks were too strictly regulated to take in the worst excesses of the subprime madness and as a result, it's beating even Swiss banks: In fact, at the beginning of the crisis last fall, the country's banks were rated the best capitalized in the world. While the U.S. has been tiptoeing up to the necessity of bank nationalization, Stephen Harper's Conservative government has no problem with charges of "socialism." They've put into place one of the most generous bank stimulus plans around to try to stem the credit crunch.
The willingness to embrace a strong role for public investment in innovation, particularly when it achieves social and environmental goals, was Pupatello's major talking point in New York this morning. Ontario accounts for 40% of Canada's GDP, and the government's $1.15 billion Next Generation of Jobs fund provides matching investments of 15 to 20% for Ontario-based companies to expand operations and create jobs in clean cars, fuels, technologies, and products. For example, they kicked in $8 million for 6N, a next-generation manufacturer that transforms lower grades of silicon for use in solar cells; and they've partnered with Better Place, the electric-car-and-charger company. Another example of public, private and university collaboration is the MaRS discovery district, a nonprofit innovation center that brings together biotech researchers, VCs, and social entrepreneurs in the same part of downtown Toronto with several research hospitals.
If you're interested in hatching a Canadian escape plan, good news—the country actually has immigration targets of over 250,000 people a year.
Image courtesy Toronto.ca