It was headline news in Canada that Canada did well in another international index. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development released the Better Life Index on eleven of its member nations. Canada, politely, came in second, just behind Australia but (whew) well ahead of seventh place US.
Canada especially impressed OECD researchers on the broad question of whether they were satisfied with their own lives. 78% are, compared to only 70% of Americans. Furthermore, their optimism is exceptional: 85% of Canadians say they expect their lives to be even more satisfying five years from now.
This nice little study should be saved for future reference by social historians but not taken too seriously as a guide to public policy or as an excuse for a steady-as-you-go approach to emerging demographic, geo-political and economic threats.
Another report just came out that offered less to brag about but more to debate. The Institute for Competitiveness & Prosperity highlighted the following in its release of “Canada’s innovation imperative.”
“In its Report, the Institute reaffirms that Canada’s economy is one of the world’s most successful among countries with populations greater than 10 million. But against the United States, Canada’s GDP per capita continues to trail significantly. This gap represents lost prosperity potential, which negatively affects Canadians at all income levels.
“The Institute reports that Canada’s GDP per capita – a measure of the value created by workers and firms in Canada from the human, physical, and natural resources in the country – trailed the US by $9,500 or 17 percent in 2010, essentially unchanged from the 2009 gap of $9,200 in constant (2010) dollars. “What’s really troubling,” observed Roger Martin, Chairman of the Institute, “is that the prosperity gap has more than tripled since 1981 when it was only $2,700. That has to be a call to action for all Canadians.”
The 1988 Free Trade Agreement between our two countries hasn’t narrowed the gap in investment, income and output per worker between Canada and the US despite their similar growing labour forces. This productivity gap stands as conclusive evidence that our two economies haven’t integrated to our mutual benefit.
Harper and Obama’s efforts to fine-tune trade relations by smartening up a dumb border won’t disturb the Better Life index. But they won’t make either country stronger competitors in a radically changing world.