WD’s Strategic Priorities (2007-2008)
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Several principles underlie WD’s Strategic Priorities. These principles are designed to offer additional context to WD managers and staff to assist with strategic and business planning in the department and in implementing the Strategic Priorities.
- WD’s mandate is derived from the Western Diversification Act (1988), which places a priority on advancing economic growth and diversification in Western Canada. Activities and investments supported by the department should align with the economic focus of WD’s mandate, including promoting the economic growth and diversification of the western Canadian economy and advocating for western interests in the development of national economic policy and programs.
- WD’s activities and investments should support economic and business activities that have clear economic benefits for Western Canada, rather than focus upon the achievement of social or cultural objectives.
- WD should continue and in some cases expand its policy and advocacy roles within the federal government and in Western Canada to promote policy options of benefit to the West and bring key government and other players together to address important economic issues and opportunities in the West.
- WD should minimize its role in acting as the delivery agent for federal government programs and services beyond its core mandate, budget, and priorities. When WD agrees to deliver non-core programming on behalf of the federal government, the activities and investments made through non-core programs should be clearly linked to the department’s economic mandate and focus, and the department should be allocated sufficient resources to do so – including additional and appropriate levels of management and other operating resources.
- WD should assume a more proactive role in coordinating economic initiatives and projects across the western provinces, and place a greater emphasis on promoting pan-western, multi-regional (i.e. involving two or more provinces) and systemic activities that would benefit the western Canadian economy or a western Canadian industry/business sector as a whole.
- WD should continue its policy of avoiding direct subsidies to business but should advocate and explore innovative approaches and mechanisms to addressing the lack of risk capital and funding available to support technology development and commercialization, value-added production, and rural diversification.
- To promote economic growth and diversification in the four western provinces.
- To support small business formation, growth and competitiveness in international markets.
- To identify, advocate and support federal action to address structural and systemic weaknesses in the western Canadian economy that limit long-term economic growth and competitiveness.
1. A Diversified Economy
Economic growth and diversification of Western Canada’s heavily resource-based industrial structure and increasing the value-added of our current economic output are fundamental to ensuring stable long-term economic growth, business productivity, and the creation of skilled jobs and technologies that will drive the economies of the future.
To promote economic growth, diversification and increased value-added of economic output, WD will focus on:
Supporting the creation and growth of knowledge-based R&D and business clusters and commercialization of new products, technologies and services in sectors within Western Canada outside the traditional resource-based sectors such as ICT/Wireless, Health Industries, Biotechnology, Environmental Technologies, Ocean Technologies and the commercial application of cross-sectoral platform technologies such as nanotechnology and light synchrotron.
Increasing value-added production in resource and manufacturing sectors of the economy by supporting systemic or industry-wide initiatives in priority sectors to introduce new products, technologies, or innovations to existing production and processes.
Promoting rural diversification through support for projects that will increase the capacity of rural areas across Western Canada to undertake applied R&D and value-added production and, in the northern regions of the western provinces, encourage new opportunities for skilled employment that capitalize on opportunities emerging for economic growth and diversification.
2. Business Growth and Competitiveness
Western Canada’s business structure is vulnerable to competitive pressures and the emergence of new commercial practices and trends in the global economy. These include outsourcing, corporate concentration through mergers and acquisitions, and intense competition for domestic and export markets, investment and skilled labour.
Western Canada has the highest percentage of small businesses of any region of Canada with comparatively few large companies outside of the predominantly foreign-owned resource industries. As a result, there are few head offices or private R&D facilities within Western Canada that could serve as a catalyst and source for new investment or commercially driven research discoveries and provide an anchor for R&D and new business growth.
Western Canada and Canada more generally represent comparatively small and high-cost economies and markets within a global marketplace that is witnessing the rise of significant new and low-cost competitors from several regions of the world. As a trade dependent region, western Canadian businesses are facing new challenges in terms of remaining competitive and securing access to international markets.
To support the growth and competitiveness of western Canadian small business in particular and business in general, WD’s long-term strategy will focus on:
Improving access to risk capital and business services for entrepreneurs and small business through programs and services offered in conjunction with other business services organizations and associations with the aim of improving general availability, coordination, and collaboration on investments and service delivery.
Supporting trade and investment promotion activities focused on developing Asia-Pacific and continental trade corridors and links; and offering programs and services to western Canadian SMEs to help new investment attraction and market penetration of western Canadian technologies, services and value-added products to key western Canadian target markets such as the United States and Mexico, and the Asia-Pacific region.
- Working with western Canadian business, industry and research organizations to undertake systemic initiatives to enhance business productivity and competitiveness. Activities supported by WD in this area could include promoting awareness and adoption of new management and business practices (i.e. lean manufacturing), access to supply chains, creation of business networks and access to skilled labour.
3. Strong Economic Foundations
An important part of WD’s mandate is to advance the interests of Western Canada in national economic policy, program, and project development and implementation. In fulfilling this mandate, WD frequently acts as a champion for new federal initiatives and projects in the West that support long-term economic growth and diversification.
WD often takes a leadership and coordination role to act as a catalyst in identifying economic challenges and opportunities for the West, and in developing a federal response either through the investment of its own resources or by working with other appropriate federal departments and agencies.
An important element for achieving the long-term growth of the West is to ensure that the necessary economic infrastructure and business environment is in place within the four western provinces and nationally to facilitate western Canadian competitiveness, productivity, and growth. Building on its knowledge of the western Canadian economy and its networks and contacts with key government, business, community and academic leaders in the West, WD is well positioned to play an important role in identifying weaknesses or gaps, and coordinating activities within the region and the federal government to address western Canadian priorities.
To support the creation of a strong economic foundation in the West, WD will focus on:
Acting as a champion and advocate for federal and intergovernmental collaboration to address key impediments to long-term growth and diversification and promote coordination in areas of federal or shared federal-provincial jurisdiction, such as labor shortages, border access, regulatory harmonization, inter-provincial and intergovernmental trade.
Make strategic investments in the economic and business infrastructure of the West - in partnership with public and private sector partners - that support the department’s objectives of economic diversification and small business growth and competitiveness. Examples of these investments include the Pacific Gateway/Corridor; Mid-Continental Corridor, Wood Buffalo region, northern corridor development and tourism infrastructure that address a recognized gap and have a significant economic impact on the region such as the B.C. cruise ship terminals.
- Support activities such as research, conferences, consultations and feasibility studies that generate an improved understanding of the western Canadian economy and that focus on specific economic challenges and opportunities in the West.